The Journey Begins
My journey towards a career in teaching happened because of my desire to travel the world and a dead end job. Never did I imagine that decision would result in a career that I would end up loving.
If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.
Grammar Translation Method
Foreign language teaching has come a long way from the 1950’s
Standard 4: Content Knowledge
The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the discipline he or she teaches and creates learning experiences that make these aspects of the discipline accessible and meaningful for learners to assure mastery of the content.
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.
Purposeful communication requires meaningful content.
A teacher can’t teach what he/she doesn’t know or know well. Part of being a good teacher requires a good mastery of the content being taught.
Teaching a foreign language is more than simply teaching grammar and vocabulary. It opens their minds to the immense possibilities of interacting with hundreds of millions of other individuals and ideas. My goal as a teacher is to enable my students to develop and improve their ability in communicating in the L2 in all facets.
Fortunately for English speakers Spanish uses the same Roman alphabet as English which makes it a far easier language to learn than Japanese by comparison. All langauges however use a system that includes phonology, morpholgy, syntax, semantics and vocabulary. The best place to start is to base lessons on the learners knowledge of their own L1. Their L1 will greatly influence their mastery of the L2 and we must be very careful to make sure they do not bring over rules that will not work in the L2. One good example is that adjectives follow and do not precede the nouns in Spanish. Another example is English uses the verb “to be” (I am 14years old) while Spanish uses the verb “to have” to state one’s age. The student may incorrectly say in Spanish “Soy catorce” (I am 14) instead of the correct “Tengo catorce años” (I have 14 years).
Culture also plays a vital part of learning a langauge. Language is a vehicle to express the culture but it cannot be seperated from the culture. For that reason it is also important to impart cultural lessons along with grammar and vocabulary. Some examples of ways I have introduced culture includes teaching them about sports, music, family life, and festivals. I also use frases of the day to teach them about idioms and alternate meanings of words. Spanish teachers must also be aware of the wide variety of words used in different Spanish speaking countries. Some examples of that include the word for “sandwich”. In Spain we learned the word bocadillo but there are also several other
Standard 5: Application of Content
The teacher understands how to connect concepts and use differing perspectives to engage learners in critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative problem solving related to authentic local and global issues.
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.Benjamin Franklin
A great example of how I applied this standard to my lessons was my unit on school life. I always try and include higher order thinking questions as a subtext to the main goals of the unit. In this unit for example I asked the students to consider the following questions. Does culture impact the way schools are run? How are our futures determined by our schools and education? In what ways does culture influence schools? How important an influence will your high school education have on your future careers? How does culture/geography influence the types of clubs, classes, sports, schedule, and activities of a school? Are school systems in all countries important for the education of a nation? These types of questions allow students to understand why they are studying any given thematic unit and it can also lead to some very interesting discussions.
Standard 3: Learning Environments
The teacher works with others to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self motivation.
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.William A. Ward
I understand this standard to mean that I must create a learning environment that promotes and reflects high expectations in my students. I also belive it means as teachers we must understand that students performance will be reflected in how safe and comfortable our students feel in the classroom. When they feel valued and respected they are more likely to perform at a higher level and be engaged with the lesson content.
Building a safe learning environment is nearly impossible if there isn’t trust between the teacher and students. My students feel comfortable enough with me that many have shared some very personal stories over the last few years. Only recently a student confided to me in some issues and I was able to take those issues to the counsellor where she could be helped. But beyond that type of trust is also means a trust in the teacher to know and teach the content in a non-judgmental way. It means building an environment that fosters support among peers and the teacher. It also means the knowledge that when they make mistakes they will not be mocked by anyone. No one learns a foreign language without a whole lot of mistakes and errors son high level of trust is essential for any progress.