Teach English in Qianfeng Zhen - Huai'an Shi

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Summative task: 82. Foreign language experience I live by the expression, “experience is the best teacher,” and my foreign language experience has truly been the best teacher for me. I am currently doing volunteer work at a school in Moldova, Eastern Europe, where I teach several subjects, one of those is teaching English as a foreign language. I have benefited greatly from my experience in learning Russian language; both in the classroom setting at university and a private language school in Russian. These experiences have shaped who I am as a teacher and how I adapt my lessons to my students. I began my Russian language journey at university. During these lessons, I struggled with the method of teaching. This included a heavy focus on grammar and writing skills and lacked speaking and listening practice. Furthermore, the professor would often pressure students to answer difficult questions which they clearly did not know the answer to. Overall, the teacher did not foster any language confidence in her classroom, and she also caused students to not want to try more complex sentences, as they were afraid to make mistakes. Now that I am the teacher, I understand how intimidating it can be for students to speak a foreign language in front of a class, so I have worked hard to create a low pressure and comfortable learning environment. I am careful to correct mistakes only when necessary and encourage any and all speaking. I ask simple, clear, and most importantly, interesting questions that encourage my students to speak more. Because Russian is one of the more difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, I decided I needed to study it in a different environment to gain my desired level of fluency. So, after a year of studying Russian at university, I traveled to Moscow, Russia, to study Russian for 6 months and practice my language skills. When I arrived, I quickly realized that while I understood grammar concepts well, I was not prepared to have daily conversations. I felt that there were many common words and phrases that I should have known but had never learned at my lessons at university. Now, when I am deciding which English subjects to teach my students, I am very quick and adept to judge which subjects will be the most useful for my students, and which we can set aside. Furthermore, having arrived in Russia with practically no speaking practice, I struggled to form sentences and express my thoughts and opinions. Since speaking is the most important language skill for most peoples’ needs, I dedicate most of my English lessons to speaking practice; whether that be with me individually, in partners, or in group discussions. I continued my Russian studies in both Moscow and Ukraine, where I studied in both group settings and private lessons and found that both environments benefit different people. For me, group lessons were more enjoyable and easier as the focus is not solely on the one student, but private lessons are far more effective for language mastery. Because private lessons are not always possible, I have applied small group lesson tactics to my English classes. For example, one tactic I often use is having pairs answer questions among themselves and then discuss it out loud for the group. I have also utilized different communication games which encourage speaking, and can be used regardless of the language topic and language level. Because of my previous experience learning Russian language, I arrived in Moldova with the ability to effectively teach English in a way that resonated with my students. I reflected upon the shortcomings of my past language learning, and from there I designed my lessons to include the most useful language tactics and exclude the less effective methods. To conclude, being an English language teacher has been rewarding, and I feel especially proud when my students form complex and thought provoking sentences. Even with mistakes, they are clearly putting effort into speaking and expressing their thoughts and are comfortable enough in our classroom to make mistakes. I am proud of them and how much they have progressed in just a short time, and proud of myself for the path I have taken in order to create a more effective language learning environment for them.