Improving My Competence as an English Teacher while Studying in New Zealand

The Author, Diana Riza

Being a non-native English teacher, studying in English-speaking countries is one of the opportunities for improving English language competence. In this article, contributor Diana Riza will share several tips based on her experiences to improve competence as an English teacher while studying in New Zealand.


For non-native English teachers like me, teaching English is not a simple job since they have disadvantages such as not having foreign accent and having lack of knowledge of the cultures of the English-speaking countries. Hence, my dream as an English teacher is to visit English-speaking countries so that I can learn English as well as the culture of its speakers. Having an opportunity to continue my study in an English-speaking country was such a dream come true for me. This was an excellent opportunity for me not only to achieve a master’s degree but also to increase my competence that could help me in my teaching job.

As a teacher as well as a language user, the opportunity to encounter the great exposure of English in real-life communication during my study in New Zealand was a valuable experience. Therefore, while studying at the University of Auckland, I did not only focus on completing my master’s degree, but also seek for an opportunity to improve my teaching competence in English through several ways as follows:

  1. Joining workshops at the campus

To be a highly qualified teacher, it needs to start from ourselves. We need to continuously improve our skills in English. As a teacher who works in a small town in Indonesia, there is limited opportunity to encounter real English in daily life communication. Hence, to be able to use English as much as possible, I joined workshops on campus, especially workshops that focus on developing speaking and listening proficiency. The workshops are called “let’s talk” and “let’s talk to Aucklander”. The workshops help students to develop speaking and listening proficiency through talking with other students or local people (Aucklanders) about topics that interest them. Students can book the workshops by visiting My classes at the faculty of Arts were dominated by students from non-English speaking countries. Therefore, joining the workshops helped me to interact with local people.

Davenport Library, one of Auckland Libraries
Davenport Library, one of Auckland Libraries
  1. Taking cross-faculty courses

My classes at faculty of Arts focused more on English language teaching in second language contexts. However, I was also interested in the general aspects of education. Hence, I took a class at the faculty of Education entitled “social psychology of the classroom”. Taking this course did not only enrich my knowledge about the psychology of the classroom but also allowed me to interact with local teachers around Auckland. My class at faculty of education was dominated by local teachers where I could hear their experiences of teaching at various level in Auckland. Hearing and sharing experience with them gave me much knowledge about how teaching should be conducted in the classroom.

  1. Joining events at local libraries or bookstores.

Libraries and bookstores in Auckland do not only allow their members to borrow or buy books. They also hold several events regularly that I could attend. The events allowed me to meet local people and learn about their habit and culture. Auckland libraries hold some events such as book clubs, computer classes and author talks. For the ones who have kids, there are crafts and games for them. Just sign up at to receive the monthly newsletter of events at Auckland libraries. Some bookstores also hold events. My favourite bookshop, The Open Book, organize various events such as poetry readings, talks with authors and other cultural activities such as the Easter egg hunt. Just visit to check the events that interest and suit your schedule.

Waitangi Treaty Ground
Waitangi Treaty Ground
  1. Exploring cultures of New Zealand through travelling

Teaching English does not merely mean teaching students to be able to use English in communication but also teaching other aspects, such as culture. During a study break, I travelled across New Zealand not only for holiday but also to learn much about New Zealand and its culture. I wanted to be able to share my knowledge with my students. Rotorua and Waitangi Treaty Ground in Pahia are examples of places where you can learn about NZ culture. At Waitangi Treaty Ground, for example, we can learn about NZ history and culture. There is also a cultural performance that you can enjoy during the tour. Don’t forget to bring your student ID if you visit this place to get a student discount.

Cultural Performance at Waitangi Treaty Ground
Cultural Performance at Waitangi Treaty Ground

The above tips are only several ways to improve your competence as an English teacher. I believe that there are many ways to be a highly qualified English teacher that you can try while studying in New Zealand. We need to take advantage of every opportunity that is available to make us become a better teacher.


Photos provided by the author



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