What Does It Mean to Be a Good Teacher?

Sarah Perkins Guebert Winning WednesdayAs a child, I always thought that my teachers were magical beings that somehow had lesson plans already prepared and never did any work outside of the classroom except to grade assignments; and that, at least in my mind, never took long. They had the summers off work and could call a substitute teacher whenever they needed one. I was completely wrong in my assumptions, of course, but my true appreciation for teachers — especially good teachers — did not come until I had graduated from college and began working with them.  

What Makes a Good Teacher?

After studying education and observing my own teachers and coworkers, I’ve decided that a good teacher is an obsessed fanatic with what they do; a parent, a tyrant, and a slave.  First and foremost, the teacher has to enjoy their job. They have to be passionate about the subject they teach, in addition to being passionate about teaching itself. They watch their class with a careful eye and foster a positive learning environment. But, the moment the students cease to give their attention, the teacher must call them back to the material with a firm hand and keep them focused throughout the course of the lesson. 

Furthermore, a teacher must be completely and utterly devoted to their work. They must work tirelessly to create new lessons, to better old ones, to grade student work, and to improve themselves as a teacher. In my own experience, I’ve spent sleepless nights perfecting an activity for class or grading exams, encouraged my students to challenge themselves, and had my temper tested on several occasions when students were particularly problematic. It’s chaos, maybe even Hell, but I love it. Am I crazy?  Perhaps, but I’d prefer to say that I’ve caught the “teaching bug.”

Students' feet lined up in a line. What makes a good teacher?

Always Growing

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a great teacher, or even a good teacher. Even with seven years of experience, I’ve discovered that I have a lot to improve in every way imaginable. Despite that, I would venture to say that I have the potential to be a good teacher. Being a good teacher, however, requires a lot of hard work and willpower.  Nevertheless, I am collecting all the tools that I’ll need to become one. So, what have I learned over the course of my career other than the exact ratio of milk to coffee to get me through a long night of grading essays?  

Primarily, I have discovered that language teaching is difficult, because learning a language is an environment in which mistakes are normal and even encouraged. Learning another language is about more than just the language itself, but also a culture, mannerisms, history, and mindset that differ from our own. 

Students working on a craft project

Students have been taught that they should be ashamed of and try to avoid errors or failures while learning, and this instills in them a deep-set fear of attempting to use knowledge that they do not have an absolute mastery of.  As a result, they develop vergüenza, a fear/shame of using the language. I have noticed this in my students, as they are very hesitant to make use of linguistic structures they do not fully understand or control. For this reason, I think that it is essential to develop an open, friendly environment in the classroom that fosters a growth mindset.  

Hidden Capabilities

Many of my students walked into the classroom with the belief that they simply weren’t good at learning languages, or that they simply didn’t have the capacity to learn a language. Moreover, many of them walked in assuming that they wouldn’t enjoy English as a subject. However, many have commented over the years that they were surprised to succeed or enjoy the class. Even when they didn’t correctly utilize the linguistic structures we learned, they were still enthusiastic about activities and quickly discovered that complete mastery of those structures was neither expected nor realistic. In this way, the students were learning and did not see their mistakes as failures. It is my belief that this is one of the most important elements to a successful language classroom.    

Throughout the course of my career, I have been privileged to observe and work with some of my peers in order to better myself and my classroom. After watching and working together with them, I have been able to take away elements of their teaching styles and activities that I thought were effective, and take note of the elements that weren’t. This has also helped me to reflect on my own teaching style and to better myself. 

In doing so, I have realized something that I consider essential: Alone, I can become a successful teacher. I can be an effective teacher. What I cannot be alone is an outstanding teacher. After working with my peers and sharing and developing ideas, I have seen how strong we can be together, and how much more dynamic and complete our activities are as a result of collaboration. 

Finding Balance

Of course, not every element of a language classroom will be perfect. This is especially true in my case.  Sometimes I become too ambitious and attempt to teach concepts that the students are not ready to learn yet. Moreover,  I sometimes find it difficult to avoid focusing on the grammatical features of the language. Methodically learning grammar is the way I was taught languages in school, and it is difficult to break free from the examples shown to me as a learner. 

A good teacher must find balance

I find it quite challenging to avoid relying on what I have learned from my past teachers. I’ve made it my goal to develop a classroom that does not necessarily focus on explicit grammar, but rather challenges the students to think critically in the language. Of course, it seems as though there’s never enough time to develop outstanding activities that foster this kind of thinking. This brings back the point I mentioned earlier: collaboration is key.  When working together, I believe that teachers are capable of accomplishing the impossible.

A Long Path Ahead

All of this said, where does that put me as a teacher? Where do I see myself in the future?  I’ve certainly changed a lot of my beliefs and perspectives throughout the seven years that I have been professionally teaching. During my first year on the job, I was nervous to be in charge of a class of students. I didn’t want to do them a disservice, or be the sole person responsible for their language education. Now, however, I am aware of my weaknesses and continuously work towards improving them. 

