Student Success While Teaching Abroad

Student Success While Teaching Abroad

by Leesa Truesdell

morgan-yearoutMiracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do your fears.” – Richard Wilkins

Sitting down with Morgan Yearout two months after our initial interview, I observed an even more confident and relaxed person. She is clear about her role as a teacher and happy with the work she is doing. Furthermore, she cares about student success more than others.

In our first talk, Morgan was candid about how highly she valued the leadership role she last held at a corporation. I wanted to find out more about her thoughts with regard to her previous position and her new auxiliar position in one of Madrid’s secondary schools. I decided to ask her a follow-up question about her role at Hilton after our initial conversation.

You mentioned in your first interview that you were a Senior Manager for Revenue Management at Hilton Worldwide. Your job was to train and develop new team members to be most effective for their careers with Hilton.

Do you think working with adults in a corporate environment was more difficult than working with high school students? Why or why not?

“I think there’s a lot of overlap whenever you are in a leadership capacity, whether it is in an office or at a school. At the end of the day, you have to gain people’s trust in order to better understand what each person’s motivations and strengths are and successfully challenge them to be better. It’s all about creating a safe environment by exercising emotional intelligence. For example, practice understanding and not judging, use active listening skills, positive reinforcement, and have difficult conversations when needed.  These things have enabled me to develop strong working relationships no matter what the environment is. Therefore, neither scenario is more or less difficult, it’s all about perspective and doing the best you can with the interactions that you do have.”

What is a typical day at your school like?

“Most of my classes are English, Science, or Art. In English classes, I prepare the full lesson plan but collaborate with the teacher in case there’s a certain topic that they wish for me to focus on. During art class, I simply help with classroom management and speak to students informally as I move throughout the class. In science classes, I usually read part of a chapter, supplement the lesson with a discussion, or facilitate a test-prep discussion.

Several examples of lessons that I prepared and facilitated include: types of American food; Bob Dylan, nobel prize winner; USA national parks; USA national monuments; Myers-Briggs personality testing; presentation skills; homework/education comparison across various nations; diet comparison of the USA versus Spain; culture comparisons between the USA and Spain; how to craft a personal statement; environmental discussions regarding the “Plastic Age”; the obesity epidemic across the world; comparison of Obama and Trump’s inauguration speeches; how to read nutrition labels; and how to establish S.M.A.R.T. goals.”

How many people do you work with (auxiliars included) and how many classes do you teach?

“I work with six other auxiliars and I teach 18 classes (including the one-on-one conversation class with the secretary).”

student success while teaching abroad

Communication in the school and outside of school:

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

“Yes, I have been so blessed to have teachers and auxiliars that love their job and are passionate about ensuring student success. The auxiliars have a monthly luncheon but also meet up sporadically throughout the month, which is great! I did Tapapies with one of the teachers I work most closely with and plan to have dinner together again before the year ends. There is definitely a mutual appreciation and respect amongst the auxiliars and teachers.”

Are you forming bonds with students?

“Yes! It was really reiterated around the Christmas season when two classes gave me handwritten notes thanking me for my assistance in the classroom and letting me know they have appreciated getting to know me! Other students have offered their food, made art projects for me, or simply say hello to me in the halls and ask me about my life.”

Does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships inside and outside of the classroom?

“The school doesn’t really have extra-curricular activities like the USA. Students join sports clubs and language schools off-campus so I don’t see the students outside of class unless I randomly run into them at the gym or in the metro. Within the classroom, I choose to engaged thoroughly with the students because I genuinely care for them and student success. I get students to tell me about their day, weekend plans, vacations, and life in general.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

“I always talk to the teacher about the class content for the week to see if I can supplement it with my presentations. Student success is very important. I have an immense amount of autonomy in choosing my topics. Also, how I want to conduct a class. For my Bachillerato classes, I solicit the student’s input so that I can ensure those classroom discussions are relevant and engaging for them.”

Do you work at a bilingual school? What does that mean to you? What does that mean according to the Comunidad of Madrid?

“I work at a bilingual school. Essentially all classes aside from French, German, Math, and P.E. are taught in English as far as I know. The classes that I assist with are conducted in all English by the teacher and myself. The only time English teachers don’t speak English occurs when clarification is required for the lower-level English speakers. I believe that my school is in line with the requirements of a bilingual school based on the Comunidad de Madrid.”

What standards are the classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?

“I am unsure since I am not directly involved with the students’ preparation for the English proficiency tests this year. It is my understanding that those students taking the exams need to do well in order to maintain the reputation of the school and the teacher.”

students learning abroad

Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help their students succeed?

“Not that I am aware of. I presume so, however, these haven’t been communicated to me. “

What have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“I haven’t really learned much about myself per se. I have become more comfortable with myself in a public speaking capacity. Before, I used to feel ridiculously anxious for presentations, so much so that I would avoid them like the plague. In college, I’d sign up for the introduction and conclusion slides…

Otherwise, I continue to be impressed with my ability to embrace ambiguity. In terms of expectations from me in the classroom and developing ideas for presentation topics so that’s lovely.”

What are your new goals and/or modifications to previous goals in the new year?

“New goals?! Hmm… mainly just experience more of the local culture i.e. I did a walking tour, doing the caves under Plaza Mayor, museum dwelling, rooftop bar adventures, and café exploring. Time is flying so fast so I really hope to make the most of my time here by continuing to foster important friendships and host family relationships.”

I am also scheming more grand adventures! As of right now, I have Venice for Carnaval, Bordeaux, Belgium, Spain day trips, a Croatia solo trip and some other potential master plans that I´m keeping in mind. My ability to speak Spanish is not where I would like but I will continue to try. My biggest goal for the year is to break even with the money I make versus the money I spent making this dream a reality.”

Student Success and Willful Personality

Knowing her willful personality and seeing student success, I know Morgan will always do an amazing job in whatever she puts her mind to. In future interviews, I look forward to looping back with her. I cannot wait to see what she has taken with her from this experience, and especially to see where she is headed next.

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