Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I have already taught my first lesson.

This will be brief, but since I just taught my first lesson (!!) I feel the need to write a bit about it. 

Wow, I just taught my first class! Well, I taught with a partner, but for someone who has never really stood in front of a class and taught for an extended period of time, pretty cool. Fuckin' A. 

Last week I was not too happy with the TEFL course I'm taking. I felt like we hadn't done much of anything the first week, and I couldn't seem to see how what we were learning would fit into the bigger picture. Plus, the building where our school is normally located was still being renovated, so our lessons were temporarily held in the building of a Spanish school. Twenty students were crammed into a small, incredibly hot and stuffy room on the fifth floor of an old building. Not the best learning conditions, to say the least. Especially not considering how much we have all paid for this course. 

But this week we have moved onto our normal premises, and while they are still fixing the place up, it is a much nicer setting - a beautiful terrace, comfortable lounge, and larger, relatively well-ventilated classrooms. It was a huge improvement and unexpected surprise which did wonders for my attitude. 

For our first lesson, we all got to teach with a partner. Each lesson is fifty minutes long, and we were assigned a theme and grammar structure to teach to students of different levels. My partner and I had to teach the present perfect tense with "already" and "yet" while teaching "visiting a new place." Because it was for a low beginner level class, our vocabulary and activities were very basic. Even more basic than we had originally planned, as most of the students were new and had not yet learned the present perfect tense. Most of our lesson centered around modeling a dialogue, having the students repeat our model, and then trying to form their own sentences. It was a bit tedious, to be sure - I must have said, "I have already been to the beach" about thirty times - but on the whole an enjoyable experience. There were only five students, and all save one were older women (yes!) What's more, they all knew that their English was not very good, but they all tried their best the entire time, even when our explanations or directions were not as clear as they ought to have been. 

More importantly, I felt much more comfortable than I normally do in front of a class. Granted, it was a very relaxed setting with a small audience, but I'm still pretty happy with myself. I didn't botch too many lines, and though we skipped over one activity, in the end it did not make a difference. We did finish our planned lesson earlier than expected, but did a pretty good job of improvising another activity - asking the students, "what have you already done today? What have you not done yet?" My favourite  response was from Roberto, the only guy, who said "I have already had a beer at the bar." My initial response was, "Really? That's awesome!" Then I realised he meant he hadn't yet had a beer. But at least his mistake was comical, and they understood the humour. 

But the best part was the energy of the students themselves. Despite the fact that this was their second hour of difficult English grammar taught by novices, they remained alert and enthusiastic, even when they knew they weren't speaking properly. At the end of the lesson, one of my students, Victoria, took my hand and said "I like the way you speak." (Or at least I think that's what she meant...) and repeatedly thanked me. The fact that at least one student was grateful felt so...great. It made me think that I could actually do this, and enjoy it, and make it all work. Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs I can think of, one of the most tedious and exhausting, and unfortunately one whose pay is in no way proportionate to its importance. But it's the genuine appreciation of the students that make all the difference. Yes, I'm young and naive and have one fifty minute lesson under my belt, but I feel like I'm off to a great start. 

I have my first individual lesson tomorrow. It's with a high intermediate class, so the students are fairly autonomous in their abilities and really just look for their teacher to guide and occasionally correct their conversation. I'm teaching passive gerunds in the context of discussing workplace environments. I'm far behind in my lesson planning, so I should probably bring this to a close. 

But before I do that...In other news, the Great Apartment Search, Buenos Aires Edition, has officially begun. I've already seen four rooms, and so far, no luck. Since I'll be staying with my host family until March 1st, I'm not too concerned, at least not yet. Right now I'm looking to stay in the Palermo neighbourhood, but considering my budget that may change in the next couple weeks. With class every day from 10 am to 7 or 8 pm, it leaves little time to trek across the city for visits. But it will all work out, I'm sure. It always seems to. 

And I've also decided to hire a Spanish tutor. As much as I would rather save the money, I'm having major difficulties communicating with Argentines. I hate not being able to express myself, always sticking out as a foreigner, (and consequently ripped off, or there's frequently the attempt) and having my social circle reduced to expats and English speakers. I thought I would be able to pick up the language more easily, and perhaps I could if I exerted myself more. But only being Anglos for most of Monday through Friday has made this goal more difficult. So I think I'll take a couple of lessons, see how I'm improving, and then go from there. 

But for now, back to the books...

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