I intend to continue working with my peers in order to better myself and to develop a classroom that helps the students to succeed and challenges them to think critically in a foreign language. I intend for them to make mistakes, and a lot of them. However, I don’t want them to see those mistakes as failures. Most importantly, I want my students to walk out of my class at the end of the semester and, even if they dislike English, say “I really enjoyed that class.”

by Sarah Perkins Guebert

Teaching During a Pandemic: A Teacher Abroad

By Amanda WhittenSelfie of Amanda Whitten while abroad teaching during a pandemic.

Catch up on Amanda’s first interview before joining her for the second part of her three-part interview!

This has been one of the weirdest years ever for me, not just for teaching, but in general. I’m sure that the same could be said for everyone else, as well. It’s been transformative in a number of ways, which I’ll get to in a moment. This year has affected my relationships with my students, my co-workers, and even myself. One thing is for sure: the world is changing and we must adapt to it. Read on to find out how I adapted to teaching during a pandemic!

What is a typical day at your school like? 

Pre-coronavirus, I typically arrived 20-30 minutes before class because of the public transportation schedule. As soon as I arrived, I’d head to the English department room, my safe haven, and hideout. Then, I’d check to make sure that I had all my ducks in a row and that I knew what I was supposed to be doing for each of my classes. I’d also make any last-minute necessary lesson plans or preparations and basically mentally prepare myself to go into performance mode. If I had any extra time, I’d go downstairs to the cafeteria to have a coffee and chat with any of the teachers already there.

This year, classes ranged from about 9:25am to 2:00pm, which is a pretty easy schedule, I’d say. Some days, I’d have a planning period, and other days I’d have a constant stream of classes apart from one break from 11:10am to 11:40am.

Afterwards, I’d rush home, eat very quickly, and then rush back into the world to go to my private lessons, academy classes, or whatever else I had going on. Of course, I had to adjust to teaching during a pandemic, so that all changed. I spent more time doing hobbies such as painting, and am really proud of how much I’ve grown as an artist so far! 

Teaching During a Pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic initially began, I’d wake up an hour early, eat breakfast, shower, prepare my headset, laptop, and generally wait attentively to see if any students needed any help or wanted to talk in general. Other than that, I just uploaded their various activities and scheduled them to appear during class time. Kahoot and Educaplay were invaluable online resources for making quizzes about literally anything that the students could complete. 

After a while, other than the occasional video call, I started waking up two minutes before class because I had discovered, much to my lazy side’s delight, that Google classroom could be downloaded on cell phones. Then I could lazily browse and be “present” in class while laying in bed. A difficult and tiresome job, really.  

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

I interact frequently with a nucleus of about four to five teachers, but usually there are many more who actually teach at the school. At IES Pablo Neruda, I had sixteen classes and therefore, had sixteen working hours. 

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

I considered myself very lucky at what was, until June 30th, my current school. With a good rapport with all of the teachers I worked with, I developed what I would consider actual friendships with at least three of them. I really admire all of the teachers I personally worked with and basically feel that I won the lottery. All I wanted was to feel respected, appreciated, and accepted here in Spain. They did an amazing job of doing that for me. It was and is mutual. Even while teaching during a pandemic, I can honestly say these were the best coworkers I’ve had so far in Spain.

Amanda Whitten and Leganes while Amanda was abroad teaching during a pandemic

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

I would say that I had a few favorite groups that I really enjoyed working with. A bachillerato group I worked with always reacted enthusiastically to my activities whether an introduction to country music (seeing these kids goofily sing Garth Brooks literally made my year) or getting into heated debates, I had so much fun. I also really enjoyed teaching my 1st eso kids, which are pretty much 6th graders. They are still so full of excitement for learning. They loved telling me about their favorite foods and what they did on the weekends. How could I not adore them? 

I have a few favorite students scattered here and there: naughty ones who could make me laugh as well as academic and friendly ones who enjoyed interacting with me. All of these students made my days more enjoyable. While I can’t say that I had a specific favorite part of each day, I can say that I had certain highlights during the week. It makes leaving this part of my life behind all the more bittersweet.

How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?

It really depends on whichever teacher is in charge. For example, one teacher may prefer to heavily rely on going through the book via a program on the computer. This makes it easy to correct and grade exercises as a group. Others focus on using their book as a guideline, choosing to focus more on activities and conversation. The former may be easier, but it is so much more boring for both me and the students. The latter can be more challenging, but it is so much more fun and engaging, provided the students are interested. 

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

Some classes required no preparation whatsoever. One teacher would give me the page numbers and exercises to correct via the computer program, and that was it. Usually, I was told that I had the freedom to come up with extra activities, but since these instructions were usually given right before class or the day before, I rarely ever knew what we were going to be going over. And for those classes, the activities were meant to “complement” the lesson, not detract. 

For other classes, I would be given a topic to make a presentation on or perhaps a topic to practice conversation around. These practice conversations would be easy enough to research a bit, and perhaps make a PowerPoint if necessary. 

Amanda Whitten pointing at a frog while abroad in Madrid teaching during a pandemic

Still, others would have me go over certain pages in the book, but without an answer key. I usually answered the questions myself before class so that I didn’t embarrass myself in front of the kids, teens, or even literal adults. 

Fortunately for me, I never had to worry about teaching actual grammar at this school, thank goodness. The teachers left the listening and conversation practice up to me, for the most part. And if there’s anything that I apparently have a gift for, it is a gift for gab. 

Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes?

I have worked at a bilingual school in the past, but I much preferred working at a traditional school. The reason being is that it’s difficult to teach technical concepts such as art theory or, god forbid, science and math, to even the most academically advanced students. Yes, I much prefer the straightforwardness of teaching ESL English in English classes rather than English through a different subject. I can’t imagine the challenges of teaching during a pandemic at a bilingual school. 

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

If the students managed to speak up at all, they would get a point in their favor in the grade book. This would all add up at the end of the year, and it could hurt or help their grade. It was really all about mere participation, with the exception of when students gave rubric graded speeches. I’m sure that the teachers themselves had more extensive ways of measuring progress. However, in my classes, it was all about showing up and speaking up, no matter how quietly or hesitantly. Honestly, it was good enough for me because, concerning foreign languages, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. And that journey is rocky and full of humiliating errors. So if they even dare to take a step, I applaud them. 

Amanda's work station while teaching during a pandemic.
My work station I set up to teach during the pandemic.

 

Looking back at our first interview, what have you learned most about yourself in the classroom this year?

My answer applies not just to our first interview, but also all the way to the beginning of my illustrious teaching career. I have learned to relax, breathe when rattled, not be a hammer, and be a high five. I have learned that having a good time, even if just playing an invigorating game, can be worth fifteen grammar lessons. If a student is laughing and smiling, then they are learning. 

Amanda will share her plans for next year in a follow-up interview. We look forward to hearing what she has to say and where her future will take her, especially considering her success in teaching during a pandemic. Be on the lookout for her third interview.

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. 

 

How Going Abroad Can Make a Difference

 

tyler black islandTyler Black moved to Extremadura, Spain for what he thought would be a teaching assistant role. He began teaching on his first day and developed lesson plans each week. Tyler led class discussions and began managing his classroom sometimes by himself. He was an unofficial but official teacher. After a year in Extremadura, he decided he wanted to make a change and head north east to live in a big city. He moved to Madrid where he worked as a language assistant and would actually be a language assistant. His role was much more defined and the tasks were more clear in his day to day role as an auxiliar in Madrid. Tyler traveled around Spain and many parts of Europe for a solid two years of living abroad.

After his two years abroad, he moved back to his hometown near Philadelphia. Here, Tyler worked at his family’s company before moving to Pittsburgh. Tyler has taught me a lot about the culture in Pennsylvania. I recently learned that there is about a four-hour drive between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and that people from Philly really don’t get to the “‘burgh” that often. He’s told me more but I had to share, since it seems like the two cities, although located in the same state, have nothing in common with one another. I hadn’t thought about visiting Pennsylvania until I met Tyler!

How did you hear about Dreams Abroad?

“One afternoon, I was sitting on the couch when my sister called to tell me that she met a woman in her salon who had taught English in Spain just like I had. We had even taught in Madrid during the same school year. This woman turned out to be Leesa, the founder of Dreams Abroad. My sister had given her my contact information, and shortly after, Leesa got in touch to discuss interviewing me about my time in Spain. That’s when I realized how important the community Dreams Abroad was for those wishing to study, teach, or travel abroad. Dreams Abroad can really make a difference for those in love with travel.”

Where were you when you first joined?

lama in peru tyler black traveling“When I first joined, I was living back in my hometown in Pennsylvania, recovering from my post-Spain hangover. I really had no idea what I wanted to do at that point so I began working for my family, and traveling whenever possible. About a year after being interviewed by Leesa, I went on a solo trip to Peru to hike to Machu Picchu. Upon my return, Leesa called to ask if I’d be interested in writing about my trip. I happily accepted, and haven’t stopped writing for Dreams Abroad since.”

How has your life changed since then?

“A lot has changed. Living at home just wasn’t cutting it for me. I had just spent two years on my own in Spain and wanted to continue on with that independence. I knew I needed to make a difference and I wanted to work in the travel industry. To my delight, I was asked to interview for a travel consultant position at BCD Travel in Pittsburgh. On my drive home, I got a call saying they wanted to hire me. So, a week later, I packed my entire life into my car and moved to the other side of Pennsylvania. Now I get to talk about travel every single day and learn so much about the industry.”

What did you learn from your experience of traveling abroad?

“I learned an absurd amount of things from living in Spain. First and foremost, I learned how to be comfortable on my own. Where I once couldn’t cross the street to get food by myself, I was now traveling to foreign countries solo and loving every minute of it. Instead of feeling out of place, I was now absorbing myself into the ambiance surrounding me. I became more confident in my decisions instead of letting others dictate how things should be done. This led me to become more open-minded and try new things like eating guinea pig in Peru or putting snakes around my neck in Morocco. I would never have been caught dead doing those things before going abroad.”

What have you been doing this year?

“This year I have been going through a lot of changes. I transitioned careers and moved to a new city so I’ve spent a lot of time learning as much as I can at my new job. I’ve also been getting to know Pittsburgh and all it has to offer, including learning how to speak like a proper Pittsburgher. Yinz will see one day! I’ve also been getting more involved with Dreams Abroad and brainstorming ways to generate more content and reach more people. It’s been a lot of fun seeing the site grow and start to gain a rather large following.”

