Oxbridge TEFL Training
Student tutor in high school
Supervisor at collections firm
Studied Journalism and wrote and published Diving Deep for Sea Shells, an autobiography with musician Stella Castellucci.
My teaching approach
Teaching is a somewhat new experience for me. I have had my brushes with it earleir in my life. The last experiences seem so long ago. I would tutor my younger sister everyday after school. For a while I really wanted to be a proper grade school teacher. My sister ended up getting far ahead of her class. She often got straight A’s on her report cards. A while later I had a summer job. It was a “bridge program” to prepare students for high school. These students scored far below required levels on standardized tests. They lagged behind many of their peers. This experience really made an impact on the teenage me. They were only a year younger than me. They needed a lot of patience. They needed to feel not ashamed. This marked a change in me. I began to feel more compassion and less judgment. I thought I was doing something that can be of real help.
In my experience so far at Oxbridge, one of the biggest challenges has been to work with self-correction. This was a new idea for me and I’m still getting the hang of it. It is far more motivating than even the methods I use when studying a language myself. I see how it is important to not let the student feel wrong even when repeatedly making the same errors. It has given me more courage and sensitivity to my own challenges. It’s a surprise and benefit to me that learning to teach English would serve the purpose of also improving my Spanish.
Now I can easily put myself in the place of students. I am able to tune into their body language and see how interested / motivated they are. I am also someone who is trying many methods to learn another language. I see now that it takes bravery and strength to know more than one language. I love the fact that accents have become far less important. This is a positive change since it is so easy for us to connect with each other through the technology we have available.
I’ve been reviewing the methods of teaching and have seen the pros and cons of using them. I believe Total Physical Response would be great for young learners. It appears to be a great way to trick them into learning. Associating actions and physical activity with words is a necessary way to build their vocabulary while holding their attention. It would go further to show them how and in what situations to use certain words
The Communicative Approach seems more teacher centered. It seems the teacher does most of the work. This includes answering their own questions. I don’t think I would use this very much, unless I had to get through something quickly. It seems that it would help in pacing the class. The Audio Lingual method uses a lot of repetition and allows little understanding or contextualization.
The Callan Method seems ideal for only short term or crash courses. It does not appear to support retention. It feels very disciplined and militant. I find it too fast paced to provide use of the language. This might not be suitable for the shy or timid students.
The Silent Way I do not understand at all. It seems it would take an entire class to focus on one sentence. Also, the students are hearing each other and not a native speaker to try to emulate. The autonomy seems a good idea but there are more straightforward approaches in achieving it. It doesn’t seem much better than just studying and reading a book aloud. We also must always remember to make the vocabulary useful, functional and versatile. It would be a disservice to students to teach them things that they will probably never have to use.
Time does not seem to have been kind to an approach like Suggestopedia. It appears so over the top and theatrical. I think it can give the wrong impression to students. However, there are situations where it could work quite well. Explaining a board game is an example. The visual impact goes further than trying to describe the objects in other ways. Realia such as the game pieces, card, die, spaces etc. will help explain many of these concepts. It would be quite a burden to carry luggage to each class we have throughout the city. It seems that there is an element of fun but it still feels chaotic.
The best trait of Suggestopedia is that it tries to calm the students and create a positive atmosphere. I would open this up to getting the students to take a few deep breaths together. This can help clear their minds for a moment from the burdens they might carry. I understand many of them are at work and in close proximity to stressors. This breathing could calm their nerves and make them more comfortable in class. I’d like to instantly put everyone at ease and in a sense start at the same level. I want to set a tone of positivity and respect and reassure the students.
Some of these approaches seem laughable considering what we know now. The science of learning has developed so much as it continues to be studied. This trickles down to common everyday knowledge. There are some approaches that we now know for a fact grant little successful. However, there are valid points in these approaches and from observing other teachers utilizing them.
I find myself embracing and incorporating most of the methods that I have been learning through the Oxbridge Model. I’ve observed that we get the students talking from the beginning of the class and keep this momentum going. I also appreciate the way we organize and plan lessons, and can easily adjust to different levels. This proves effective because students might meet several different Oxbridge teachers. There are things that will set us apart and also demonstrate our consistency.
I’ve learned to grade language by listening to the students and speaking in terms they understand. I really make an effort to use cognates wherever possible. Engaging the students is so important. Quite often they could have rehearsed an answer to something like: “How are you?” We can open up a conversation by asking for details. Often just asking “Why?” after they answer starts this process. More importantly, they seem to want to express themselves to the best of their ability. The quick questions also seem to sharpen their minds to think in English.
Controlled practice I would reserve for P3 and above. Some may not be able yet to express themselves well in L2. I would like to make a ground rule of not using the native language during classes. I see discipline is strangely an issue among adult learners, especially when it comes to attention. Everyone has different motivation (or lack of) to be in the class. I like to make sure that I use a lot of positive feedback. This helps to make our classes the best they can be. They may not know it, but I am learning just as much as they are.