Salutations, beloved readers!
(Am I allowed to call you my “readers,” as if I've written more than one entry?)
This is just a quick entry (why am I calling this an “entry” as if it's a diary? I think “blog post” is the 21st century term) to give a bit of info on the technicalities of what I am actually doing. Now if I can stop making self-conscious parenthetical asides, we can begin.
As I mentioned in my last post (post! See, I'm learning. Oh dear, another parenthetical), I am teaching English to employees of the Kurdish Regional Government. My students work for the Protocol Unit, which is the section of government responsible for the well-being of foreign ambassadors, VIP guests, and the smooth operation of important government events. They have a range of jobs; drivers, bodyguards, accountants, Protocol Officers (Protocol officer are the people responsible for greeting guests at the airport, and escorting them through Kurdistan), office workers.
There are four English classes total. I teach beginners in the morning and a more advanced class in the afternoon. The other teacher, Sara, is an NYU student and my comrade in this adventure. We met a couple of times in New York in preparation for our job, and flew over together. She has an intermediate class in the morning, and another class of beginners in the afternoon.
In the first few weeks, the numbers in our classes kept fluctuating, but now my classes have settled at about 10 beginners and 6-10 advanced students. The advance students often have to miss class when work gets too busy, because class is in the middle of the workday, and many of the advance students have important jobs. This presents some challenges in terms of teaching continuity, but I've gotten used to it. They will learn what they learn and miss what they miss. They'll learn more than if they didn't take the class at all.
These English classes are a pilot program, the brainchild of Bekah (my roommate who hired me) so Sara and I have enjoyed all the freedom and chaos that entails. There are no experienced teachers here to tell us how it's done, but also no test to teach to. In the two and a half weeks between when I found out I got the job and the day of my arrival, I spent hours scouring the internet for ESL resources, researching language teaching theories. I arrived armed with a bit of theoretical knowledge, and some strong opinions but little practical knowledge, or even a set curriculum. The first few weeks were mildly terrifying. I gained infinite respect for every teacher I have ever had, bad ones included.
After the day of lessons, I'd come home to spend 6 more hours lesson planning, on the internet looking for resources and ideas. I really want to be a good teacher, and I felt like I had the potential to be one, but was not yet. I took comfort in the fact that simply listening to me talk, they would learn something. Most of my beginner class are absolute beginners, so I couldn't even give them directions to a lot of the types of activities I found online.
At the end of the first two weeks, exhausted from the combination of long-hours planning and teaching, and the mounting anxiety I'd get each night finishing lesson plans at 12am, I had a really great discussion with Sara on her strategies (she was only spending about 40 minutes planning), and adopted a few of them.
Through trial-and-error, I've started crafting my own methods, messing together some found resources. Some lessons go better than others. But my students are learning (I can tell from the beginners who can now tell me why they will miss class, and- in the past tense!- what they did over the weekend), and my level of anxiety is considerably lower.
That's all for tonight, because I need to take a shower and get dressed. I'm meeting my advanced students at the cinema to watch Monsters' University as late-night field trip. The movie stars at 9:15pm, and yesterday I was in bed by 10:30pm, so wish me luck staying awake tonight, and through classes tomorrow!