Monday, January 11, 2010


After completing my sixth week of teaching English I can say it is going less than perfect but I understand that it will take practice to be most effective.
Right now I teach two English classes per week for one hour each.. My Tuesday class consists of all boys and 1 girl aged 15-24. The very first class I had there were 13 students in attendance, now I’m lucky if I get five each week. Seeing as there were 13 in the original lineup it’s always a surprise who will show up each week. I do have a few dedicated students who have been present every class. At first I was slightly apprehensive to be teaching older students, thinking that I was going to enjoy teaching children more, but teaching this group of students has proven to be fun, entertaining, and somewhat effective. With these students still being “high beginners” but still having a small knowledge of English I can usually get my point across. So far I have gone over greetings, family members, giving directions, question words, and prepositions with them. They seem to grasp the lessons well, I just hope they remember them!
Saturday evenings, on the other hand, offer a bit more of a challenge. My Saturday class consists of 8-14 year olds and in the first class there were 20 students. Again as with the Tuesday class it is usually a mystery who will actually show up so sometimes that number is smaller and sometimes all 20decide to attend. In schools here in my site classes are much larger than 20 students, so I have a hard time complaining, but for one women, who barely can communicate, 20 students may as well be an army. The kids love to chat with their neighbor at any moment then can and even yell across the room with complete confidence that it’s acceptable to do. Usually trying to get their attention spikes my blood pressure quickly, but they are so incredibly cute they are tough to be mad at.
I have had to start at the bare bones of the language with these kids. Some can not even read the English alphabet and some have the worst pronunciation I have ever heard. Some students thrive. Having a multi-level class is such a challenge because some of the material is over some students’ head’s and some is just too easy. With 20 kids in the classroom, and me only being one person, I find it difficult to give each student the personal attention they need to learn. I try to use only English to the class when I am saying words like “good job” or “listen up”, with the hope that they will eventually figure out their means on their own.
I am ending this session of classes at the end of January. After which I will be out of town for two weeks for more training from Peace Corps. When I return I am going to sit down and clearly communicate my requests for how I want my classes structured. No more coming in 30 minutes late, and no more 20 student classes. I feel these first couple of months have been my trial run, and have taught me what works and what doesn’t.
I usually start the class with a little review of the week previously. Even though the students took notes the week before they act as if the information is new. Then I present all the new words and write them on the white board. I try to get everyone to repeat the words so I can hear if they are pronouncing them correctly. Then I try to end with some kind of activity to get them to use the new words. For instance this past week I taught them how to introduce their family members and say how many siblings they have. After presenting the new phrases I had the students draw a picture of their family and label each person with their name and who they were. Sounds easy enough, right? Well even for me to communicate simple directions such as these I have difficulty. Sometimes I think these kids have cotton in their ears or I am speaking some kind of alien language that no one could understand. Because just when I think my point is communicated and I tell them to start they sit there staring at me with goofy smiles on their faces.
But with a little patience and help from those students who understand me a little better, the point is taken. After drawing their family I wanted the students to stand up and introduce their family to the class. “My father’s name is…, my mother’s name is…” And so on.
When all is said and done I’m not sure how much these kids are actually learning. But I am confident of one thing that they are learning and that is confidence. After every student has gotten up to speak in front of the class I start a very loud and enthusiastic clap for them. The students love this and they all join in joyfully. I always praise every student and pat them on the back whenever they have the courage to try. I can tell by the genuine smiles on their faces that they are proud of themselves and that they feel special. If they never remember one word of English that I taught them, I really don’t care. What I care about most is teaching them that they are special and loved.