TEFL Certification Day 6 & 7: Student Monks

It’s now Monday and the first week of the course is completed. So far things are going far better than I expected. My confidence is through the roof and I have the itch to start teaching already. I enjoy standing up in front of my peers practicing and can’t wait to get more practice when the actual lessons begin.

Thursday was our first contact with students. Our goal was to spend an hour with student monks at a local school in order to get them comfortable and talking to us so that we could return Friday and record a short speech sample. We arrived at the school after a couple hours of planning what we were going to do. The students were standing towards the back of the classrooms and we chose seats. Then whomever’s seat we sat in would come and join us. I sat with a 14 yr old boy named Win. He was the smallest of the students as well as one of the shyest. It took 10-15 minutes to get him to speak to me and even then his answers to my questions were short. We were warned that the first day would be difficult as the students are usually too shy to open up but some of my other classmates had no problem. Their reading and writing levels were all different. Win was very good at writing and I suspected he was also better at speaking than he led on.

I interviewed him on his family and his daily schedule which were not a lot fun for him to talk about but when we moved on to animals he opened up much more. I got more comfortable as the hour went on so I think he fed off of that. I would ask him about different animals and then do one of my world famous imitations to get him to smile. The hour flew by and before I knew it we were saying goodbye. I told him I would see him again tomorrow and we were off.

The next day we spent the morning learning about culture shock and then in the afternoon we planned our second hour with our students. This time we were meant to have a more open discussion with them in order to get a recorded sample of their speech. I was worried about this because Win was very shy and his replies to my questions were usually one word answers and he didn’t understand me when I tried to explain that I needed full sentences from him. When I first got there I was much more comfortable and started rolling right away. Win took some time to get back into it. Since he wasn’t really answering questions with full sentences and I needed a large speech sample, I decided to write down what he should reply with if I ask him certain questions.

For example:

Teacher: What is your birthday?
Student: August 12 (he really does share my birthday!)
Teacher: OK, so you would say, “My birthday is August 12th.”
Student: no response

Then I would write down what I wanted him to say, point to the words and use gestures that I wanted him to speak. I modeled that for him a couple of times and then eventually he picked it up on his own and I wouldn’t have to ask him to read it. I’m giving you this much detail because this was the first moment I felt like I actually taught something and it felt really good to model for a student and then have him pick up what I meant for him to do. And on top of that he continued doing it with out me having to ask him. It was kind of an, “OH! Maybe I can do this!” moment.

After I gathered enough information we both went over to the tape recorder where I asked him the questions again and had him respond. He read a couple of paragraphs as well and responded to questions about them. He was very soft spoken but he read really well. He only stumbled on certain words but we were instructed not to correct spoken language. This is true for anytime I will be in the classroom.

My first session with a student was successful. There wasn’t too much writing to do about it so I finished my assignments for the weekends right away and had the weekend to myself. It was relaxing. Now it’s back to the grind and this week starts off with a load of grammar.