How to Get Through Your DELTA Course

It was during my first year teaching English in an academy in Madrid when I first heard about the Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (in other words, the DELTA course). I was fresh off getting my CELTA teacher certification, which is the initial course you need to take to teach English abroad. Before I’d even considered the DELTA course, I had already felt like the CELTA course had been tough. The DELTA sounded even tougher. 

My fellow teaching colleagues spoke of the late nights, stress, and overwhelm that they endured during the course. Some complained about the heavy workload and pressure of lesson observations. Others bemoaned the fact that their social life had gone out of the window. Some even spoke about losing their hair due to the high stress of it all!

DELTA Surprises in Store

Needless to say, as a new English teacher, these descriptions did not seem very appealing to me. “You won’t catch me doing that DELTA course”, I used to think to myself. “Not a chance!” So it came as a surprise to me, when five years into my teaching career, I suddenly felt that doing the DELTA course was the next step I needed to take. By that time I already had a lot of teaching experience under my belt and it felt like the moment to throw myself into a new challenge. The idea of studying again and furthering my skills appealed to me. So, I did the very thing I never thought I would and enrolled in the course. 

However, far from being a nightmare experience, I actually enjoyed it! For me, those nine months, whilst being challenging and difficult at times, turned out to be very fulfilling. Even my boss noticed how much of a breeze it had been for me, commenting one day that “out of all the years that you have worked here, this DELTA year hasn’t been your most stressful”. And he was right! Not only that, but I graduated from the course with a Merit, something that isn’t so easy to achieve. 

Tips for Success 

So what was my secret to getting through the DELTA and thriving rather than barely surviving? Read on to find out!

Accept That You Won’t Have Much of a Social Life This Year

The DELTA is a lot of work packed into a short space of time. The idea that you can maintain a busy social life at the same time is a delusion. During my DELTA year, I noticed that those who suffered the most during the course were those who resisted this inevitable reality and thought that they could work and play in equal amounts. The truth is, you can’t, as they soon found out when they were stressed, unhappy, and not getting the results they wanted.

Instead, it is better to follow the lead of those who accepted their unsociable fate and made their DELTA studies a priority. In my experience, they were calmer, more centred, and able to take it all in their stride. Their lack of inner resistance allowed them to suffer less and waste less energy complaining. Therefore they were more productive, got work done faster, and went out for drinks more. So it pays to accept the situation as it is — you may be able to go to that party after all! 

Make Time to Look After Yourself

Whilst it is true that you need to prioritise your studies, it is also vital that you schedule time for self-care. I have seen so many people work so hard that they burn themselves out. They end up doing worse than they would have done if they had just taken an hour out to walk in the park, meditate, or do something creative. 

When I was doing my DELTA, my yoga class was non-negotiable, as was my morning meditation practice, regardless of how much work I had. When people asked me how I got through my DELTA so well, my response was always the same: yoga and mediation!  

Whilst it is true that these things might not be for everyone, I think it is absolutely vital to engage in something every day that feeds you on the inside and keeps your inner tank filled up. That way you can get through your DELTA without the same spiritual exhaustion that so many burn out from, and, instead, get through it with a sense of wellbeing rather than stress.

This also goes for making sure you are feeding yourself adequately! Pot noodles and a diet of pasta and pesto will not support your energy levels sufficiently. Take the time to cook good meals for yourself and you will feel the benefit.

Be Authentic in Your Lesson Observations

For most teachers, the most stressful part of the DELTA is the lesson observations. No one likes feeling like they are being watched at the best of times, let alone when the person watching you is scribbling down notes every few minutes. My advice to you is this: just be yourself. Don’t try to be something that you are not or put on a show.  After all, how can you focus on delivering a good lesson, if you are trying to keep up an act? 

By all means, prepare thoroughly for your observations. You should do run-throughs with other classes and even rehearse the parts you feel most nervous about. However, on the day itself, just relax, be yourself, and try to enjoy it. The students and the examiner will notice your authenticity, which will make everyone enjoy it more, including you. So ditch the preconceived ideas of how a teacher should be and just be who you are. It will definitely pay off.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Whilst sharing resources is common practice in English teaching, during your DELTA year, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Any kind of competition between you and your fellow classmates is only going to cause you to put more pressure on yourself, leading to more stress and anxiety.

Constant comparison will also have an adverse effect on your confidence levels, leading to insecurity and self-doubt. This in turn will cause you to be less self-assured, which could affect your performance in the classroom. Instead, just focus on doing your best, and don’t waste your time worrying about how well others are doing. Put your all into your studies and you can be satisfied with the result, come what may. Your best really is enough and it is important to remember that.

Keep Perspective

Whilst you obviously need to put your all into your DELTA studies if you really want to see good results, it’s also important to keep perspective. This is not a life or death situation (although it might seem like it at times). Yes, you paid a lot of money, so you naturally want to do well. However, to kill yourself with stress and worry is simply not worth it. Keep perspective of what is important: learning, growing, improving your professional skills, and the sense of achievement you will feel once you have finished. 

The grades and results won’t matter much in the end anyway, so why get so caught up in the details? Just focus on getting through the course and coming out the other side feeling satisfied and proud of what you have achieved.

Final Thoughts

Getting through the DELTA course is an achievement in itself. It requires courage to take on such a big challenge and I commend those who dare to do so. If you follow the advice in this article, I am confident that getting through the DELTA can be an enriching experience for you, just as it was for me. It is just a question of how you handle yourself, your time, and your priorities. Good luck!

Olivia Grundyby Olivia Grundy

José G. Carrasco Updates on Teaching in Miami

Jose taking a selfie in his car.José G. Carrasco is a cool teacher. He is the one that all the students in the school look up to. José is friendly with his students, but they respect him because he exudes authority. He wants to inspire disadvantaged youth to transform their lives by providing them with a good education.

Are you teaching in Miami at the same school we last spoke to you about?

Yes, I am. On top of that, I teach adults ESOL three nights a week. This is a program where they learn trades and prepare for citizen tests. Those extra 10 hours of work are one way of keeping me out of trouble, I suppose. I always do private lessons here and there. This is to help kids who have a problem with math and science.

