Wow. The last few months have been a blur.
Not that it felt like time moved fast. The days and weeks dragged on, and were packed to the bursting point.
In August, Zac and I attending our Oxford Seminars TESOL certification course! TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, but depending on where you are could be TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or plain ol’ ESL (English as a Second Language). Our course was an accelerated (read: jam-packed) 3 weekends, amounting to 60 hours of in-class training followed by a 40 hour online component. It was intense, and this intensity was not helped by the fact that we worked full-time during the week, and did not have a single day off during the month of August as a result.
Before the class I didn’t really know what to expect. I was a little apprehensive, as I’d never officially taught before and was uncertain that a 3 weekend course would really prepare me to do this for a living. I also figured that it would be pretty long and dull. 6 days of 8-hour lectures does not equal my idea of a fun-filled day.
However, the class blew away these notions. Our instructor Emma, was so engaging and knowledgeable, and has taught English in many different parts of the world and has her master’s in it. It was easy to pay attention with her leading class, and she found ways to mix it up so that it wasn’t simply 8 straight hours of her lecturing. Our class too, was such a great group of people, from all walks of life. Some were just out of college and looking for their next step in life, while others were seasoned individuals leaving behind the corporate world and looking to do something different with their lives while seeing the world. We became a tight bunch over the course of the class, and I can’t wait to see where we all go and to visit each other in our respective countries when we become real English teachers.
Another thing that I did not expect from the course was how much I would enjoy learning how to teach! I’ve been out of school for a while now, and caught up in jobs and such it was easy to forget how much I truly love school and learning. And we learned a lot – classroom management, learning theories, how to write lesson plans, incorporating cross-cultural competence in the classroom, culture shock, writing resumes and cover letters, grammar, ESL games – it never stopped.
Our final project in the class was to teach a 30 minute lesson and then be critiqued by our peers. It was this experience that cemented in my mind that I can actually do this. I was nervous during my lesson. Despite my time in theater and playing shows with bands, I do not always feel comfortable speaking in public. I had prepared a lesson in which I had my “students” watch a video clip and answer a few true/false and multiple choice questions on a worksheet. The video was on Skateistan, a nonprofit in Afghanistan where Afghan children and youth, many of them girls, go to skateboard and also for tutoring and classes, combining fun and recreation with education. I wanted to expose my “class” to people from another country that they may not know much about, yet show that they could relate to these teenagers because everyone likes to have fun and skateboard! After the video, I also had the class write a bit about what they like to do for fun and share it with their neighbor. While I was doing the lesson, I kept wondering if anyone was engaged or if I was talking too much and not incorporating them, or that I had explained directions clearly enough.
It turns out that I didn’t need to worry at all. The response to my lesson was overwhelmingly positive. People loved the video and the group work, said that I spoke clearly and seemed comfortable commanding the class, and that I was a natural teacher! I can do this!!!
The last hour of class was bittersweet, as we all were presented with our diplomas and hugged and wished each other well. The following week felt strangely off. I’d been so accustomed to learning, to going to class, to growing with my classmates that even though it had been a short amount of time I felt uprooted. But this was just the beginning . . .
Next time, the online component to the class, aka Grammar Boot Camp!