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Teaching ESL to adults in Sydney

img_20160804_120105Just under a year ago I moved to Sydney as a friend was living here. In no time I managed to get myself a job as a teacher, teaching English as a foreign language to Adults.

Looking back now, when I first started I was so lucky to find a job as I felt under-qualified and under-experienced. Even though at the time, I thought I was ready as I had been teaching at Primary Schools for 2 years in the UK and 6 months in Thailand.

However, this kind of teaching was totally different. I’m still not sure how I managed it because I absolutely hated being the centre of attention with group staring at me. I could manage a class of kids as I knew there was no judgement but adults was a completely different matter. They were paying hard money for me to teach them to expand their knowledge of English. How was I going to do this? I had never really learnt a language so I had no concept of the different tenses or grammar point. Vocabulary was easy enough but actual grammar and pronunciation was a no-go. Was this stupidity? English had always been the subject I had struggled with especially battling with dyslexia. This was not going to stop me. I have never let anything stop me from fulfilling my goals. With high determination and a solid focus, I am always up for a challenge.

A year on, I can see how much I have grown in confidence, where I don’t shy away from teaching adults and my brain is now just bursting with so much knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. It’s a good job I love learning new things. Nearing my end of my time in Sydney, I have now work at three incredible English Language school, which have been pretty similar but at the same time, they are all unique.

I have loved working at these colleges, teaching just lovely students from all around the work and wonderful colleagues. I have taught General English from Elementary to Advanced level, day time and evening shift as well as a mix of both, sometimes, even working 14 hours, taking student on excursions, doing conversation clubs and even socialising with them. I am so thankful for everyone I have met through working in Sydney.

It has varied at the different schools. At my first school, initially, I taught two different levels during the day with grammar in the morning, and conversation and writing in the afternoon. Then changed to teaching the same level all day. The timetable was teaching five hours a day with a forty minute lunch from nine to three,  four day a week with a Friday being electives such as excursions, movie or grammar.

Generally the timetable was:

Monday AM – recap previous week’s grammar and go through test papers

PM – New vocabulary and reading

Tuesday AM – Grammar point 1

PM – Speaking activities using the grammar point

Wednesday AM – Grammar point 2

PM – Planning, speaking and writing practise

Thurday AM – Grammar and writing test

PM – Speaking activities or Australia studies

Evening class at both my first and second school have always consisted of teach two hours slots to the same level with a half an hour break with these classes being much more relaxed and not quite getting through as much.

Then at my third school during the day, I taught two hours from twenty past eight, two hour break then another two hours with an hours to do planning before leaving at half three. Again teaching a mix of writing, reading, pronunciation, speaking, grammar and vocabulary. In the two hours between the classes, there are ‘mystudy’ classes for the students, where I teach two to three times a week either implementing a conversation class or monitoring the computer room or doing a music lesson.

Teaching has given me so much joy and I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach ESL to adults in Australia. I have met so many wonderful students and teachers, and I am going to miss them. I have grown and learnt so much and experienced wonderful things while teaching.

 

A typical teaching day in Bangkok

IMG_20150515_074650From working in Thailand as a teacher for the last 6 months, I thought I would give some insight into my typical day at school. To start with, I am in an all-girls private school in the centre of Bangkok so my experience will be very different from others who have taught in Thailand.

My week consists of teaching 25 periods a week, which are 50 minutes long. I teach a variety of ages and subjects. I have the Special Intensive English Programme (SIP) students, Pathom 2 (aged 6-8), 12 times a week, teaching English (5 periods), Maths (4 periods) and Science (3 periods). Then I teach 2 classes of Pathom 2, both Maths and Science, 1 period of each a week. I have 3 classes of Matthayom 2 (aged 13-14), teaching English Conversation for 1 Period a week. Finally, I have 3 classes of Matthayom 5 (aged 16-17), teaching English Conversation for a double period a week.

In Pathom classes, I have around 30 students, where a Thai teacher might turn up and sit at the back of the class, but other than that I have the whole class to myself, speaking only English to Thai-native speakers. My Matthayom consists of 15-18 students, with no sign of any Thai teacher, and there English is limited. I can speak to my SIP2’s more than my Matthayom students as can speak and understand more English.