Following a divorce, you changed jobs to be closer to your two daughters. Do you still live near them?

My eldest daughter is no longer living in Miami. She is actually residing in my old Brooklyn apartment. Keeping her company there is a creature that used to be a pet of mine, Beyoncé the snake. Her younger sister, who just turned 22, still lives close by. She is in her final year of nursing school.

What do Florida schools need to do to narrow the gap with those in New York?

They need to be stricter. Florida schools need to fail their students who are not progressing. By the time of fifth grade, there should be progression. If there isn’t, it’s because they didn’t fully understand what was covered in the fourth grade. Sometimes, there are fifth graders making third-grade mistakes and that shouldn’t be happening. In third grade, you need to show you can add and subtract. If you can’t, you need to repeat the year until you can. Without this noteable progression, then students aren’t prepared for middle school. This is the biggest concern I have about teaching in Miami.

Jose posing with a student.

What advice would you give to prospective teachers?

Follow your heart. Learn your craft. You will find happiness. With these kids, from a low economic stratum, you have to be a teacher, a parent, and a psychologist. You have to do a lot of things for them to support their growth. It’s tough, but it’s a calling. Make sure you have empathy and put yourself in the same place as the kid. Be a facilitator. Believe in inclusion. Set the standard high. I’m the head guy in my school, and I tell my students that the limit is in their heads. They’ve got the same physiogenic tools as everybody else. They got 3s and 4s and kept their levels. We float together or sink together. It’s a family. I even go watch their games.

How do you get your students to memorize mathematical concepts?

You have to be inventive. What’s three times three? Use your fingers to show the students. Not everybody has the same launchpad. Some of them are subterranean. Some you can’t slow down. Don’t dumb it down. Make the classroom a level playing field.

I think when it comes to learning, you have to rationalize your teaching methods. I meet the requirements and want to make sure my kids use rationale. Why do you do this? You have to ask them a lot of questions. Teachers need to be inquisitive with their students.

What do you like to do away from school?

Travel. I went to Angola, a country in central Africa. While there, I was hanging out with my former students. They showed me around, and I even made it in the newspaper. They speak Portuguese which was handy for a Brazilian like me. I was chilling and may have caused some damage. I had a good time.

Previously, I kept pets, such as guinea pigs and snakes. My last guinea pig, Jiyma, I gave to one of my students. Her grandmother had cancer. She lived with her grandma, and looking after the guinea pig became something they did together. 

How painful was it for you to watch this year’s Copa América final? (Argentina beat José’s Brazil 1-0 in Rio’s Maracaña stadium)?

You can’t win them all. Kudos to Messi, though. It’s about time he won something on the international stage. We celebrated with gold medals at the Olympics. Dani Alves was immense in Tokyo.

It has been a while since we caught up with José. It was so reassuring to hear his warm, playful voice again. We could sense the same old, irrepressible José on the end of the phone. You can’t keep a good man down. He’s a credit to the teaching profession. We’re excited to see how teaching in Miami has gone for him.

by Dreams Abroad

Distance Learning Tips for Teachers

caroline hazelton we teach memberI’m writing to you from the epicenter of the pandemic in South Florida. Within two weeks of the beginning of March, my adult education school morphed our familiar evening class “communities” to virtual meetings. “Get your sea legs, we’re in this for the long haul!” we were cheered on. And it worked. We rose to the challenge. Our students did, too. We all succeeded, a bright hope in the dark days we live in.

After hitting the ground running the last four months, I’m finally able to reflect on my experiences of how to succeed in the distance learning classroom as an adult education ESOL teacher. Think in terms of simplicity, connection, and taking advantage of the situation.

Simplicity: Distance Learning’s Best Friend

Technology itself will likely be taking up too much of the students’ mental energy. Keep your class to the basics. It is your best bet for students’ motivation to return when things seem complicated. You don’t want to lose students because they don’t know how to use all of the buttons, icons, etc. on your platform. Less is more… and less is even better if you use what students already know.  

Keep in mind the limits of your own devices. In face-to-face language classes, I liked to show a lot of culturally authentic videos and websites to supplement curriculum. However, when we tried distance learning, my favorite YouTube videos just slowed down my WiFi… and therefore, my lesson. I kept it simple with just our curriculum and PowerPoints. My mantra is: “If it’s not working, keep moving!” 

A photo of an Apple computer, which can be used for distance learning

Connection 

Our opportunities to connect in the physical classroom are usually plentiful but are so fewer over Zoom. My teaching mantra is “Students don’t know how much you know until they know how much you care.” I used to teach students that I cared about them through our daily interactions. But when the pandemic came, I had to find ways to make up for those interactions. I made a class WhatsApp group to talk to students every day… sometimes even on weekends! We found things to talk about related to class and built on relationships to rebuild those connections. 

Meeting with students one on one helped make connections with them. I made appointment times of twenty minutes each one night a week. Students could come into the virtual room and practice either a designated activity or have a free conversation. This helped me build a relationship and rapport with each student. I learned more about their English abilities, goals, and even their lives. They felt as if they knew me personally and were more likely to come.

I found that while distance learning, contacting students was more important than ever. Every day I contacted students who were absent, who had a bad day, or who had some special circumstances going on. Having accountability and people to cheer you on is so important to an education.

A photo of a woman looking at an iPad, which can be used for distance learning

Take Advantage of the Situation

Even though the circumstances that require distance learning are bad, there are incredible advantages to distance learning! This is the one opportunity you can learn from anywhere in the world. Vacations, traveling overseas temporarily, even staying late for work one night are all accessible with a class on Zoom. Families don’t have to worry about childcare because they attend class from their home. Finally, you can multitask-attend class on the bus, fold laundry and learn or even eat dinner-and still attend class.

A New Market

In my opinion, there is a new market schools can attract with online classes, as I learned from a Burlington English webinar. The possibilities are endless. Courses can be offered to anyone in the world. Employers with high numbers of  English as Second Language speakers could arrange for them to attend English classes on-site through virtual learning. I think what you can offer really depends on the rules of your school, but get creative!

Distance Learning can be done from anywhere, like in this photo of a girl next to a canal.