Make a difference pittsburgh

What are your future plans?

“I plan on staying in Pittsburgh for a couple of years and learning as much as I can about travel management. Ideally, I would like to become an operations manager, a project manager, or an account manager. The company I work for, BCD Travel, has a lot of offices all over the world. I would be ecstatic if I could live abroad again AND work in travel management. That would be a dream come true. In my personal life, I’m going to continue traveling as much as I can to new places and experiencing new cultures. That’s something I’ll never be able to stop doing.”

make a difference to form a future

Paths Abroad Make a Difference

Tyler’s been working with Dreams Abroad for about two years. His first piece was his What I Know Now (WIKN) about things to consider before moving or working abroad. It was my first interview with him after he returned from Spain. I can’t believe how much we both have grown and how much Dreams Abroad has evolved. Since then, Tyler has written at least one piece a month, taken the lead on social media, and also become our travel coordinator. I couldn’t have asked for a more passionate team member than Tyler. He is dedicated to our mission and focused on ways to make a difference for our team members. He always hopes that they have a great experience albeit online or in the future, (fingers crossed) in person.

by Leesa Truesdell

Tyler Black

Finding Balance After Spain

Sam Loduca was born in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin but has lived the majority of her adult life in large cities such as Chicago and Madrid. After living in Madrid for two years, Sam moved back to Chicago and landed a job in human resources at a consulting firm. Her focus is on placing employees in different locations around the world. Sam got a degree that specializes in human resources and was working in human resources before she moved to Madrid for two years.

Finding Balance After Spain

After returning from Madrid, Sam wanted to work in a profession that combined international affairs and human resources. Sam’s new role does just that and much more. Although she doesn’t have as much free time as she did in Madrid, Sam explained that her new role provides her with a sense of fulfillment. She is helping others achieve their travel goals and dreams.

What have you been up to since leaving Dreams Abroad?

“Since leaving Dreams Abroad, I remained in Spain for an additional year of teaching English. Since then, I have returned to the states. I’ve begun working at a consulting firm as a global mobility professional. I moved back to Chicago (where I was living before my time in Spain) and had to readjust to the old life I was used to there. I miss Spain every day and have already been back once to visit. Now, I am focusing on my career. I’m spending time with the friends and family I didn’t get to see much when I was abroad.”

castle in spain

What is your best Dreams Abroad memory?

“I really enjoyed our monthly meetings where our diverse group met and talked through our experiences. We would brainstorm ideas for articles and topics that would be helpful to other people working and teaching abroad. It’s truly fascinating to see a group of people all working in the same job, living in the same city, all from the same country, and how different their tales of the experience were!”

What are your future plans?

“My future plans include continuing to develop my career in international business. Hopefully, I will be able to do so by living abroad again. I’d love to live in Europe, South America, or Asia.

I am also working on obtaining my Italian citizenship. Going international will be a bit easier if I want to live or work there.”

What would you say to someone interested in traveling abroad to teach, work, study, or just to travel?

“Do it!! Don’t give yourself excuses like it’s not the right time, I will go later, etc. Go now – it will never be the right time to leave everything behind and go on an adventure, so you have to just do it!

Finding Balance After Spain

Don’t do it just because you think it would be fun. It will be sooooo much fun! BUT… to truly flourish in another culture, you really need to put yourself out of your comfort zone. If you aren’t willing to do that, you might as well save your money and stay home. Start conversations with people — ask lots of questions about why people do things the way they do them there (it is OK to acknowledge that people and cultures are different and try to learn why). It’s absolutely necessary to try things you wouldn’t normally try (hobbies, food, styles).

It will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do in your life. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and because of that, it is truly life-changing.”

Finding Balance After Traveling

book store in spain libros

Around the time of this interview, Sam had just returned from her second trip to Madrid to visit the city that she will always call home. Looking back at her first interview, Sam still remembers the need to feel the nature of her life slow down and she felt it while living in Madrid for two years. Even though she took some time to smell the roses, Sam also understands the American way of life and is thriving in her job.

Sam, like many of us who have lived abroad, struggles with having one version of herself still in Madrid while still remaining content and present in her home country, the USA. She is looking forward to learning new things as a global mobility professional. She continues to travel when able. We are so happy she is found her sense of fulfillment. We look forward to hearing from Sam in the future.

This is Sam’s favorite quote from her first interview; I thought it would be an exceptional way to wrap up this piece:

“Every one of a hundred thousand cities around the world had its own special sunset and it was worth going there, just once, to see the sun go down” – Ryu Murakami

Finding balance is no easy task while traveling or working abroad, or even afterwards! If you want to meet like-minded travelers please join our Facebook group. There you can keep up with Dreams Abroad members and their stories.

by Leesa Truesdell

 

Wasan Tawfeeq Talks Teaching Arabic at FSU

Last time I saw Wasan was while she was teaching her students Arabic at around 11:00 am on a Thursday morning. The class was attentive, engaged, and speaking Arabic! Since then, Spring semester has ended, the Summer semester is almost over, and Wasan successfully defended her dissertation. Wasan’s dissertation study was, “The Role of Directed Motivational Currents in Second Language Learning by Arab Heritage Learners and Arab ESL Learners.” She will graduate with her Ph.D. this summer and continue to work as Dr. Wasan Tawfeeq at Florida State University in the Department of Modern Languages, teaching Arabic.

