Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Teaching English- The Beginning

The first year I relocated to India, I taught a group of adults conversational English because a good friend requested me to. She didn't know if I could teach it well, neither did I, but I took it up anyway.

My class had 10-14 students, all working adults of varied exposure to English. At one extreme were people who had never spoken a word of the language and had no real need to do so. At the other extreme were a couple of women, who understood the language and used it somewhat in communicating with foreigners who visited their premises.

I didn't take my task lightly. Having been an Instructional Designer for years, I firmly believe in the power of design when teaching. I spent hours researching ESL techniques and adapted them to my class. I looked forward to the classes, seeing my techniques come to life with the students and learning to be a better teacher in each class. A high point was when the class wrote and performed a play in English. Every student participated and showed everyone in the audience (including me) that English is within everyone's reach and one doesn't need perfect English to communicate in it.

I was interested in the process of teaching, and derived happiness and energy from it. The end result was not my focus, mainly because I had no benchmark and no experience. But results were happening, in their own ways and influenced by factors I didn't control. The two people who showed the most improvement were intrinsically motivated and had opportunities to practice whatever they learned. A few others described a shift in their dealings with English speaking friends- from embarrassment to nonchalance, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is. It is a huge step in looking at a language as a language, within reach and doable, and not some superior upper class shit that is just not meant for the poor and disadvantaged.

Unfortunately, the NGO whose staff I was teaching decided their staff didn't have the time for my classes. My experiment came to an abrupt halt.

I was sad no doubt, but the vacuum created as a result spurred me on to new things. The next post will deal with these.