Overall, to my fellow teachers — just be there to check in on your students. Find out how they are handling the pandemic financially, emotionally, etc. We are in this together. We make the challenges simple, we connect to our students, and we seize each moment.

by Caroline Hazelton

Teaching ESOL from Experience

by Caroline Hazelton

caroline hazelton teaching ESOLI wonder how you found this page? Perhaps you found it by Google, by social media sharing, or by mere coincidence. Good for you! Either way, I bet the only way you’ll keep reading after this is if you truly care about teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages. Even at that, because I said the word “experience” you are probably in need of such, AKA “teaching ESOL from experience.” 

Right now I’m on Year 7 in teaching languages. I’m always improving my teaching craft. I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it a certain way. Yet as I handed in my lesson plans this past Tuesday, I realized that teacher jargon doesn’t explain what simple experience can. And yet so much of the way I teach and have been successful from Year 3 onward is because of… experience — that is, “teaching ESOL from experience.”

I originally started this article with a list of teacher advice, but quickly realized you can find that anywhere. Instead, I think it’s best to reflect on the four institutions where I’ve actively taught ESOL and what each ESOL school taught me… through experience. I’ll list each school as “School A, B, C and D” for the privacy of each school.

School A: Finding Your Place as a Professional in School

For Pete’s sake, if you are a new teacher DEMAND A CURRICULUM. You’ll need one to stay organized, maximize learning, and follow the natural flow of language acquisition progression. Furthermore, set boundaries on students. Don’t accept their Facebook requests, don’t let them use their native language in class (even if it is the other language you teach and love) except for emergencies, and if any student starts to cross professional boundaries you must immediately but respectfully set them straight for the sake of your classroom control. Also, especially if you are a young teacher, you must especially look professional at all times.

Professional in School

School B: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions and Set Boundaries

Now that your demanded curriculum is in hand, ask the director/principal specific questions about the curriculum or the school they might be too busy to explain. Make sure to ask questions such as “When does the semester end?” or “How long is the book to be used for?” As much as you love your students, don’t be afraid to correct their English. However, know the goal of each activity and make your corrections specific (like adding a preposition).

Give general critiques (like encouraging students to add more information) so the students aren’t overwhelmed by their mistakes. Again, make sure you set professional boundaries. You love your job, but don’t work for free — make sure you are fairly compensated for your time. If you are not paid on time, immediately contact HR. And finally, always overestimate how long it will take you to arrive to class so you can breathe when you get there.

Ask Questions and Set Boundaries

School C: Use Your Own Experience When Teaching

Own your cultural identity and what it can bring to the classroom. I was the only white teacher in my ESOL department at School C. I owned it. At the beginning, I demanded my intermediate level students only speak in English. I made my students weird American things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I taught them how Americans butcher Hispanic names in English and hate kisses on the cheek.

Make sure to hand the mic over to your students every once in a while. Let them voice both their cultures and the saddening situations that brought them over to the United States. Let them use Spanish… but only in emergencies or during non-instructional time. And finally, as important as that curriculum is, do not underestimate the importance of authentic cultural material that is relevant to the topic. Bring in the country music, clips of The Office, and Super Bowl commercials.

Experience Teaching

School D: Give Yourself Structure and Take Time to Learn

As an unorganized person, having an organized curriculum pre-planned for me each class helped me see just how learning can be maximized with the right pacing and assessment. I tend to get off task, but staying on topic is crucial for the learner. However, the ability to learn and quickly memorize facts about each student builds a good rapport with students. Finding a balance between staying on task and learning about your students should be found. Finally, students need to hear ways to improve their English. Working with a Chinese crowd at this school, I found it helpful to study common mistakes Chinese English Language Learners make, identify them in the student, and quickly address them with go-to examples. 

Teaching ESOL from Experience

I don’t think there isn’t a day where I’m not learning from my experiences. Just tonight, an argument broke out between two students over a political issue (Venezuelan dictator Maduro seizing and selling homes abandoned by Venezuelans fleeing) and a personal issue (these two students did not get along). After resolving the argument and further discussing with another Venezuelan student about the emotional state of those fleeing, I would like to do some further reading about helping refugees process their emotions. Situations like these help shape my responses to future tense situations. After every day that I teach, I make sure to do a nightly reflection. This helps me know what I’d like to repeat for next semester but also steer away from. 

 

ESL Certifications: Where to Begin

by Caroline Hazelton

The world of English as a Second/Foreign Language teachers is a delightful one, whether we are teaching it where it’s the dominant language to non-native speakers (English as a Second Language) or in another part of the world where it is a non-native language (English as a Foreign Language). There are literally so many situations you can find yourself in if you love other cultures and languages. You can:

  • build an American dream in an immigrant child or adult learning ESL
  • teach brilliant international students in English for Academic Purposes programs
  • teach English online in dozens of countries from your own office
  • go abroad… and have a “Dream Abroad!” 

However, every dream has a road, and every road has a starting point. How do you get to all of these places above? After all, you’re going to need some formal training to explain such cases like “I have eaten,” which means “I previously ate, my previous eating still affects me now, and will continue to affect me into the future” kind of grammatical teaching and understanding. 

Where to Begin with ESL Certifications

English as a Foreign Language ESL Certifications

Here are a few steps to gaining ESL/EFL credentials in specific situations.

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s or higher. This is true in nearly every English teaching case. I suggest majoring in ESL Education or in a related field. 
  2. Gain cross-cultural experiences as a volunteer, either abroad or both.
  3. (Recommended but not required) Study a second language. 

Foreign Language teachersSteps 1-3 are your “launch pad.” Once you’ve done these things, you have three other options to figure out where you wish to be:

Option A: Earn your ESOL certificate or endorsement to teach English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in public K-12 schools.

Option B: The universally-accepted TEFL certificate lets you teach abroad or in many online English teaching platforms. In my case at EF, my degree credentials substituted this requirement.

Option C: If you wish to teach ESL in a university or in a college, a Master’s is usually necessary. Again, you can either major in ESL Education or a different field such as linguistics, English, Education, etc. Note that teaching English as a Second Language or English for Academic Purposes is usually for non-credit courses. If you wish to train future English as a Second Language teachers, a PhD in one of the fields mentioned above might be necessary.