On a typical day, I leave my condo around 10 past 7, where I walk about 20 minutes to get to school. I stroll in the main gates, Wai the teacher on the door and walk around to the office to sign in with my fingerprint and signature. Across the school to the Pathom side, I climbing the stairs to the 4th floor, where the foreign teacher office is. Here, I fill up my water bottle, drop off my bag, plug in my computer and get ready for the day’s lessons, while feeling sweaty as the air-con is not allowed to be on until 8.

Then all the teachers and students fill the main area for assembly, with the student of all ages sit on the floor in rows in their classes. Assembly starts with the National Athem, where we stand straight looking forward, while a Thailand flag is raised and everyone sings. After, a Catholic prayer is said in Thai then a song played with the students clasping their hands together. The pupils all sit on floor, while either a teacher talks to them or students perform a sketch (sometimes in English) to the whole school. Recently, the student then do a couple of minutes of meditation with a peaceful, calming song is played. After assembly, lessons then start at 8.05, where they have 2 lessons, homeroom period before break.

In both Pathom and Matthayom, the pupils are taught by different teachers in a majority of their subjects and the students stay in the same classroom (except for music, swimming and PE). The students have individual desks with a drawer for their books and the desk are usually put into 3 or 4 columns facing the huge whiteboard and TV screen at the front of the class. Each classroom has a teachers desk, a computer linked to the TV (except for Matthayom 5/6, where the teacher has to plug in their computer) and air-con.

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When I enter the class, all students stand up to greet me by Wai-ing me and saying ‘Good Morning Teacher’. I usually say ‘Good Morning, how are you?’, where they will respond robotic-ally ‘I’m fine, thank you, and you?’ It makes me laugh everytime. However, majority of my student now will say something different to ‘I’m fine’, when speaking to me. The students then sit sown, while I set up the computer for the lessons, getting powerpoints, timers, games, YouTube clips ready.

In my Pathom classes and Matthayom 2, I normally start my lesson with a starter game, which will revise previous material. I split the class into groups, where I shout ‘Team 1, team 2 etc’ and they repeat back. When the students answer the question, they put up their hands and I will choose someone. Majority of the time, I will choose someone with their hand up but sometimes I try to choose pupils, who are either misbehaving or are too shy.

After the starter, I will introduce new vocabulary or grammar, where I would have a picture on a PowerPoint to see if anyone knows the word. If not, I would show them the word, say the word and get the whole class to repeat several times. Once I have gone through the words once, I would go through again to see if they remember the words. Usually, I would turn this into some sort of a game to keep them enthusiastic.

Next comes the activity, which usually varies depending on subject and topic. Sometimes they complete material in their workbooks, or do an activity in a notebook, which I write on the board or another making task. At the end of the lesson, we finish off by doing a cool-down activity, usually going through something we have done in the lesson. The children then put always paper and stationary. Before I leave, the student stand up again to say ‘Thank you and goodbye’.

My English Conversation lessons for Matthayom 5 students have a slightly different layout as they are older. I still start with some sort of a game to review previous material but I make it active so they have to get out their seats. Even though most of them don’t enjoy moving, it gets them interested and engaged in the lesson. I then will introduce the topic for the double period, and find out what they already know so that I can add to this knowledge. Again, I will introduce new vocabulary, where they will do some sort of activity with the new vocabulary. As a class, we will go through the answers and I will see if they all understand, which can be difficult as they often copy each other and rely on those who are better at English. Next, I go through a conversation or piece of text about the topic, where majority of the time the class will read as a class. We try to talk about this and they answer questions on it verbally. The next activity consists of the students being in pairs and writing a conversation between two people about the subject. I walk around the classroom, making sure their grammar is correct and that the sentences make sense at the same time as initiating some sort of conversation with them. After, each IMG_20150923_131301pair read me their conversation to me so I can hear their pronunciation and correct any mistakes.

After break, they have one more lesson before lunch. Usually for lunch I eat in the canteen, where I first exchange money for tokens, then scout out the food options. In our school canteen, there are four different sections: different noodles with soup, rice with a variety of toppings, snack and drinks, and ice-cream. The food at the school is extremely cheap, like 20 baht for a rice and topping. Depending on the time I get down stairs, sometimes I have to queue in the same line as the children. Teachers don’t get any sort of privileges. Actually often the lunch workers give us bigger portions. I would sit down with the other farang teachers and majority of the time some students from SIP4 join us and chat with us.

For the rest of the afternoon, there are four more classes before finishing school. When I am not teaching, I am in the foreign teacher room, planning and preparing lessons.

