Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Week 1 as a Fulbright Teacher

Where to begin... where to begin. This week has been packed with so many rewarding, yet challenging experiences.

On Monday, I met with the students who are going to be taking my "Contemporary English Conversation" course. I was fully prepared and very excited to get the year underway. This was our first class meeting. I didn't actually start teaching on the first day; instead I used the time to get to know my students, spend time reviewing the course syllabus , and allowing the students to ask me questions. I designed a fun PowerPoint to introduce myself to the students. My PowerPoint had pictures of my hometown, my family, Juniata College, and places I have traveled. The students really seemed to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, only about 25% of my students actually showed up to class. This was a bit disappointing, but my colleagues told me that this is very common for the first week. Students know that the professors will only be giving a brief introduction to the course and reviewing the syllabus, so many of the students are not motivated to come to class on the first day. I thought that because I had all 4th year students they would be a bit more enthusiastic about attending class on the first day. Sadly, it's just not an expectation or standard here. I did have around 20 students show up, but that's it out of all of the four sections of this course that I will be teaching. This definitely makes teaching a bit frustrating because now I will need to spend part of my class in Week 2 telling all the student who didn't show up to class about how the course will be structured and what is expected of them in their course assignments. My colleagues have told me not to worry about it and just plan to start teaching. However, because my method of teaching and my course assignments are going to be so new to the students, I really want to make sure we are all on the same page right from the start. It will make me feel more comfortable and give the students more time to think of questions to ask me.

On Wednesday, I met with my students who are enrolled in "Teaching Young Learners." This class was awesome. More students showed up for this class, then the class I taught on Monday. It was about 35 students. So around 40% of my students showed up. I considered this to be really good. Once all of my students arrived and got situated, I started out with a fun ice-breaker/energizer. We all did "THE HOKIE POKIE." It went over really well and all of the students enjoyed participating. I started out by demonstrating the dance first, and then I cranked up the speakers and we all joined in the dance together. It really got the students to relax, laugh, and made for a great start to the class. After the "Hokie Pokie," I asked my students what they liked about this activity and why they thought starting class off with an activity like this would be good for young learners (age 6 to 13). I got a lot of great responses/feedback from my students and I have decided that I am going to begin every class off with this type of activity. Next week, we will start of with the game "Simon Say's." I'm excited to see my students response to this activity. I think this is a great way to give them ideas for classroom activities they can potential use when they graduate and start teaching their own English classes to young learners. After all, that is the whole purpose of the class.

I did have all of my students complete a short document I created called: "Student Information Sheet." I designed this document intentionally so that I could 1.) learn more about my students and 2.) have it serve as an assessment so that I can see what level they are at in regards to writing, speaking, and reading. I started reviewing them as soon as I got home and I must admit that I was quite impressed with their writing sample and the personal information they shared with me. It definitely makes me feel more grounded and has given me some direction as to how I should structure my next few lessons in order to best prepare my students for their first major assignment.

Overall, week one went very well. Unfortunately, I had to cancel all of my classes for this upcoming week because I am having a tooth removed (bottom left molar, #8). It's giving me horrible headaches and ear aches. The U.S. Embassy recommended a dentist for me to go see and they said right away I would need the tooth removed. I felt really bad, but my department chair advised that I cancel my classes. I had the surgery yesterday and my recovery is going well. I told all of my students that this was their "Mountain Day," a special tradition we celebrate at my undergraduate institution.

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