My ESL Journey

I want to end this on a personal note, as I realize this article has been on the technical side thus far. Teaching English as a Second AND Foreign Language in my case has been a delightful experience, but figuring out how to get where I wanted to go was overwhelming in my early days of undergrad.

I come from a tiny community in the rural southern United States. There were no opportunities in my hometown that would prepare me to be an ESL teacher. Instead, I had to leave. I had to volunteer in Texas, travel overseas multiple times, and volunteer with international students at my university. This was all in addition to learning Spanish and getting both degrees before I was even truly qualified to teach ESL. I’ve held several positions in different cities and states as my personal life changes. While this field requires a unique set of skills, it also allows flexibility. 

ESL Certifications

Start Seeking Opportunities with ESL Certifications

This guide is coming from someone who knew in the very beginning of undergrad that I wanted to teach both Spanish and ESL. For some of you, you may not have even considered ESL/EFL until recently. Oftentimes, there are many interests, goals, and dreams that might not happen the way we imagine. In other cases, we don’t realize a passion that we have for a cause until later in life. If that sounds like you, figure out the skills and education that you already have and start seeking opportunities to add to your repertoire. For example, a former colleague wanted to teach English as a Foreign Language overseas for the Peace Corps. Despite her education, she was rejected for lack of ESL experience. She made up for this volunteering at one of the last schools I taught at, and I hope she’s gotten where she wanted to go.

Teaching English as a Second Language is both satisfying on the intellectual and humanitarian level, not to mention, quite fun! I hope to see many of our Dreams Abroad readers join me in obtaining their ESL certifications!

Where to Begin with ESL Certifications

Teaching ESOL, Spanish, and Online Classes in the United States with Caroline Hazelton

Caroline Hazelton is from Jacksonville, Florida. When she isn’t teaching ESOL, lecturing part-time at a university located in South Florida or teaching online classes, Caroline is a wife and mom to two beautiful daughters.

She is one of the best presenters I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Caroline and I met at Florida State University’s College of Education where oftentimes we were asked to engage and interact in meaningful dialogue with our classmates. We studied education, so we pretty much had presentations every other week, and Caroline always had stellar presentations. I remember her specifically as being one of the best presenters in our class. She has a passion not only for Pedagogy and Foreign and Second-Language Curriculum, but for life. Caroline’s enthusiasm is contagious. She is a fourth-generation teacher and once up in front of a classroom, she draws you in with her love of language.

Meet Caroline, the language enthusiast:

What do you like most about teaching international students?

“When you teach international students, you see brilliant thinkers from other parts of the world who possess different talents, perspectives, and attitudes. They also arrive with their own academic strengths and passions from their desired degree programs. Every university student is already a thinker and a learner, or else they wouldn’t be there. And what’s more they can see things very differently from Americans which can be challenging but stimulating. For example, last year at another school, a Chinese student told me that World War II was tragic but helpful. As an American and as a granddaughter of veterans, I could not get my head around the concept of  WWII being “helpful.” But from his perspective, China had benefited from the territory inherited from the war.

Teaching ESOL – teaching languages and cultures to people is my passion. There is something about watching a student  embrace a language. I subscribe to the linguist Noam Chomsky’s theory of  “universal grammar” which asserts that humans have an innate ability to learn languages. It is fascinating to watch someone partake in a process that is more often reserved for small children.

teaching foreign language to US students

It is also amazing to watch a new identity form. Humans tend to isolate themselves into groups that look the same, act the same, and share the same culture. Yet when we learn a new language, we adopt its culture. We cannot simply stay in our own culture with people just like ourselves because we now have the ability to communicate with those who are different from us. I do not want to see people hiding away with clones of themselves. I want to see them mingling with others, celebrating their cultural and linguistic identities. As you learn more about another language, you can relate to another culture and begin to develop multiple “identities.” When we do, we can relate to more people. This makes the world a little smaller and more unified.”

What did you like most about teaching a foreign language to US students?

“Teaching Spanish to non-speakers with mostly American backgrounds meant that these students were discovering a world that had been hidden within their own. Now that they were able to begin understanding, they could now be a part of it. I saw this when I taught university students all the way down to my elementary school students. Spanish is everywhere in the United States. I would have students who could communicate with friends, family, co-workers, or clients and would come to class and tell me about it. Students would find that they could now listen to more music. This was because we would listen to and translate music in Spanish in class. Spanish is simply everywhere in the United States.

Teaching ESOL in the United States

I see myself in my students. As I was learning, I didn’t abandon my first language when I learned another, but in fact, gained a new identity. Of course, my second-language identity is a whole different component than my first. But, teaching Spanish in the United States has helped my students find their own “second identities.” I can help them connect to another world within their own.”

What did you find was the most challenging part of teaching both groups of students?

“It’s important to realize that anytime you are speaking a second language, no matter how much you know of it, you will still struggle to express yourself. Your mind might blank on a word. You might have complex thoughts, but all of your cerebral energy is going to simply put the words out there. Some students are able to be bold and learn despite this insecurity, but this really upsets some. Teachers can ease this anxiety by creating a warm, welcoming classroom environment so students feel comfortable taking risks. I’m happy to say that on my university course evaluations this was something students mentioned. The relaxed environment I strived to create made them feel okay with failing.

student studying in library books

In teaching ESOL, I find it’s very important to show students what you do as a teacher when you stumble on a word or have some other kind of miscommunication. Even in our first language, there are already enough miscommunications. These can range from different intended meanings, different references, body language, etc. which we have to resolve in daily life. Being open about our own mistakes encourages students. In other words, showing students that failure is okay is both a challenge and extremely important.”

What did both sets of students have in common? What was the difference?

“Both groups are trying to communicate in their second language and learn it better. The difference is that with international students, there is more at stake in learning English. In the United States, many students are studying Spanish as a foreign language for a required credit. Most students learning Spanish just need to pass a foreign-language requirement and continue with their studies. For international students in intensive English programs, they usually cannot pursue their degree studies, face visa issues, etc. if they do not pass their English courses. They are actually trying to live in a culture where the language and culture they are learning is dominant. This is actually helpful when teaching ESOL. My Spanish learners were not in that situation. In other words, language-learning issues remain the same, but the motivation levels and stake factors do not.”

students studying in front of computer

Where are you currently working? What are the challenges that your international students encounter?

