Thursday, January 3, 2013

Practicum I

Two MATESOL students leading the class

Last summer I started working on my MATESOL (Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at St. Michael's College, in Vermont. One of the requirements of the degree is to complete two practicums. Last summer I took Practicum I. While I felt the practice teaching was a little unnecessary for me as I've been teaching for 4 years, it was a fun and easy way to get two credits. Over the 6 week semester, we went down to Winooski twice a week to teach a group of refugees as an extension of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. Every MATESOL student worked with a partner to co-teach three classes over the semester and then observed the rest of the classes. This was good for two reasons. First, was that it was the first time I've ever successfully co-taught a class and gave me some insight as to how to do it seamlessly (fortunately I had a fantastic partner who made it easy to work as a team) and second, was that we could see various teaching methods in action.. to see what worked and what didn't. There were some lessons that were total flops and there were some teaching methods that I never would have tried that worked fantastically. It was interesting to see each person's different teaching styles.

Teaching directions through TPR (total physical response) 

Our students came from all over, but the majority were Bhutanese/Nepalese refugees. We also had students who were refugees from several countries in Africa, too. It's a far cry from teaching my Korean students who are mostly students or business people. In some respects, it's a lot harder because these students are at a much lower level than most of my Korean students, especially with their writing/reading skills. A few may have even been illiterate in their native languages, so learning a new language AND learning to read and write that language can be particularly challenging. But, in some ways teaching the refugees can also be more rewarding and fun than teaching Koreans. For these refugees, they have a lot more at stake for learning the language. Learning the language can be a way out of poverty and makes life in Vermont much easier. In general, the students are much more open to trying new things and are really grateful for our efforts.

Playing "Fruits Basket"

On the last day of class, one of the MATESOL students from Japan taught us and the students a game called Fruits Basket. It was a fun game like musical chairs and really lifted the mood of the class. 

Bhutanese Student Explaining Food

After that we had a goodbye potluck dinner with all the students and teachers. Some of the students brought really delicious food from their own countries and some teachers also had some interesting dishes, both American and from their respective countries.

Korean Teacher Explaining Food

Japanese Teacher Explaining Food

Dance Party

Finally, one of my fellow Practicum student teachers instigated a giant dance party that got everyone on their feet. I must say, Practicum was the most fun part of my intensive 12 credit summer semester last July/August. I can't wait for Practicum II next summer... I'll have to choose between teaching refugees like these again, or Intensive English Program students at St. Michael's. What a hard choice to make!

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