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Teach English in YAxi Zhen - Nanjing Shi
For the past year, I have been voluntarily teaching a beginner English course to adults in my small town in the Netherlands (I am American and was an English major at Duke University). I had previous experience teaching English to very young French children in France through music, letters, and art. I also had experience teaching a law class in English to multilingual hospitality students in Paris. And finally, I taught Chinese lawyers for several years in Shanghai about how they could write better legal documents in English. Through each of these experiences, I learned many things about English from foreign perspectives. So I thought I had enough experience to manage a nice class for Dutch adults. But surprisingly, even with a proper English textbook in this class, I found many of the grammatical topics rather difficult to TEACH. That is why I decided to pursue my TEFL certificate: to help me gain necessary teaching knowledge and to become a better teacher for this and any future teaching opportunities. In the beginning, I thought the current mandatory textbook for my English class was weak and oddly organized. But as I studied the ITTT course online, I realized that the book was actually following the methodology of ESA: with the Engage part in the beginning of the chapters, the grammar lessons and Study exercises in the middle of the chapter, and role-playing and reading aloud parts for Activation at the end. ITTT taught me to expand on each part of the chapters. For example, I began to include speaking games for oral warm up in the beginning of each lesson as a means to ENGAGE more, and that was well-received by the class. Recently we were learning the Past Tense, which definitely has its nuances and difficulties. I began one class by simply asking each one: “How was your weekend”, and everyone had something to say—in the past tense! The grammar was often incorrect, but they enjoyed starting the class with their own speaking. Others helped them find words, etc. I felt like it was a very successful ENGAGE stage. The STUDY part is easy—I am good at preparing activities and worksheets, and appreciated many of the additional ideas I picked up in this course. But by the end of the class, I found we were often pressed for time, so I often skipped the closing activities in favor of more grammar practice work. But after the ITTT course, I realize this ACTIVATE portion is a very important part of the lesson, and one the students like to do. I just need to learn to make shorter Study activities so we get more time to ACTIVATE. Another small thing that I learned from the ITTT course was to NOT speak Dutch. I have very poor Dutch to begin with. In the beginning, I thought my poor speaking ability made the monolingual Dutch students feel slightly more comfortable trying their hand at speaking English, hearing how broken my own Dutch was back then. But as things/grammar are getting more complicated to explain of late, I now feel strengthened in speaking only English to them (although I often wish I COULD explain in Dutch). This is way past my Dutch level, so I feel better knowing I don’t have to speak it! I have also been considering the tip from the course: ‘don't go around the room asking students in order.’ I tend to do this in favor of predictability which allows the students to not be too nervous, but see now that predictability is not necessarily an advantage, as the students at the end of the row barely listen because they are preparing for their question in their heads. SO I will work on keeping everyone on their toes. There were many websites suggested throughout the course that I have often referred to when seeking outside-resources and supports. I usually prepare extra practice questions, or extra summaries of the grammar rules, so it is good to have a trusted resource list. I have not yet given any tests in my classes because we follow a class book that has reviews and homework in each chapter. We do it together aloud. But I know that passive learning happens in class and a test would solidify understandings and make them question things they don't really understand or remember. I plan to add a few minor tests to try this theory out. Generally, my current course has few of the common problems that were covered in the TEFL lessons: my students are older, monolingual, friendly, willing to speak and role-play, and eager to learn. But reading about the other types of classes and typical problems, I realize how lucky my current situation is, and understand that there will be differences in future groups that may challenge me. With the suggestions in the online TEFL course, and the resources made available, I know I can handle them. As I noted in a few of my chapter Reflections, there were a few lessons that I found too detailed, too technical, or focused on minor points that a rare teacher will need. I think when you teach foreign students, they are not trying to learn all the intimate rules of every single aspect of the language! I will refer back to these lessons often, and each time will undoubtedly re-learn a different point of teaching.