“Recently, I got hired as an adjunct lecturer on an intensive English program at a reputable university. I am also teaching ESOL – English as a foreign language – online with a well-known language and travel company. Since my experience here is limited, I will reflect on my experiences with international students as a whole.

International students struggle with differences in classroom etiquette. For example, in Chinese culture, students are expected to recite while American students are expected to critique. An American student abroad might come across as loud, opinionated, or arrogant in cultures similar to the Chinese. Likewise, certain cultures are more tolerant of issues such as plagiarism. In the US, plagiarism is grounds for expulsion from the university. It’s important to consider subtle misunderstandings due to language and culture when teaching ESOL. Each language carries certain “attitudes” with it derived from its surrounding culture. Chinese- and Korean-speaking students carry a need for “respectful language” that doesn’t necessarily exist in English. This is different when compared to Brazilian and Portuguese students, who might carry more of a “friendly” attitude. Students aren’t even aware of these minor differences until they begin their second language/culture-immersion experience.”

What challenges do you have working with international students?

“First, there are always misunderstandings due to differences in language, especially when teaching ESOL. To be honest, there are times I cannot understand what a student is trying to communicate due to accent or vocabulary. While I have to be kind, I do have to let the student know I cannot understand them. This is the only way they will be able to improve their language skills. Usually, it is just a grammatical or syntax issue, or possibly a pronunciation error that we can fix together. When handled correctly, you can help students save face for when they are communicating with someone not as “linguistically patient” as their teacher.

Secondly, and I hate to mention this, but any time you are teaching, especially teaching ESOL, you have to make sure to be on the lookout for how your gender plays a role. This is especially true of cultures where gender and sexuality vary from that of your own where you know “what to do/not to do.” I have had students who seemed to develop crushes on me at different schools. You are their teacher, you are their hero, and sometimes you are of a different culture. This can be attractive to some. As a result, I have to watch how I dress. I also have to know who/when/how I am interacting with my students, and when to let my bosses know if necessary. This is true of any school though, and not just of international students. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the world we live in.”

caroline hazelton teaching ESOL miami

 

What advice would you give to someone who works with people from other cultures?

“Be patient and get out of your comfort zone!”

quote where the magic happens

What is one example of something you have done differently or some way you have changed as a result of your experiences?

“As a result of my experiences, I try to process headlines from an international perspective. Having regularly communicated with other cultures, it has shown me that one country’s interpretation of events may not be how another country sees it. I try to read Al Jazeera English in addition to The Washington Post and The Atlantic. I will watch Despierta America on Univision in the mornings to see what’s on the mind of Hispanics before watching CBS in the evenings. Once I meet people from the countries I see on the news, I chat with them about what I see. It helps me determine if the reporting I see is my country’s perspective or if there’s some truth to it.”

Caroline is unique because she has taught pretty much every type of learner in each age group. Because she is a self-taught second-language learner, she brings a set of skills to the classroom other than the basics. Her ability to connect culture and fear caused by misunderstandings is what motivates her each and every day when teaching ESOL. We look forward to hearing more from her about her new teaching position in the upcoming months.

A Guide to Private Lessons: Clases de Conversación

So you have arrived in Spain and are looking forward to starting this new adventure. While you are getting settled, one of the main hurdles you will face is how to finance your stay. As a language assistant (auxiliar in Spanish) you will be living at the center of one of the most fascinating countries on Earth, and on the doorstep of many others. This all sounds enticing… and expensive. As a language assistant, you will make around 1000€ in Madrid (about 700€ a month in the rest of Spain), for only nine months of the year.

Now that is sufficient to live on in Spain but only if you plan on staying in Spain for the whole time and only go out twice a week. BUT you will probably want to consider making some money on the side so you can do so much more. There are a variety of options, but the most lucrative is teaching private lessons, either to individual students or to a small group. Here are some pointers if you want to go down this route.

Time Versus Money

Now, at first this process might not seem that daunting; basically, do your day job (helping students learn English) and for private lessons, one-on-one tutoring. This can help supplement your income by hundreds of Euros, but it does come with a major time commitment. You are already working 16 hours a week at a minimum with a two-hour long break in the middle of the day (Spain’s infamous siesta) included and a fairly long commute.

After a full workday of screaming children, then you would have private lessons afterwards, which can be anywhere from one to three hours. That means most days are typically 12-14 hours of tantrums, commuting, prepping lessons, and going on errands. You will make money, but you will be exhausted most of the time. 

Just make sure to consider the time commitment first, because then you can budget for the rest of the year to figure out if you want to take on more private lessons or not. It is best to start looking for tutoring in August or September because a lot of families are looking for long-term and consistent tutoring for the upcoming school year. As the year goes on, it becomes harder to get consistent private lessons.

alarm clock on a desk with a computer Private Lessons

Where To Look for Private Lessons

There are a good amount of resources for finding private lessons. The following are the best.

  • Tusclasesparticulares: This is a website where teachers/tutors can look for students and vice versa. Post a profile in both English and Spanish.
  • Teachers and parents will ask for tutoring at your school, and you can request that your director put up a sign offering private lessons on your behalf.
  • The Auxiliares de conversacion en MADRID (The Original) Facebook group is a great all-around resource and fellow language assistants are constantly swapping details about private lessons.
  • VIPKid: This is a live online tutoring job which you can do anywhere with Wi-Fi. You go through an interview process and then teach in 30-minute class sets.
  • Academies hire English teachers and are a consistent income. Apply early.

Tarifas: Your Fee

Private Lessons

In my opinion, you shouldn’t take any tutoring job for less than 15€/hour, unless it is for more than one hour with the same student. Once you calculate traveling time and lesson planning, anything less is not worth it. It is also better to tutor online as this way travel costs are reduced. I recommend having two tiers: 15€/hour for in-person conversation private lessons; 20€/hour for focused lessons. Most people will opt for the latter because the first seems a bit too expensive for just conversation. This is better for you too because lesson planning is something you can do on your way to your private lessons so it doesn’t take more time out of your day than a strict conversation private lesson.

