Teach English in Teyong Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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I started teaching before I knew how to read and write! Yes, my first students were my siblings at home. Then later when I joined primary school, I became a Sunday school teacher. Later after graduating from high school I temporary taught mathematics, physics, chemistry and English at secondary school in Mombasa, Kenya. Since then I have taught in Universities and colleges across Canada. Last year, October 2019, I went to teach English as a foreign language in the city of Darhan, Mongolia. This is my experience which I want to share with others who might be interested in pursuing a teaching career in Mongolia or any other country which had a communist style of political system like former Soviet Union. Why is this an important background to know you may wonder! It’s true, you are a teacher and not a politician, you want to teach English and not politics you may reason, further communism is long dead you may argue. But remember, your students are influenced by culture and the social political system they grew in. More specifically you will find it a challenge to teach reading and listening skills because of the difference in alphabet letters used in Mongolia. The Cyrillic alphabets are used in most of the former Soviet Union countries including Mongolia. How does this affect reading and listening you may wonder? You see for example, there is no letter(s) which represents the letter “W” and believe it or not, try as you may, it can be a challenge if not impossible to teach a student how to pronounce the word “water”. The best you can do is to replace letter “W” with letter ”V” and say “Vater” instead of “Water”. That is just one example. The main challenge though is teaching or motivating students to employ critical thinking i.e. encouraging them to express their own thoughts respectfully but without fear of being punished. Last December I had the privilege to do so, as demonstrated in the following paragraphs. On December 15, 2019; I asked grade 12 students to come up with a topic for an English class debate. I elicited a few topics, wrote them on the board and finally we agreed to debate on the topic “What is life?”. We divided the class into two groups proposers and opposers. Then after I demonstrated how such debates are normally conducted in western democratic countries; it was time now for different candidates to take the floor. Nobody wanted to do so! I had anticipated this problem so; this is how I motivated my class student to participate. I had brought in the class and hidden under my locker, two flowerpots. The first flowerpot contained natural flowers while the second contained artificial flowers. I put the flowerpots on my desk in front of the class, then I asked the students at random to tell me the difference between the contents in the flowerpots. Soon they all came forward to touch, feel and smell the flowers. It didn’t take long before everyone was talking and listing the similarities and differences. Finally, on the blackboard I drew two columns. One column heading was “the characteristics and needs of living flowers” and the other “the characteristics and needs of artificial flowers” It didn’t take long for the students to list the characteristics and needs of living flowers as “need for: water, sunlight, air, temperature, care, fertilizer and ability to grow, reproduce their own kind, grow old and die” and by contrast the artificial flowers do not have any of the aforementioned characteristics and needs of living flowers. It was in the afternoon and it was getting a bit dark in the classroom; therefore, we had our lights in the classroom on all the time. To encourage my students to employ free critical thinking, I turned off the lights for moment, then I turned them on again. Then I posed the question, if light represents living flowers, then darkness represents what? The students answered instantly that, darkness would represent artificial non-living flowers. They went on to infer that, since light is the opposite of darkness; likewise, life is the opposite of death. In conclusion they said Life is the opposite of Death. I did this before I took your ESL course and I didn’t know even such courses existed. This was a very happy ending where all my students were so motivated that; for many days after; they were still talking about how they appreciated such true to life probs. They said that, the probs helped them in developing their logical reasoning without the need of dictionaries or textbooks. That was my experience before I took your ESL teaching course. I hope to use the ESL training I received to enhance my natural teaching skills and abilities. I love and enjoy teaching; using illustrations in order to reach the student’s heart!