TEACHERS & TEACHING COMPETENCY
Teaching Reflectively: Seeing, Describing, Inquiring Into, and Making Hypotheses about Students’ Learning and the Teaching Context, and Taking Intelligent Action Based on This Process
For this essay, I will use the process I devised as a basis for my teaching actions during my internship. My intention is that you become aware of my growth in …”seeing, describing, inquiring…, and hypothesizing about my students’ learning, and the actions I took based upon
During my Christmas break, I had mused about the ambience I wanted to create in my classes.
I remember how Elka had always started our classes using music with intention. It set a tone of repose and receptiveness. For my classes, I chose selections of light, spirited baroque: Vivaldi, Telemann, etc., and classical jazz: Coltrane, Monk, Parker, etc. I felt that those selections would have the fewest cultural biases, as well as being familiar to many students. I arrived early, started
the music, and set my theatre for optimum performance.
In 1_4S, you will see a description of my internship in a form we were to fill after we returned to
SIT. You will see my realization that I preferred to teach language with more linguistic emphasis than in its elementary aspects.
A week before we actually started teaching, we had a meeting at my internship site, (Ascentria,
a refugee intake center in Westfeld, MA), to learn procedure and receive some background about
our students. We also sat in on classes of students who were at the level we would be teaching.
I was sent to observe a very small room housing about 25+ students, all crammed behind tables set in a U shape, with the teacher standing at the front - the open top of the U. The “teaching” consisted of students receiving a question and being expected to answer, then asking the question to each other. There was constant repetition and little variation of content or approach. I got bored
watching them being bored.
On to my first day in class - taking cues from MAT meetings - after I had the music playing, I folded up all the tables and put them behind the chairs. I arranged the chairs in a circle. I gathered pens and paper for the students and markers for the white board. I tucked away the cookies I had purchased for treats. And they came: 20 - 25 men and women from their early 20’s to 60’s, from Syria, Iraq, Belarus, Ukraine, Congo, Bhutan, and Nepal. They spoke Arabic, Nepalese, Ukrainian,
Belorussian, Swahili and French.
They had been taught how to introduce themselves, but not with much comprehensible output. Because some of their languages had no comparable phonemes in English, I realized I would need
to use TPR for many of the linguistic elements they needed to acquire.
They were nervous and reserved. I designed my lessons to encourage them to relax, to feel safe in what must have seemed a very strange environment (for some, their first experience in an academic setting), to be bold in trying this new language, and to have fun together - to create their own community within the class.
My use of active TPR helped them overcome a great deal of reluctance to participate (we did games to reinforce vocabulary acquisition and I enacted descriptions). After a few sessions, I could see how much more they were willing to speak than when I had first come to this class. And, because of my ability to illustrate “on the spot,” I was able to help them acquire vocabulary, and in some instances, concepts, more easily than they might have otherwise.
I was reluctant to separate the most needy students from the rest, because the group had such a positive and nuturing ambiance. I felt it would divide them in spirit. Especially for the most needy, it would have reinforced their low self esteem. And so, I went with what I had and accepted the imperfections of the experience.
One example of how I afforded scaffolding for pronunciation, was that I encouraged everyone to take part, whether they needed it or not. My intention was to avoid any intimation of a student being less capable than another. As they progressed, and began to understand me, I spoke to them about this goal: that everyone learned in their own way and that we needed to be respectful of that.
My internship taught me at least as much as I taught. I could describe many incidents reflecting my assessment of how and why I would present any lesson the way I chose. But this is to be a relatively short essay. Toward the end of my internship, my students were working together, helping each other with infinite patience. They were a team and I was proud.