3 Tips For Lesson Planning

If you are helping students with their homework and tests, or just have conversation private lessons, you won’t have to lesson plan too much. However, if you are giving a structured private lesson, these tips might help:

  1. Tailor lessons to each student for maximum progress. For example, if a student has a sufficient level of vocabulary but their pronunciation isn’t that good, work on a pronunciation lesson, instead of teaching more grammar. Once that student has pronunciation under their belt, the student’s progress will soar.
  2. Split the class into segments. Consider an hour-long class divided into two or three 20- or 30-minute sections. One section for focusing on that particular student’s weakness, another for conversation, and a third for them to present something to you in English. This makes the class go by more quickly and the student has something to focus on between private lessons.
  3. Remember not to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of online resources for English Second Language (ESL) resources online that will help you build a structured lesson. For children ages three to 13, I also recommend including some games with your lesson plan.

Hit The Ground Running!

In the end, private lessons can really benefit you financially while you are in Spain but they do take their toll. The perfect scenario would be a student or students who want daily private lessons for more than an hour. You have something consistent. But however you piece together your tutoring schedule, just ensure it works for you and don’t be afraid to pass a student onto a fellow language assistant if it becomes too stressful. Good luck out there and happy tutoring.

Sunset on Spain's coast.

by Justin Hughes-Coleman

Surviving the Storm: Part Two

From uncertain to a certain future plus fond memories

In part 1,  I spoke about memories that I was able to focus on during turbulent times. I hope you fall in love with them as I have.  There is one memory that stands out among the rest.

But first, let me tell you about something.  One time when I was kayaking on a river in my beloved Oklahoma, after rowing about 12 miles, having been burnt to a crisp, surviving off of gatorade and protein bars, I began to hear what sounded like old gospel hymns far away.  Being on the river, water clear and cold as ice, surrounded by mountainous hills, wildlife and forest, is already a near spiritual experience for me.  I feel closer to the creator more there than anywhere.

So I laid my paddle down, horizontally across the kayak, and listened intently.  The nearer the flow of the river carried me to the music, the more intently I listened and the more the sound grew. I distinctly remember feeling like I was being serenaded on something like the river styx on my way to heaven, instead of, you know, Hades, underworld of Greek mythology for those that do not recognize the reference.

About a year later, I had a similar sensation close to the coast of Africa, somewhere out in the Atlantic ocean on an island called Tenerife. It was so freaking cold in Madrid, but there on the island, it was summer.

I was playing in the ocean by myself.  The wind was in my hair and the ocean smelled of salt.  It was all the typical cool stuff that happens when one is in a warm, oceanic place.  The difference is in the details.  Ancient black sand punctuated now and again by little pieces of green glass, little reminders of past volcanic activity, past danger and current respite.  An excitement in the air for the coming New Year and Three Kings festivities.  Surrounded by warmth, breeze, surf and wave looking up and seeing in the distance the island’s only mountain, capped white in snow.  A pause in time, the contrast of standing in the midst of summer while observing ruthless beautiful winter, close enough almost to touch.

Reminiscing about Tenerife and dreaming of the day when I could go back, got me through some hard times and it was hard for me to imagine a place that could top it.  While that is still true, I had the chance to experience Mallorca, a place of tourism (I am a self hating tourist, I admit) but also of raw, unadulterated beauty.  Words can’t even so I’ll just leave this here with this photo…

While in this place, I often felt a sharp pain in my heart accompanied by a foreboding of deep and intense regret in having to leave a new-found paradise.  I specifically recall that I was treading water and felt overcome by one such moment of torture.  It was too much.  Why hadn’t I arranged for myself to live in a place like this?  Why did I have to go back to the mainland when I so obviously lived and breathed for moments like this?  I tried to absorb it all at once again and failed.  And then it hit me.  I’m not one for meditation, but in that instance, still treading, surrounded by rocky cliffs, looking out into the horizon at the boats and the deeper blue/green that evolves from a transparent mixture of hues from H2O and the brilliant white sand, I decided that I was not me.  I was all of what I just mentioned and more.  The fishes below, the coral plants that I lack the words to describe, the air above.  All of it.  Breathe and repeat. Breathe and repeat.  Finally, when two recently acquainted companions called to me see if I was ready to go back, surprisingly I was.  Lucky for me that I was so overcome with peace and tranquility because we ended up getting lost and walking over an hour to a bus stop.

It has been merely coincidence that all of these instances have involved water.  Perhaps it is getting a bit redundant.  We don’t want to shoot an already dead horse, as it were.  Here are a few glimpses into what makes an overly fidgety, always on the move Amanda pause is like:

Standing among the mists of time and history, Rome, Italy:

The Coliseum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing in places that seemed to exist only on television (i.e Vatican City):

At the Vatican…

 

The moment when you do something incredible and it brings back a childhood memory of when you first learned about that special something.  In my case this was the Tower of Pizza (a kid’s dream am I right) and not only that, but having been able to see this thing in a different light, perhaps at night.  (I know it is the Tower of Pisa. God.  Give me the benefit of the doubt, already )  The actual town of Pisa was pretty cool, too.  Don’t listen to the haters. It’s just that the rest of Italy is so epicly amazing, that other parts that are only mildly epic in contrast, appear lame to some weirdos.

 

And that is all for this time. Things are so much better for me right now as I have found a fulfilling amazing job and become a bit more relaxed and conformed to my environment. I shall always remain grateful for the opportunities to experience light in the coolest of places during what I felt were dark days with an uncertain future. Even when I eventually go back to the states, I will always have the Canary Islands and Tenerife to dream about, Mallorca’s crystal clear waters to reminisce about, and Italy to help me remember that I can do anything because I have already done the extraordinary.  I hope you like the pics and if you have any requests for me to talk about or questions to ask, just leave them in the comments. I can recommend places to go and places NOT to go!

Love forever,

Amanda (Squirrel)

Recommended travel links:

Moving around The Canary Islands Guide

 

 

 

Even As I Left Florida…

In a time that feels so far away now, I remember reading a book about a painter obsessed with portraying Paradise. She dreamed about completion, about fulfilling her purpose in life, yet she couldn’t face her own problems. Whenever she encountered serious trouble, she packed up, bought a plane ticket and then was gone. She eventually rediscovered herself through those sudden escapes from her home, her country, herself. Even when the reason behind a trip is just to run away, you can never really not learn anything from a trip. It doesn´t need to be so far, you don´t need to feel a jet lag for a fresh start, a well-deserved rest of your routine, a break from yourself, the version of “you” stacked with duties to fulfill.