What is a typical day at your school like?

students getting taught arabic“I teach two classes from Monday to Thursday. Each class period is about 50 minutes. I teach the first class, which is ARA 1121. It’s a level two Arabic class. The second class is ARA 2220, which is a level three Arabic class, so it’s a bit more advanced.”

How many people do you work with and how many classes do you teach?

“I work with two people mostly. I see the chair of the department and another Arabic professor. We’re all considered faculty. Also, I work with three other employees who help me with administrative stuff like printing and finalizing documents. I teach my two classes alone, however.”

How are you forming relationships with coworkers?

“I enjoy forming social as well as working relationships with my coworkers. We meet during off-campus and on-campus activities. There are a variety of activities that we do during the semester that let us engage with one another and talk about our social lives. Fortunately, we do not just talk about work!”

What about forming bonds with students?

“It is very important for teachers to build positive bonds with their students. The purpose of teaching is not just about how to convey materials, but also the challenge of creating an appropriate atmosphere. My job as a teacher is to help build an environment that helps to strengthen the relationships among the students themselves, as well as between him or herself and the other students.”

How does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships with the students inside and outside of the classroom?

teach abroad teach FSU Florida State Arabic collage classroom FSU logo“As a foreign language teacher, I believe one of the program’s responsibilities is to foster and maintain the relationships between the students and the teachers. Furthermore, it should also foster a relationship among the students themselves. Fortunately, that is what our program does. We schedule a lot of activities. My program fosters activities that are not just related to cultural learning, but also other activities that help students track their Arabic achievement.”

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

“My favorite part of the day as a teacher is when I see my students understanding the subject. Nothing quite beats seeing them comprehending new material. I love to see my students’ smiles on their faces. It just warms my heart. It tells me that I am doing my job right as a teacher.”

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

Wasan Tawfeeq graduating

“I prepare my lessons on a bi-weekly schedule. Each day I prepare my lesson with a lot of details, since I am teaching a foreign language. I believe it should have games, activities, and videos. I try to make sure that each lesson includes all of the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.”

What does teaching mean to you?

“I love teaching, especially teaching Arabic. It is very important to me that I help people learn other languages. Arabic is one of the most important languages in the United States. It is one of the top five most popular spoken language in the US.”

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

“In our program we use tests, oral projects, presentations, quizzes, and final exams. By using a culmination of different grades, we can see where each student shines or is having a more difficult time.”

Teaching Arabic

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

“Yes. In my program we have a weekly meeting. During our weekly meeting we discuss what our plans are for our students, so as to help them achieve their goals.”

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad series interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to the USA? Both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“I have gained a lot of experience through teaching and life. There is no limit to gaining knowledge because you can learn something new every day. This is especially so in the classroom. Teaching is about exchanging what you know with your students. However, teaching is not a one-way experience. My students are not the only ones who learn, because I am also learning right beside them. Together, we grow every day.”

Both Dreams Abroad and I would like to take a moment to say congratulations on a job well done to Wasan! Best of luck to you on your journey ahead – we are proud to have you as a We Teach member. Congratulations and thank you for the time you spent sharing your story with us. While teaching in itself is a challenge, teaching a foreign language has its added difficulties. Wasan has brought fun back into the classroom while continuing to encourage her students.

by Leesa Truesdell

My Life in Kuwait After Graduate School in the USA

Arrival to Kuwait after FSU

Arrival to Kuwait

I can’t believe that 3 years have passed since I graduated from FSU; yet I still remember the day of my arrival to Kuwait as if it was yesterday. After a flight that lasted more than 11 hours, including a layover in the Heathrow London Airport, I arrived at my home country – my beloved Kuwait. I wanted to surprise my family when they saw me exiting the arrival gate, so I had purchased a graduation gown and cap to wear off the flight. As I was the first grandchild to obtain an MA, everyone was really proud of me. As I entered baggage claim, I saw my whole family, including aunts, cousins, and their children, lined up waiting for me.

My Family

They were holding flowers and signs that said, “You did it!” They threw candies up in the air, along with money coins, cheering for me. As soon as I saw them and how proud they were, I instantly bursted into tears of joy. Every single tear that was dropped that day, either of mine or my family’s, was based upon pleasant feelings. The cherry on top of that day was that my mom has arranged a PINK limo (because it’s my favorite color) to drive me home from the airport. I can’t put into words what I had in my heart that day; I was finally back to where I was supposed to be: Kuwait.

Teaching English

Since I was a scholarship student sponsored by one of the educational institutions, I had my job waiting for me immediately after graduation. I was to be working as a teacher to teach English for adult learners. I managed to get my papers done and signed by the dean. When everything was documented and official, it was time to start attending classes. I was assigned to be part of College of Education. The whole experience was new to me, since it was my first teaching position.

Teaching Philosophy

Lecture hallMy teaching philosophy was mainly focused on building a classroom environment that was friendly and fun, allowing students to learn within a nurturing environment that sheltered their abilities and knowledge of the content. What was surprising for me is that the classroom had an enormous number of language learners, which made the teaching process challenging. Students’ needs had to be met and, in order to do so, I had to work triple the amount to make sure that was happening.

