One of the most obvious benefits that we can provide as Peace Corps volunteers is English teaching. This is also clearly an emphasis for the organization, and that is no exception here in Mexico, even though in Tech Transfer, we are almost exclusively “specialists” with a variety of technical assignments. A few were given English teaching projects. Nevertheless, throughout pre-service training, we were both prepared and encouraged to teach English in a variety of forms, depending on what our centers need.

While teaching English was recommended as an excellent site-integration technique, we were also warned to tread carefully in the initial 3 months. So, half-minding this  advice from training to venture slowly, I ran blindly into a slight political situation at my center, but my charging ahead also enabled me to move more quickly to get my English class started. I had so much interest expressed to me by the graduate students at the center that I didn’t want to wait and risk having my promise of course seem empty.

This is my first time teaching English. I didn’t want to jump into a formal English or TOEFL course, and this aligned very well with the student’s expressed need to practice speaking in English. So, I decided to go the route of a conversation course. There is still plenty for me to plan for each class session, but it is also a much freer curriculum where I can have the course participants motivate the topics that we cover. Then, I can plan the class session structure and bring in useful vocabulary and “facilitate”. I have to put that word in quotes. Anyone that went through a PST similar to what we experienced here in Mexico will surely understand. We’ve got great resources for planning classes with adult learners, and I’m feeling that PST was actually useful in this case. I’m very inspired for organizing my class with a mix of activities that not only hold their attention but also keep them engaged.  What I have are plans now, so we’ll see how it goes. I probably have a bit of newcomer’s excitement for this whole process after my first class yesterday. When I have a week where only 2 students show up, I’m sure some of the shine will wear off.

So, I held my first hour-long English conversation class yesterday. I was very excited to get started for a number of reasons, including wanting/needing more to do and expecting that I would enjoy teaching the class. My expectations were surpassed, and I am left with a huge feeling of relief and satisfaction. These first 7 weeks in the office have been a bit rough.

I was collecting responses to my call for class participants for a little over a week. In total, I had 15 people say that they would like to take the course. Of course, this was no guarantee of the number of people who would show up for the first class. ´Therefore, I was very satisfied with the 7 people who did show up for the first class. I meant to bring my real camera to document the occasion, but I forgot it. For utility, my ipod camera is perfect to document the lists we wrote on the board, but the images are artistically underwhelming.

We started the class with introductions and some logistics. Then we moved on to the main topic of the first class – strategies for a conversation class. After discussing the reasons for not practicing the language you are learning, we wrote lists of strategies for the learners, the teacher, and the class. This turned out to be a good exercise that not only got everyone talking and writing, but gives me tips and ideas for future classes. I think it is useful that I am an ongoing language student, because I can relate to everything we discussed about why language learners don’t speak.

And, I also need to follow their advice for my Spanish learning.

For the teacher strategies, I can use all the tips that I can get.

Our final list has strategies for the learners to use for and during class. This list turned out to be a perfect transition into the class conclusion, because the final suggestion was my planned homework assignment for next week. They assigned their homework for themselves. That has to be an intermediate or advanced teaching technique.

Without making this any longer and trying to sum up my incredibly reflective thoughts after 1 day of teaching, I think this is enough of a summary. Having the class to prepare for is great, but I’m also glad that I still have time to write long blog posts in the morning in the office.