Jack and me at the coffee shop. Jack was my conversation partner.
Photo credit: Jack Levine

There’s been only one trip that I could say that I made without a hidden intention of running away. On the contrary, I didn’t wanted to go at first. I didn’t want to jeopardize what I had with my significant other. I went however. She kissed me farewell and then I went. How curious is how life works. I wonder where would my life be if I hadn’t been bored at my place and if I hadn’t gone to school early in order to distract myself from boredom. Long story short: A notice from my school’s humanities department was sent to me.  It offered a chance to win a scholarship to study abroad. I took a chance and I went for it.  Finally, my lonely childhood beside a monitor pushing buttons paid off.  No one from my philosophy department really knew English, so suddenly I became a serious contender for the scholarship. A letter to the governor and several hours waiting in line and I was confirmed as one of the lucky people who got the scholarship to study English in the USA.

 

My interview with El Consulado de Mexico en Orlando about my scholarship.

American Dreams

I want to learn. I’m curious about everything. But I would be a liar if I told you that I wanted to spend all my time studying in the US. I wanted to know the place! I wanted to talk to people, to walk long distances, to see as much as I could and immerse myself in a brand-new way of seeing and appreciating life. As a Mexican, I’m hopelessly soaked with the fragrance of the American Dream. A place that seemed to me like a place where everyone has a chance, as long as (s)he has the courage to go for it. A place where you´re not entitled to happiness, but rather the country gives you the means to get it for yourself.

I was so excited, but I was also terrified. You don’t pause your life when you travel, you can´t get away from yourself when you go far. A friend of mine has a catch phrase that goes: “Wherever you go, there you will be”. The first time I heard it I thought he went crazy. But as years go by, now I see the wisdom in that phrase: I was putting my life on pause for two months, just to see what life could be like someplace else. The amazing person that I had the fortune to call my teacher during my time in Tallahassee said to us that we were brave. Now I think we were.

Isn’t she beautiful?

Photo credit: Jack Levine

Florida looks so beautiful from up high. The moss so green swarming the earth, sprinkled with lots of blues here and there. But oh, my god, the heat! It’s like being in an oven. In all my delightful staying I never really got used to the heat. Thank God for AC. The people were so nice, everyone was so up front, not friendly but definitely not cranky, gloomy or moody. That´s how I like strangers, a little skeptical of strangers, but willing to help a person in need. Everyone was so nice to me. I promised myself that I would try to be more talkative with people, since I´m really comfortable with silence, but it was ridiculous to go all this way just to be quiet. You learn a lot from travels, talking to people and reading a lot. I´m not the brightest guy in the land, so I can’t spare the chance to learn something. And I learned a lot. From classes, obviously, but I learned the most from the people in Tallahassee, walking in those peaceful streets and parks.

Opening your senses and enjoying the moment. I think most of our concerns about past and future come from not really being “in the moment”.  Worrying about your problems instead of enjoying the fact that you’re in a foreign land, where no one knows your name, where you can be anything you want to be. So, I tried to enjoy the moment as much as I could.

Walk the walk

There’s several ways to get to know a culture, a town. First of all, don’t Uber yourself to elsewhere. Walk. Enjoy the view. Forget about your life as much as you can. Feel the breeze, the heat in your forehead, the sun way up high. Talk to people, be as friendly as you can, take interest in what they do, where they come from and what they think about life. I ask a lot of people what they think the American Dream represents, for instance. Something that works for me is imagining myself as a reporter interviewing everybody. Don´t push, but be curious. Another way to do it is visiting retail stores or even garage sales.  Where one person might see a bunch of meaningless stuff at a garage sale, another knows that there is a life represented by all those things.  There are stories about the house, the people, the past. As I said, be curious whether you´re at the mall or you´re in an art shop. Another way is going to restaurants. I wanted to eat at a waffle house at two in the morning like an American movie cliché, a pizza at night on Gaines Street where you can find out why they keep open the place at night, perhaps grab a beer at a bar while listening to some really good live jazz. Check. Check. Check.

By forcing myself to go out and interact I met a lot of interesting people. It’s fascinating how much you can accomplish when you talk to people. I was invited to perform at a coffee shop, I read some of my short stories and they were very well received. I discussed philosophy and poetry in the middle of the night, I covered a duo version of Wish You Were Here with a friend. I crashed at a friend´s place, I played pool with a coquette woman named Casey and I met a smart and beautiful model at a blues concert (Hi, Victoria).  I also visited some pubs, I sang with strangers to the rhythms of Neil Diamond and I met some very talented musicians from the jazz scene from Tallahassee. One of them now lives in New Orleans and he´s going to make it big. Cheers to all of them.

My certificate of completion and last day of class.

To all the people who showed me stereotypes are just ridiculous assumptions, thank you. No one judged me, I judged no one. We just live life as we can, as best as we can, in a way that brings us joy and we share it with the people we care about. Maybe it’s all about perspective. Like the perspective this trip gave me. The notions that I felt. The feel that I could really make it someplace else, that I´m not trapped in a city, in a way of living, in a career severely discredited by current academic thought. Not that I wanted to, but it was good to know that I could get a job at a coffee shop, live with some friends, save money to get a car or pay for classes and potentially build a new life. It’s nice to know things can work out. That you can make the best from even the worst-case scenario, like sleeping in a rented bed in a rented room, with summer friends near you, and the AC going silently in the night whispering a lullaby.

The experience I had in Tallahassee left a great taste in my mouth. Looking to the future I know I will travel again.  I will visit another country and I will also come back to Florida.  I could live in a place like Tallahassee because it’s something between a small city or a big town. It filled my mind with memories and anecdotes that will dance within me as long as I live.