College teaching

My Advice: Explore the Colleges in Advance

My advice to those who are planning on one day holding such position is to go and explore the colleges in advance so as to have an idea as to what kinds of students you are going to teach after graduation. Also, I think it’s a good idea to inquire about the resources available in the classrooms, students’ diversity, and the number of students enrolled in order to prepare beforehand with appropriate resources and ideas for teaching.

Back in Kuwait

Life back in Kuwait after graduate school is wonderful, yet a bit challenging when it came to teaching. It felt so good to be home surrounded by people who love me unconditionally. Whatever I acquired in all of my classes back at FSU, I tried to implement in my teaching. I am who I am today because of my journey; for all its ups and downs I am forever grateful.

welcome home

Teaching in the Community of Madrid: Part Two

by Leesa Truesdell

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Teaching Abroad  in the Community of Madrid

Teach Abroad is a three-part series that shares the different perspectives of native-born English speakers teaching abroad. In part two, my Dreams Abroad colleagues here in Spain discussed their roles at their schools and what it is like to teach in, and for, the Community of Madrid. Over the course of the school year, we’ve visited several different cities and shared the teachers’ stories. If you missed my first part of the series which I speak about how I adjusted to teaching abroad in Madrid, please take a look.

Meet Leesa, Dreams Abroad Founder:

What is a typical day at your school like?

“Each day at my school is different in the Community of Madrid. I work with a different class and a different grade level each hour of each day. I see my students typically once a week. If they are in my theatre class I see some twice a week. It’s important to make a note of this in the beginning, as my school is not a bilingual school but is a part of the program.

We teach English as a subject which means that I am teaching English grammar or assigning English reading projects. I am not teaching English in science or in any other subject in the student’s curriculum. Since I have a master’s degree in education that specializes in English as a Foreign Language, I feel blessed to be at this school because each day I am using the English language in ways that I never thought I would. I love what I do.”

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

“I work with my vice principal who also teaches English, seven teachers (English coordinator included), and one auxiliar. Auxiliars are language and culture assistants hired by the Community of Madrid to enhance the language acquisition process. Typically, the teacher in the classroom is not a native English speaker. The auxiliar acts as a native speaker and is there to assist with language and culture in the classroom. This, of course, is speaking generally. Some auxiliars are doing more and some less.

I am fortunate to work with a variety of teachers. I have learned a different style or method of teaching from each one. They all use a similar method of teaching however their approaches to teaching are unique. For example, one of the teachers has been teaching English grammar for a very long time and knows how to teach it better than I do. When we work together, we each use our own approaches to teaching. This creates a great rhythm in the classroom. I am so grateful to be working with skilled teachers who know their craft but who are also open to new ideas. This is when teaching and learning become not only beneficial to the student and the teacher but also is fun!”

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

forming bonds with students

“We have an online group chat where we ask one another questions or send out community information. However, we do not get together outside of school. Most of my colleagues live in the southern part of the community of Madrid, where we work, but I live an hour north, in the city center. Because we live far from each other, it makes it difficult to do things outside of work. In addition, my coworkers have families with children. On the weekends, they are usually spending time with their kids, being parents.

At work, however, we have a very strong bond with one another and have learned to work well together. I know their methodologies and respect them so I can adapt my lessons to complement their style of teaching. Because there is a level of trust among us, we share lessons and give one another feedback regularly.”

Are you forming bonds with students in the Community of Madrid?

“Yes, I am forming bonds with students in most of my classes. In particular, my second eso classes and my second bachillerato classes. The students in my middle-range classes (such as third and fourth eso), are at that age where they are constantly playing around during class with classmates. In the U.S. this is around 9th grade and 10th grade. Once the fourth eso students pass all required classes and exams, they complete secondary school.

students abroad

Junior and senior year (bachillerato) are optional for students once they pass fourth eso. Students who plan to attend a university must complete all levels of secondary school. This age group, in particular, has been a hard group for me to establish a connection with. No matter how fun I make the lesson their mind is not on English, it’s somewhere else. Most of the time, I can see they are focused on friends in class. Sometimes they’re more interested in what’s happening during a snack or recreo break or with passing notes.

I realize that this is a challenging age and, initially, I felt that perhaps I lacked control of the class. However, since I teach in someone else’s class, I can only use a limited amount of discipline for control and management. In most classrooms, it’s the teacher’s role to know when to let things go and when to step in. Learning is supposed to be fun; however, there are times when students try to test those boundaries. That’s when I become silent. When my students get too loud during a fun conversation, I won’t speak until they get quiet. At first, this made me frustrated, but now, I feel like my students understand that being loud and talkative when I am explaining something they are excited about is considered poor manners.

Establishing Bonds

Overall, my students, in the Community of Madrid, are great and the bonds we established will be some of the most memorable. For example, my English theatre students are all very good students. They work hard so I choose to give them the lead on how they want to work on the play. I go to class and listen to their ideas about what I had previously outlined for us to work on that day in the syllabus. The only way to really get your students to love a language is for them to want to use it.

