Top 5 ESL Moments
I’ve been quiet all month. Last thing you know I’m all across America, driving an RV, hiking in NC, visiting national parks. What happened?
For the past four weeks I’ve been in San Diego taking a course in how to teach English as a foreign language. It’s been pretty intense, so I haven’t had time to update the ol’ blog. Now that it’s finished I can finally start publishing some of my wacky experiences again. Why not start with some of the things you missed from my course?
Teaching English to foreigners is a lot of fun. It’s also really funny. Every day we either taught or observed other teachers-in-training teach. Stumbling through this minefield together, we didn’t just learn how to teach English, we also learned how not to teach English. Some of our mistakes were absolutely hysterical. Since we were observing, we had to be careful not to disrupt the class, which made it so much harder not to erupt in laughter. Here are a few amusing anecdotes about our experiences:
- I had to leave the room under pretense of sneezing I was laughing so hard. Even after leaving the classroom and taking a 5 minute break, I still had trouble keeping my composure. On the topic of romantic relationships, the teacher tried to get the students to answer this fill in the blank example on the white board: “When was the first time you _________ out with a girl/boy?” Looking around, I noticed that I was the only one who saw it… and it wasn’t the word “went” (the actual answer). Scribbling discreetly on a piece of paper, I nudged the student next to me and showed her my answer to the question: made. So immature, I know.
- Sometimes it’s not really what you say, but what you do that makes a moment in class special. The teacher was using real clothing to teach vocabulary on the subject of clothing. He showed a shirt, dress, pants, sweatshirt, etc., and got the students to come up with the words for them. Toward the end of the lesson, when one of the students hit an unfamiliar term on a handout, the teacher had a lightbulb moment and said, “Oh! I almost forgot!” He then proceeded to unbuckle his belt in front of the class, as the rest of us gasped in horror… then holding his belt aloft triumphantly exclaimed, “belt!” The rest of us sighed in relief.
- Some of our students come from very conservative backgrounds. What’s completely normal in western culture can be appalling in other cultures. Teaching the topic, “Girl’s Night Out,” of which the thought of women going out for drinks is a bit scandalous for some of them anyway, the teacher asked the question to one of our female middle-eastern students, “Do women in your country go out at night? What do they like to do when they go out at night?” She met the teacher with a puzzled look, potentially debating whether or not the teacher was referring to prostitution.
- The teacher was teaching the vocabulary word “luck.” Taking a word from the text, the teacher wrote the word “Luckily” on the white board and said, “What word do you see in the word luckily?” The students begin saying, “luck! luck!” I immediately ponder the irony of one of them possibly blurting out “kill!” Again, I’m the only one cracking up.
- To correct pronunciation, we drill individual words with our students. This equates to the teacher saying a word and having the class repeat it in unison. The teacher listens, then addresses pronunciation errors. The teacher in this case, selected the word “conform” as a vocabulary word to drill. Again, looking around to see if anyone else was tracking, and finding that I was the only one cracking up, scribbled a quick note to the student to my right: “The irony of drilling the word ‘conform.'” Of course audibly, the teacher drilling and the students repeating went something like this: “Conform!” “CONFORM!” “Conform!” “CONFORM!” “Conform!” “CONFORM!” It was akin to sitting in on a secret cult meeting, but without the dark cloaks and torches.
If any of my fellow CELTArds are reading this, it was an absolute pleasure to take this course with you. I’m going to miss the deep belly laughs we shared on a daily basis. Whether it was one of us doing something odd or the group just having a good time together, I thoroughly enjoyed sharing a classroom with each and every one of you.