Oberlin Blogs

Teaching English

January 31, 2011

Zoe McLaughlin ’11

As you know, I spent Winter Term learning how to teach English as a second language, learning what parasites I can get from swimming in fresh water, and learning other useful bits of information as part of Shansi's Winter Term orientation. It was a busy month, that's ended just in time for me to start really focusing on the opera. (Performances Thursday and Saturday! Come!)

The orientation was extremely helpful. Going into it, I had the vague idea that I was going to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to teach English, but I didn't comprehend much more than that. A lot more things have come into focus now, and although I still feel like there's so much I don't know, I'm also much more okay with the fact that I'll be leaving the country in about four months.

A big part of this confidence comes from the TESOL class that we took. For the first couple days, we discussed how to begin teaching and how to create a syllabus. Then we started teaching. This learn-as-you-go approach was pretty scary at first (and all the way through), but it also provided a really good environment in which we could experiment.

The class we taught was small--only seven students when everyone showed up--but that meant that it could easily break into small groups, which made teaching much easier. The students came to class for three hours, and we split that time into four different sections, so that two of the Shansi fellows would team teach at any given time. This was nice, because it made teaching a lot less scary, since it was the first time most of us were teaching in a formal setting. It also was good because it meant that I quickly got to know the fellow who will be going to Banda Aceh, since we were teaching together. She's very nice.

On the last day of class, we dropped some of the structure, combining some of the time slots so that our students could go on a scavenger hunt of sorts. They had to wander around Peters (the language building), looking for us (the teachers). Each of us had a task that we gave the students to complete, utilizing concepts that we'd worked on during class. I hear at one of the stations they had to cuddle a teddy bear.

As for my station, I stayed on the fourth floor by the observatory and had them act out impromptu skits for me using the words/phrases elephant-like, hovering, once in a blue moon, spark someone's interest, and stick it out. Once they completed the task at any given station, they got a puzzle piece.

Students working at a desk together
Putting the puzzle together.

There was also a bonus piece to the puzzle that they could collect if they found Bigfoot and told him some facts about himself. We'd spent a fair amount of time in class reading about Bigfoot and discussing whether or not he exists, so it only made sense that he would drop in on our final day of class and try to scare us.

Students sitting in desks arranged in a circle
Asking Bigfoot questions about his lifestyle.

Besides the scavenger hunt, the rest of the class time was taken up by eating bagels, writing idioms on the board, giving presentations on dream vacations, and writing letters to our future selves about our progress.

A chalkboard filled with words
All the idioms we studied.

That night, everyone (including the professor who taught the TESOL part of the class) went over to Shansi House for a potluck. I made cookies, since they're about the limit of my cooking prowess, but the spread of food was amazing. There was fancy cauliflower that looked like bread covered with cheese, and dumplings, and biscuits. One girl even brought a roast chicken.

A table full of potluck food
So much food.

After we ate, we retired to the living room where we played several rounds of Pictionary and Taboo until our teacher had to go home to put her kids to bed. It was a wonderful night that provided us the chance to hang out with our students outside of class, eat good food, and have one more bonding experience before we went our separate ways.

A group of students posing for a photo in a classroom

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