Teaching and Learning Abroad in Spain

In the upcoming weeks, I am going to post a series of interviews titled Teach Abroad. Each week, I will introduce a new teacher and the area of Madrid where he or she will work. I will be asking each teacher a set of questions. I am starting the series with information about myself. Throughout the year, I will follow up with the teachers updating their information and experiences.

Here is My Story Teaching and Learning Abroad in Spain:

My name is Leesa Truesdell. I am from Coral Springs, Florida and recently graduated from Florida State University with a Masters in Education. I have always wanted to work assisting others to fulfill their dreams.

Why did you choose to come to Spain/Europe?

“My family is of Hispanic heritage. I have wanted to live abroad since my undergraduate studies. After getting my Masters, I realized that I wanted to come to Spain to learn more about the culture because my ancestors were from Mallorca. Generations ago, they traveled to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which is where my grandparents were born.”

What are your goals while you are here?

“While living in Spain, I have several goals for myself. It is my intention to continue this work throughout my life. I have a professional toolkit and in my kit, I consider my tools my skills. I am always up for learning more and adopting new ideas about teaching from others. While in Spain, I would like to immerse myself in the Spanish culture to practice my Spanish conversation skills, understand more about where my family is from and, most importantly, continue to learn. I thrive on learning from others in all aspects of my life, both social and professional. The greatest skill I can work on is the art of listening; my number one priority, while I am living in Spain, is getting better at communication.”

Washington Monument selfie

Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field?

“Yes, I recently taught English as Second Language (ESOL) at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University with their Continuing Education Department. Before that, I taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Colombia while doing my summer internship. Before earning my Masters, I was a substitute teacher where I learned different teaching methods and classroom management. I chose to substitute over having my own classroom because I wanted to better understand how different classrooms in Florida public schools operated. I also wanted to better understand what skills each student was learning and at what age.”

What do you think teaching in Spain will be like? Where are you teaching this year?

“Since I’ve spent the past two years studying Curriculum and Instruction, it will be interesting to see how that applies in Spain, especially, when it comes to English as a foreign language. I did not know what to think when I went into public classrooms in Medellin, Colombia and after that experience, my mind is pretty much open. I learned so much from that experience; it made me better understand how to adapt to whatever situation might arise in a classroom.

I will be teaching in a suburb south of Madrid called Alcorcón. I am looking forward to teaching secondary or high school. This will be a new age for me to teach. I’ve taught adults over the age of 18 and elementary age levels. High school will be a fun challenge.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad and also, why did you choose to teach in Spain over other countries?

“I chose to teach abroad because I want to learn more about immersion for second language learners (SLLs). In Spain, I am the second language learner who is learning Spanish. When I return to the United States, I will have a better understanding of what challenges ESOL students face before and during classes. As a teacher, one of my main goals is to understand the needs of each student. I believe having experienced being an SLL myself, I can be a better teacher. I chose Spain because I wanted to learn Spanish as a second language and because Spain has importance in my family lineage. This was the best place to start my journey on how to be the best teacher I can be.”

What would you like to accomplish while you are in Spain?

“While in Spain, I would like to learn how to communicate in Spanish effectively. Speaking and listening are my priorities while I am here. I can read and write pretty well and with practice, those two communication skills can be done from anywhere. I also would like to get a better understanding of myself while living in the Spanish culture. Self-awareness and improvement are always necessary throughout life because while I am learning- I am growing. Growth requires awareness then change, which in the end requires self-improvement.”

What are your perceptions of Madrid so far?

learning abroad sun rise silhouette travel

“Madrid is a great city. Every time I go out for a walk, I am always finding something new about the city that has it’s own unique charm. My favorite part of the city is Retiro Park—it never gets old. I can walk through the park twice a day and see a plethora of sites along the way: dogs, babies, street performers, people on roller blades, kids playing in the grass during a birthday party, a couple on a first date, or my favorite thing to see—the sunset from the statue at the boat pond—best view in the city.”

What assumptions or expectations did you have before you came here? Have you found them to be accurate or inaccurate?

“Before I came, I thought I was going to have a hard time understanding what people were saying to me. My summer in Colombia definitely helped me with my language skills and getting over the initial language barrier. My first couple of days, I felt a bit rusty. After that, I felt like I could start asking for the things I needed. If I could not remember a word, I just pushed through it. In Colombia, which was my first experience living abroad, I had a harder time pushing past the barrier.”

What has been the most difficult experience since you arrived?

“The most difficult experience for me was the heat and not having air conditioning (AC) to sleep at night. I managed to get past it, and in Colombia I got used to it as well. However, Madrid feels hotter than Florida and Colombia combined. This past August was very hot. In Florida, it’s extremely humid and hot during the summer. However, we jump from AC building to AC car to AC building and so on. I managed to survive the heat and a few sleepless summer nights. It was totally worth it!”

What has been the best experience?

“The best experience so far has been meeting my friends and now, my extended family here in Madrid. We all arrived at the same time in August so it feels like we have morphed into what is now a family. It is hard to imagine that I have been here almost two months. Time is flying by.”

How do you feel about the integration of the culture so far? Are there things that you have embraced or are hoping to embrace?

“The integration into Spanish culture has not been difficult for me. Adapting to other people’s schedules was the hardest part for me. Spanish time is exactly what it means in the States, “Spanish time.” In Spain, things are more laid back, in general. People typically arrive within a 15-30 minute window of the expected time of arrival. Also, normally I am a type A personality, especially with my calendar and planning. However, the old motto “adapt or die” has served me well. There is not much consistency. Therefore, you must go with the flow and adapt to not having control of things that are affecting your life such as appointments, etc. It will happen when it happens and just go with the flow. I have embraced this new concept of go with the flow and quite frankly, it has helped me live in the moment.

The people I meet and the experiences I encounter contribute to my writing of learning abroad. I feel very fortunate to be on this journey and look forward to sharing the experiences of my friends and colleagues in the upcoming weeks. On a personal note, I would like to take a minute to thank the interviewees who have taken the time to meet with me. Also, a special thanks to my editors and photographers. I have learned so much from speaking with each of you. Stay tuned for our second connection.”

“Go with the flow” – Leesa Truesdell

Please check out part two where I describe my experiences teaching abroad in the Community of Madrid, Spain. I discuss challenges and how I manage daily tasks in the classroom!