Borderland Journey

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 01 2011

Teahing is Difficult

Like, really difficult.

 Especially if you were only provided the lesson plan 20 minutes before the class and you have never taught before in your life and there are 13 Spanish speaking students with limited English proficiency expecting you  to help them learn “mas inglés.”

 I am tutoring/teaching English to Spanish speakers at El Sol COmmunity Resource Center once a week. I signed up to teach at level c/d which requires the least Spanish, since I know none whatsoever, but was placed at Level B2. The levels go from A-D with A speaking almost no English and D speaking the most English.

 Luckily, I was placed with Ada from Palm Beach State College who speaks Spanish, pretty fluently as a native/heritage speaker. Without her, I would have been dead in the water.

The class was fun, but boy was it stressful. We were teaching the verb “to be.” So we started off with saying things like “My name is Cassidy. I am from FAU. I’m 21 years old. I am a student.” Then we discussed different jobs that they have held in the past, and moved on to a bit of the grammar.

 Planning to take up 2 hours of material was difficult. Especially since I had never done it before and had no prep time. I hope next week will go smoother.

 They saw me make some mistakes, but I believe that is helpful. Now they won’t be as afraid to make a mistake, I hope, because I’ve made a few. We had a few good laughs about them, such as when I gave them an answer (twice). Or when we had to look up how to spell something in English.

 One thing I was surprised about, was how much Spanish I actually understood. I could grasp parts of the conversation and even the gist of a few. I was shocked. For someone who has only had two years that did nothing (or so I thought upon leaving said two years) over 5 years ago now, I sure could pick up a bunch of words.

 However, the textbook confused me once: they wanted us to teach them that we had a plural you. And English doesn’t use that. But oh well, we just skipped that part.

 I look forward to this journey this semester. Hopefully, I will make a difference and learn some things myself.

4 Responses

  1. justcallmemaestra

    I am teaching ESL to Hispanic adults two evenings a week at a local elementary school this semester. I taught ESL in Spain last school year (both to children ad adults), so I thought I would share some insight I have gained in my experience teaching English.

    First, think about your students’ educational backgrounds. If someone has never been exposed to the parts of speech or names of the verb tenses in their own language, they will surely not be able to easily grasp these concepts in English. Think about which parts of the grammar are essential for them to know. Also, most of your students will want to be conversational speakers and be able to do practical tasks in English. I have used an employment application and other forms, and students find that information really practical. If you are not sure what their motivations are, ask them what kinds of things they would like to learn and see what their interests are. For example, if they would like help speaking to their children’s teachers at parent conferences, do a lesson about useful vocabulary and phrases for conferences and do a role-play that the students can participate in.

    I did an activity last week where we created our own answering machine messages. I did a fill-in-the-blank listening activity (I had printed copies of the message with a few words missing) which I used as the model. On an index card, each student wrote their own greeting (using as much of my model as they wanted), and I checked each student’s work for spelling and grammar mistakes. When they were finished, they traded and pretended that they called the friend whose card they had and then they each wrote a message on the back. This led to a nice discussion (mostly them giving me ideas in Spanish) of the reasons why we would call another person and what types of things we would say in the message (day and time, phone number, etc.).

    I have found this year that many students can be timid, so a lot of icebreakers and praise are helping my students be more outgoing in class. I have been doing some theater activities too and making them do other silly things to make them comfortable with one another. I don’t like “book work” that much, so I try to make it as enjoyable as possible for them. If I am not having fun, they probably aren’t either!

    I know this is a lot, but I am very passionate about teaching languages and I am starting to see growth already with my students. If they see that you are invested, they will be too. I hope that these suggestions have helped. I would love to share more with you if you are interested! There are tons of sites and resources I have used, and I would be happy to share those, too!

    Buena suerte! :)

    • chenryrgv2011

      Thanks so much for the info. I’ll see what I can play with- we have pre-assigned cirriculium that we have to work with. Once again, thanks for the suggestions. :)

  2. Christi Branstetter

    I understand what you are saying about the stress of teaching.
    How long do you commit to teach with Teach For America?

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