I use a student-centered approach in this class and it has worked so far because my students come to class with smiles from ear to ear, ready and eager to work. For example, the bachillerato students have been assisting me in co-directing while the younger students have helped with play editing and modifying character roles. I am proud of this group because it is the first full school year class that I have taught while living abroad since receiving my degree.”

Does the school foster the creation and development of these relationships with the students inside and outside of the classroom?

“Yes, my school encourages students to participate in seventh-period activities. I have spent the year working with around ten students in a theatre class. We are working on a play where the students have been able to assist with its production.”

What is your favorite part of the day?

“I don’t have any specific part that is my favorite. However, I truly enjoy working with the bachillerato first and second students. They are at the level where they can really work with the language in creative ways. For example, I worked with a group of students (generally, ages 16-18) on skits, job interviews, debate, and most recently, news reporting. They enjoy these types of creative activities and also work well together in pairs and groups. The more proficient students are able to assist lower level students.

language in creative ways

I also enjoy working with my theatre class students. I work with them once a week for 7th period, which is technically after school. This class is the only class where I am able to teach on my own. It is an extracurricular class and probably the class my students enjoy the most. It’s a great point of pride when a student says they look forward to your next class. I am proud of my work so far with this group and I am certainly taking notes on my curriculum.

I ask myself: if each class were fun and not graded, would every student pay more attention and want to attend? Are we forcing students to do things they don’t want to do and therefore getting poor results (i.e. students with anxiety and stress disorders that lead to bad tests results and poor attendance)?”

How is material being taught to students?

“Each English teacher is different with regard to how they prepare and teach. Therefore, when I am asked to prepare a lesson, I collaborate with the teacher ahead of time on the unit and topic. If grammar is the focus of the week, I make sure that I stick to the grammar point and only the grammar point. Then, at the next class, I work with the grammar in conversation. For example, I just finished teaching the present continuous tense to the youngest group of students in the school. When I teach grammar points, I make sure I have an activity and a worksheet to go along with the grammar point.

Student-Centered Lessons

Because I rotate between classes, I make sure that I am always keeping the lesson as student-centered as possible. On the other hand, most teachers at my school have a tendency to be teacher-centered. Since I do not have full control of the class, I have to modify as best as I can. Sometimes I have to compromise if the teacher wants me to teach the grammar point in a teacher-centered way then create a student-centered activity afterward. For a student-centered activity, I will, for example, get the class paired into groups of two or three and ask for examples of the topic.

This week, I have assigned two different classes two group projects. From there the students will have two weeks to prepare the topic to present in class before our spring break. These projects include bachillerato first presenting their weather reports as news reporters to the class and third eso presenting their Incredible Journey to class. This is a project where each group had to research four to five places they would like to visit and tell the class why, for how long, and what they will do in each place.”

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

“I prepare for each lesson a week before that class. When the class finishes, I take notes about where we left off that day in class and then I coordinate with the specific teacher about my idea for the next lesson. He or she will give me their input and then I make my lesson. I prepare between 10-12 new lessons a week and then continue with the same topic in some of the classes that are doing group work or presentations. Each week, I have about three to five extra hours of planning added on to my work schedule for new lessons. In addition to the lesson planning, editing and directing the play takes about an hour to two hours of planning.

Brainstorming  Ideas

We are now getting into the acting portion of the course so the edits are more or less over. However, each week I brainstorm ideas and think of other ways we can do things before the big production day in May.

brainstorm ideas being a teacher Community of Madrid

I enjoy lesson planning for all of my classes because it means that I have control of what I will be teaching. I like going through each class and designing what I teach. It allows me to be creative but, at the same time, it also keeps me organized week by week. There are many things about teaching that you cannot control however, when it comes to lesson planning, I always have my initial lesson plan in sync with a back-up lesson plan. For example, my school encourages the use of technology in the classroom. But, eight out of ten times, I go into a classroom where the computer is broken or the Wi-Fi has a weak signal. On these days, the back-up plan is used.”

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

“I do not work at a bilingual school. My school has an English department with certified English teachers who teach English as a subject. Since English is part of the core requirements under LOMCE law, all of the students in the school must take English at every level. It is not an elective course.”

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

Spain uses the Common European Framework of Reference (CERF) for languages. The framework states that students must have at least two foreign languages in addition to their native language. Therefore the standards are applied by grade level according to the CERF standards. My school follows these standards in addition to La Programacion (our school guidelines) which they send out to the parents at the beginning of the year. This lets the parents know the aims and specific goals for each department.

My school, in the Community of Madrid, uses performance-based learning assessments, which are quarterly exams based on the book information that has been taught to assess a student’s proficiency. In a student’s fourth year (fourth eso) the student’s proficiency will be tested based on CERF standards. All four skills will be tested (reading, writing, speaking, listening) to asses the student’s overall academic competency. At the end of fourth eso the student has the option to graduate and move on to work, vocational school, or continue on to the next level in secondary school. The next two levels are called bachillerato first and second. The student’s proficiency level at this age in their academics is important in order for them to continue their academic studies should they choose to. Foreign language is a requirement in bachillerato one and two per CERF standards.”

