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  • Writer's picturewassa123

Teacher Reflection Two Months In

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The overwhelming majority of my structured time here is spent preparing for and teaching English. I have very informal training in teaching English as a second language; I’ve done it for friends and family members, but I would be lost if I had to start from scratch. All of my teachers are absolutely brilliant and I am so fortunate to work alongside them. They’re all unique for sure, but great teachers.

Luckily all of my students have been studying English for several years, so as long as I enunciate and speak slowly, I can get away with only speaking English in the classroom. In fact, I’ve told my students that I don’t speak French to help with their immersion. (Some of them are catching onto me though)

We follow the textbook series Far Ahead in preparation for the baccalaureate exam at the end of the year. In many ways, Far Ahead reminds me of my Spanish and French textbooks, but my cohort members and I have been challenged by the framing of certain lessons.

Some of the lessons give me cheesy D.A.R.E vibes at best, while others pass blatant misinformation, misogyny, or singular narrative stories as a lesson. It can be very frustrating to see the textbook characterize fatness as a moral failing or say that rural women are only good for domestic housework and know my students are using that content to practice their English.

But English is such a fluid subject and I feel trapped teaching for a test. Sometimes the students are asked to fill in passages that even I, as an advanced native speaker, hesitate on. Between the ambiguity of the questions, circumventing misinformation, and having to guess the author’s intention, I regularly disagree with the textbook. So much of language is self-expression, and when we teach such integral vocabulary in confined (and at times factually incorrect) lessons, we risk limiting how our students understand the full breadth of various topics.

In many ways, I feel the frustration that my high school teachers described when teaching an AP class. I feel caught between my short-term agenda and the potential long-term consequences of my actions; focusing on the content rather than the grammar may help my students be more empathetic, but will that help them pass their exams, which, for the many students who wish to study abroad, is absolutely necessary. And so I find myself bouncing between discrediting the textbook and telling my students it's one of their most helpful resources, with are both true.

But this is a difficult thing to get across in a single lesson or even the two months I’m with each class. Sometimes the subjects of the units are simply a vehicle for grammar/vocabulary comprehension, and I submit to glazing over my points of disagreement. I’ve begun to reserve my off-script moments for English club or flagrantly harmful incidents. I’m still struggling with which battles to pick and choose, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a clear answer.

Regardless of any textbook mishaps, my kids make it worth it. They bring me so much joy. I've never gone a day without laughing, either with them or at myself. I've been saying goodbye to my first batch of students this week, and it's been really hard.

I love this job so much, and I hope that by the six-month mark, I’ll have figured out these challenges, but even if I don't, I know I'll enjoy coming to work every day.

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