Monday, February 25, 2013

Teaching Things

Tomorrow is my first day of volunteering! I am teaching english to a group of immigrants in a 1.5 hour class, once a week.

To be honest, I've had a lot of experience in the teaching/tutoring realm. Ever since middle school through college, it has been study buddies, summer camps, teaching piano, TA for PH116, Peer Health Exchange...etc. And I think it is fair to say that I've done pretty well in all these extracurricular activities.You know what all these have in common though?-youth, english and structure.

My class is going to be a comprised of immigrant adults taking english classes in order to try and find work in the U.S. This makes me nervous because I feel a lot more pressure as an instructor. Not trying to pass off elementary school education as unimportant, but at least if I royally screw up with kids (honestly, my math is so horrible I don't know if I am qualified to teach adolescents skills I barley have) someone along the way will help them learn what they need to learn. And it's things like adding and subtracting...totally not that fundamental to life, right? These immigrants are relying solely on me, Jennifer Zhang. To learn a completely new language that is essential to their future lives. This feels really important and I, having not even met them yet, already feel a very serious obligation to deliver my very best teaching service. My volunteer coordinator tries to assure us that anything we teach will be useful no matter what, so maybe the pressure is coming mostly from myself. But still. I already feel personally invested in supplying these immigrants with the best, most useful skill set of english needed to help them succeed in the States.

Which brings me to problem dos:

How am I expected to be the best educator I can possibly be when I have to teach in Spanish? A language that I am currently in the process of learning? Madre mio... 

And finally, every past tutoring or teaching job I have done came with some sort of structure. Usually program directors give us a relative schedule or at least a precedent of what tutors did in the past. In PH116, the class I TA for at Berkeley, we have lesson plans from all the students in years past. And, all the TA's meet once a week for two hours to share lesson plans and brainstorm what activities or discussions we want to have for that week's class.

Here, I'm being thrown into the pool without floaties on. And for this hypothetical situation we are going to pretend that I wasn't on high school swim team and that I actually don't know how to swim. Yikes!!

No lesson plans.  No materials. No syllabus. No precedents. All I am given is a classroom, and a 1.5 hour block of time.

There were actually a few other volunteer options I could have selected, including tutoring younger children, but I selected this option because it is something different and more challenging than anything I've done before. Okay, also because on the first day of orientation, I thought I was just going to "check it out" but then ended up signing up. Language barrier problems for the win! But no pasa nada, I am actually really glad I ended up with this group. There are four other students from my program teaching their own classes too, so at least we can sort of plan together and share stories about how our classes went...or how horribly I have failed. We'll see.

And SPEAKING OF TEACHING, today I got a job!!!! Our program director Inma emailed us this morning about an opportunity to privately tutor a family's child for 10 euro an hour and that whoever responds to the email first gets the job. SCORE! So glad I decided to check my email during our snack break. Starting next Wednesday, I'll be getting paid to spend an afternoon with a 4 year old girl and play with her while speaking english. I don't even have to teach! I guess the mom just wants to give her daughter early exposure. I think is wonderful because I know from taking chinese school back in the day, that learning a language at a younger age is the least painful way to become fluent. Compared to my volunteering, this should be much easier I hope! I'm excited to get to know new people, and I love kids a lot, but honestly I am just so gosh-darn-happy to be earning some money. All I do these days is withdraw withdraw withdraw.

So yeah, lots of exciting things happening. I'm hoping too that these opportunities, especially volunteering, will help improve my spanish. Who doesn't like a win-win scenerio, right? 

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