We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
It is automatically assumed that native English speakers can teach the language comfortably in most settings, yet experience can tell that it is both an art and a science. As a skilled ESL teacher both overseas and in the U.S., Kristina Sholz led the recent webinar on best practices for TESL and success in the classroom. She is currently working at the Educational Testing Service and will also be joining AUA for a second webinar on ESL techniques during the month of May!
As a volunteer or teacher in a different country or even at home, you as a teacher are the center of your classroom, your class, other teachers, and administration. These four worlds will pull you in different directions and give you different responsibilities. Therefore, you have to be aware of what is going on and your short time as volunteers will mean that you need to be more cognisant than usual.
The first day in the classroom can be intimidating, but some important advice before even stepping foot into your workspace is to create a “Needs Analysis”. This will help you better asses where your students are and where they want to go as a learner of the English language which then sets you as a teacher up for success, gives your students a goal, and provides and overall plan.
Analyzing need first begins with basic questions: who, what, why, where, when, and how. The list below goes into the details of these seemingly simple questions:
What: Learning English!
Who: You will most likely know nothing about your class until you step into your classroom on the first day. But thinking ahead of time will help tremendously especially about what settings you will be teaching in. An informal setting includes friends, host family, passers-by, or school clubs. Formal settings are typically enrolled students, professors, business professionals; people who are expecting results.
Why: Informal settings includes understanding others, building a social network, traveling internationally, watching TV, movies, or even finding love! Formal settings can be understanding others, participating professionally, advancing a career, traveling internationally, or perfecting a skill/job.
Where/When: Informal settings are outside the institution, casual/spontaneous (whenever), or one-on-one. Formal settings are part of an institution, part of a larger program/planned (regular), or one-on-one as well.
How: Materials such as pencils and paper, Resources such as libraries, Goals, Expectations such as attitudes (take note of cultural stereotypes about Americans and be positive and engaging!), and Budget/Fees.
Packing for your volunteer experience will need some prior thought as well. Good items to bring that can spur conversation are pictures and other personal items. Media including movies and music are excellent and knowledge gaining through art and singing is proven to work extremely well! Leave-able items can be used during your time as a teacher and after you leave such as books, notebooks, and utensils. Fun items to bring are stickers, markers or crayons, and games which can include mad libs or a comic book and whiting out the word bubbles so students can fill the words in themselves!
On your first day entering the classroom, remember to breathe! Have a plan and talk slowly, repeat information as necessary and ask questions! For the rest of your time teaching, remember that you can never talk slow enough and structure your class in a way that makes sense for you.
Overall, be relaxed and be open to engagement. Below are some more tips on teaching in a different country as well as some resources for TESL:
-Dress conservatively and similar to people around you. Teachers are seen as having a leadership role in some communities and Americans typically are more laid back in dress and attitude compared to other cultures
-Avoid comparing humans to animals, especially in Muslim societies
-Remember: No Sex, Politics, Religion. However talking about age, ethnicity, money, marital statues are OK!
-Share yourself: be honest, but not alienating
-Bring pictures, take pictures
-Keep your word and keep in touch