Life needs to slow down…

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As I lay here and wonder…

It’s an early Saturday morning and I’m lying in bed. Why am I awake so early? Did I stay up from a night out? Have I got somewhere to be?

On a weekday, I usually wake up this early for work and my body clock doesn’t change at the weekend even if I was out late.

Thoughts are whizzing through my head, question are flying around the room. I’m in two minds: I feel extremely blessed and extremely confused. This is the stage of life I’m in.

I am so thankful to God for the life I have and the opportunities he has given me. For 3 months at the beginning of this year, I was living in Durban, South Africa leading a team of girls. We were working in Crèches with the owners to help them improve their daycare to government standards. Through the ups and downs, I learnt a lot about myself, others and God. I was making a difference to so many people around me.

From here, I travelled around the world to live in Thailand, where I am currently. I have been here just over 4 months and I’m just loving every part of it. I live in a lovely condo with a great housemate, which overlooks the beautiful city of Bangkok. Every morning, I see the sun rise behind the tall skyscrapers, reflecting the ray around the city. The climate here is just perfect. Even though it is monsoon season, short, heavy rain shower come and go sporadically. On the occasion evening, the sky fills with flashes of lightening and the noise of thunder but thus doesn’t bother me. It is always hot here, my perfect temperature. What us there to complain about.

I love my job. Nothing beats teaching Thai children new English words whether it’s in English , Maths or Science. I love seeing them learn and grow in their knowledge of English. I can now even have a conversation with some of them. Their little, cute faces always puts the hugest grin on mine whether it’s when they see me in the corridor and they run up shouting ‘Teacher, Teacher!’ or when they have drawn me a picture.

As well as teaching in a school, I also tutor on the side and this gives me great pleasure. The families and children I work with are just the best. They are so grateful for me. One family always gives me a delicious snack like a chocolate Brownie or cheesecake. The children want to learn and talk English. Each one of the children I work with have touched and melted my heart.

On the weekends, I like to explore the places around me. Every few weeks, I travel to a new city for a weekend trip. I have been so luckily that I have seen a lot of Thailand and parts of the countries surrounding it. Some of the places I have seen are Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Pai, Chachoengsao, Vientianne and various islands. If I am not away, then I wandering and discovering new parts of Bangkok.

These are just some of the reasons I feel so blessed. My list could go on: people, food, culture to name a few.

So why am I feeling confused?

The end of the semester us drawing closer and I have to make a decision: do I stay in the same school or do I go? Do I move to a different part of Thailand? Do I experience a rural school? Do I try out a completely different job? Do I travel? Do I move to a different country? Do I work in a different continent? Do I do charity work in South East Asia? Do I go back to Africa? Do I pack up and go back to England? What would I do in England?

There are so many unanswered questions. The world is literally my oyster.

A few days ago, I was on Skype with my sister and she pointed out that the bigger question is ‘When am I going to settle down?’. This has not been one of those questions floating around.

I know I’m not young and freshly out of school. I am 26 years old. I’m expected to be married, living in one place, having children. Yes, I do want all those things but I’m not going to wait around for Mr perfect. I want to live my life, travel the world and experience new things. I love my life that I am currently leading.

They say ‘The biggest regrets will be the things you didn’t do, not the things you did.’

I want my life to slow down…

What am I doing next in life? Only I can decide.

Have I gone into the wrong school?

Waking up early was a slight shock to system. After travelling some distance on several different public transport, I had arrived at a school different to mine for my first day of teaching in Thailand.

With excited children piling through the front gates, I squeezed passed them to the farong staff room. I had four lessons to teach children from Pathom 3 (year 4) to Pathom 6 (year 7). Even though I was meant to teach science to three of the classes, I decided to get the children to talk about their holidays and what they already knew about science along with a few games.

Children just love games. I’ve realised as long as you have back up activities the children will always be learning and joining in.

All my lessons went surprisingly well with the kids participating and interacting. The language barrier wasn’t as hard as I first thought. As the children were doing the intense English programme, their English was pretty good. The only problem I had was sometimes understanding their accent.

My last lesson was computing, which consisted of the children making a PowerPoint about themselves. Seeing the children were 11 years old, I was surprised how little they could do on the computer. I taught them to use multiple slides, to create a background, insert pictures and to have different transitions between slides.

By the end of the day, I realised how much I missed teaching and working with children.

Even after an unexpected day of teaching,  all in all, it was a great day.

Hopefully tomorrow will be similar but this time at the school I’m working out.

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