With regard to lesson and unit standards:

 lesson planning Community of Madrid

“Before each lesson, there are no written descriptions of what students are expected to know or be able to do. The aims and objectives are listed in the textbooks and each teacher explains the objectives in their own way with regard to trimester tests. For example, we will have an exam in December on chapters one through four. These cover present simple and past continuous tenses. Obviously, the student should be able to know this material.

The standards are not written on the board and the syllabus does not list a rubric with standards itemizing what each standard is for each chapter. The chapter identifies the aim for the student and the school selects the textbooks based on stages of proficiency outlined by CERF. Each level has specific content that will be taught to the student of a specific proficiency level.

Students are assessed by exams that are given in December, March, and May or June. Standards are not applied to content used in classrooms.”

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

“Yes, each department meets before the school year to discuss the needs of each student. The classes are formed and each department creates their section for La Programacion. This is the main document for the school that allows for collaboration among faculty. In addition, the English department meets once a week to discuss what is needed to ensure the success of its students.”

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad series interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“Since my arrival to the Community of Madrid, I have learned to think on my feet and realize that life does not always go according to plan. If a lesson plan changes due to a technology issue (and it will), I always have a back-up or maybe two. I have also used humor a lot in the classroom. The ‘go with the flow’ mentality that I adopted a few months ago has served me well. A year ago, I would not have been as casual about things that didn’t go according to plan. Now, I realize that I cannot control many of the elements around me. I can only control how I react to them. My job is to be the best EFL teacher I can be in the Community of Madrid.

Continuing to reflect on how to improve while being here has also been very beneficial. I know I make mistakes, we all do, but it’s how we learn from those mistakes. Afterward, is where real opportunity occurs. Then, growth happens. I see this process on a day to basis in my students. That is when I know that they are learning.”

What are your new goals and/or modifications to previous goals for 2017?

Community of Madrid

“My goals are to continue working hard in the Community of Madrid. I will become a better person than I was yesterday. Each day I am trying so very hard to reflect and continue to listen to others about life, dreams, and perspectives. I believe that if we all share consciousness and purpose by communicating frequently than maybe there will be a less negative outcome in our daily lives. Overall, the Dreams Abroad website has been my biggest accomplishment so far. My team is great and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Teach Abroad: Part Three will be the last series for this school year. We will be sharing the series over the summer!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates on our favorite Dreams Abroad members very soon! If you have any questions about the Community of Madrid please join our Facebook group.

Valuable Lessons I Learned

by Leesa Truesdell

leesa truesdell paris fashion week travel tales

It’s been a while since my last post, where I spoke about one of my very first pieces: Embracing Uncertainty. Uncertainty means “indefinite or not clearly defined.” When we describe life events fraught with uncertainty such as living abroad, time is a theme that pops up frequently. You have the beginning months where everything seems so new and you feel like a tourist, then, you begin work and establish a sense of routine. Then, seemingly suddenly, the year is about to end! For our time here in Spain, it’s almost the end, and, again, the uncertainty is rearing back up saying, “I am back. Hello, life. What’s next?” I realize that as I get older this type of lifestyle, one that embraces uncertainty, is one that makes me feel like I am growing and learning and not feeling stagnant or misplaced.

“Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.” – Margaret Peters

With each day that passes, I grow as a person. With each opportunity that arises, I try to push myself outside of my comfort zone, working towards that growth. My time abroad has shown me that I don’t know myself as well as I thought. Time spent challenging myself has been the reason for my personal growth. I consider time, even though it’s technically free, to be priceless.

About Me and Who I Am

I started this journey looking for more answers about who I am; I wanted to know as much as I could about Spain because my ancestors were from Mallorca. On my first day at work, I made a presentation to my students called “About Me” in which I spoke about my life, my friends, my country, and most importantly my family. Not too long ago, I was talking to my class and I held up a photo of my grandmother, whom I affectionately called Tata. I told my students the reason why I came to Spain, and why I teach. Time moves on so quickly and life can change in a heartbeat. And, in my case it did.

Looking back, I never imagined that I would not be able to see my grandmother again. Those first days in front of my classes were the beginning of my life in Spain inspired by Tata. It’s been a journey that I will always appreciate because I know that she wanted me to be happy, as she told me in our last happy conversations together. As time moves on, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her sweet smile or soft voice. I started to teach English because of her. Her life inspired me. Each day I walk into a class, I carry her with me in my heart. She may not be with us any longer but her story lives on through my work.

Leesa and her grandmother Lessons
Leesa and her grandmother

Valuable Lessons in Resilience Abroad

Spain has taught me some valuable lessons, and one of the most important lessons I have learned so far is that you don’t know what tomorrow might bring. I know that I would not have learned the lessons I needed to had I not come to Spain. My soul opened up and my heart has once again embraced another culture that has embraced me back. I am very grateful to have this opportunity.

I felt extremely blessed to have been able to see Tata one more time before she passed. Remember to tell those people in your life how much they mean to you regularly. If they do something to upset you, it’s ok to be upset. Just remember that at the end of the day, time is all we truly have. There are a set number of days on our calendar that we will be here. Live your life, be well, let go, and carry on.

‘Cause you never think that the last time is the last time. You think there will be more. You think you have forever, but you don’t.” – Dr. Meredith Grey

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.