Tuesday, September 28, 2010


When I first read LLI's website, I saw that its programs included adult classes, community development, women's programs, and children's education. So when I signed up for this internship, I expected to be learning about and helping with all of those areas, as well as teaching English as is expected of long-term volunteers.

Yet when I first arrived and was given my schedule, I saw that it was completely full of English classes, with two slots for starting math and chess classes. And most of these classes were with kids ranging from 6-13 years old. I was really unsure of this. After all, I've never been a natural teacher. While I've done plenty of one-on-one tutoring, it's always been with people close to my age, and I've never even thought about how I would control and engage a class full of 6-9 year olds.

So from the start, I wasn't sure how good I'd be as a teacher here. But I definitely feel like it's getting better with time. Each of my classes poses completely different challenges, but I feel like I'm finally beginning to figure it all out.

Here's my schedule as it stands now is below. In general, classes run from 10-12 am, 2-5 pm, and then 6-8 pm each day. I don't really have many morning classes, but I have evening classes instead. I used to have evening classes every single night, but I just gave my Sunday conversation club to someone else. The Saturday art/dance class is one that I recently haven't been going to because I have so many other classes that day. But I think I'll start going to it again in the future.

3-5: English and sports for 6-9 year olds (Zone Z 232)
5-6:30: Women's English (Zone Z 232)

10-12: English and sports for 10-13 year olds (Zone D)
2-4: Art and Dance (Zone D)
4-6: Chess (Zone D)
6-8: Women's English (Zone D)
8-9: Private Tutoring

10-11: Math for 6-9 year olds (Zone D)
3-5: Chess (Zone Z 231)

3-5: English and sports for 6-9 year olds (Zone Z 232)
6-7:30: Advanced English (Zone D)

2-3:30: English for 6-9 year olds (Zone I)
3:30-5: English for 10-13 year olds (Zone I)
6-7:30: Intermediate English (Zone D)

When I first started teaching my Zone Z 232 6-9 year old class, the kids were absolutely crazy. I couldn't even get them to be quiet or do any work, and I spent most classes trying to keep them from leaving the classroom or climbing on the tables. I actually considered it a personal victory if I had a class where no one climbed out the windows. But I've been trying out lots of different types of lessons and incentives (stickers!), and it's been getting much better. I actually had a couple of classes where the kids were so perfectly behaved that the other teacher was afraid to enter the class for fear of disrupting it.

My intermediate class has completely changed from when I first got here, but all for the better. When I arrived, there was a basic and intermediate class on Tuesday nights for teens/young adults. (The students are between 16 and 20 years old.) But we realized that in the basic class, there were two levels of students: absolute beginners, and high beginner/low intermediate students. And in my intermediate class were two girls who are currently attending an English college, so their English is amazing, and a boy who is also pretty advanced. So we decided to break up the basic class. The absolute beginners stayed in the basic class, the more advanced people from the basic class formed the intermediate class, and we created an advanced class for the people from the previous intermediate class. And there was one boy who didn't fit perfectly into one level (too advanced for intermediate, not as advanced as the advanced class), so he's currently attending both classes. It's been working great so far. Both classes are so much fun to teach since the students are so interested and smart. We actually got through an entire chapter in the curriculum last night in my advanced class, including a 40 minute conversation, page-long reading activity, two grammar lessons, and more.

My women's class in Zone D is a really great class. I have 10-15 students ranging from 18 to 40 years old, including the lady who cooks for us. At first, the students were pretty afraid to speak, since they didn't want to pronounce it wrong. But then I told them that their pronunciation in English couldn't be much worse than mine in Spanish. And since then, they've been talking a lot! I'm glad my horrible accent is good for something.

What else can I talk about? My Zone I class is funny, since the kids are really smart, but sometimes unmotivated. And they're at the age where the girls and boys give each other a lot of crap during class. My math class is interesting, since I've never had to think about how to teach math in Spanish. And one of my students is a genius. He already knew everything, but when I asked it he had learned it in school, he said that he just knew it. I think I'm going to start private tutoring him, because he's way too advanced for the class. And my Zone D Saturday English class is full of adorable kids.

So the point of this massive post is that I'm really having fun teaching. I never thought of myself as a teacher, and I'm now sure if I still do entirely. After 7 weeks, I still keep trying out new types of worksheets and new activities to figure out how to best teach my students. But I'm liking this far more than I expected.

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