Teaching Philosophy

I am always asked why I chose to change career paths and pursue teaching English to speakers of other languages. This is a short teaching philosophy that I hope answers that question. This philosophy is dynamic, not static, and I am sure that with time and experience, I will be able to refine and amend this philosophy to better reflect the teacher that I hope to become.

My Philosophy on Teaching

There have been many teachers during my education that have shaped my perception of what an effective teacher should be. From the fun-loving science teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, who made biology engaging and relevant to a small town teenager, to Dr. Starkey, who opened my eyes to new world philosophies and ideas through thoughtful discussion and community involvement. The teaching style that both of these teachers had in common was the care and consideration that they showed to the learning goals of every student, and this is what inspires my own teaching philosophy.

In my own second language learning, the main method of teaching used was audio-lingual, also known as the army method (not surprising since my teacher was a retired Navy instructor). I found this method to be ineffective, and possibly even detrimental to my early ESL learning. My preferred style of teaching is the direct method, primarily because my interest is in teaching students that are intermediate speakers. This method encourages the students to use their knowledge of the target language to effectively communicate in a classroom setting to be understood and to understand their peers.

My main objective as a teacher is to facilitate my students in learning lifelong skills that prepare them to function successfully in a globalized world. I hope to achieve this through effective teaching practices that engage them to develop critical thinking and processing skills. For any teacher to be successful in a TESOL environment, they must be thorough in engaging and understanding the needs of their students, as well as knowledgeable in their comprehension of English and the rules thereof.

My background in liberal arts directly informs my teaching style. Inspired from my own experience with teachers, my teaching method is a combination of discussion and empowerment through delegation. These two teaching methods seek to challenge student’s preconceived notions of what they know in order to push them to think critically and, through delegation, students become empowered to take their learning into their own hands, with guidance from the instructor.

The way I will achieve my teaching objectives is through the day to day interaction with the student, through the creation and implementation of curriculum that is designed to bring relevancy to the subject, as well as providing opportunities for students to express themselves and their ideas.

The personal rewards of teaching in a TESOL environment is observing the enrichment of students lives through their mastery of English, and how this mastery can help them become active participants in a globalized world. English learning to me is an opportunity for people to better their lives, make new friends, and ultimately, create less division in a world that seeks to highlight our differences instead of our similarities.

Studies in Linguistics

We are over halfway done with the semester, and I managed to escape Second Language Acquisition relatively unscathed, and withe a decent final grade. For the second half of the semester, I am enrolled in Studies in Linguistics, which so far has been an interesting and enlightening experience. Learning about how the brain processes information and the ways in which we can break down languages into smaller components has changed the way in which I view everyday language use. Right now we are focusing on morphemes, and the types of affixes that are in multiple languages. Next week is phonology and midterms, so wish me luck!

There is also an exciting opportunity for a paid internship through the State Library Grant to assist one of my professors with teaching citizenship English at local libraries around the Oklahoma City Metro. Stay tuned for updates on wether or not I get the job!

See you soon,

Miriah

Reflection: Second Language Acquisition

Over the past eight weeks, there are many things in this class that have challenged my preconceived notions about how humans acquire languages. Throughout the duration of this class, I have learned more about how humans develop language, and how that is applicable to my teaching.

I have learned that the seemingly simple question of ‘how do humans acquire language?” is a hotly debated topic that covers a wide range of disciplines and theories. Each of these theories contain certain truths that, in the end, piece together and try to answer this question to the best of our current knowledge about how the brain works and how that directly influences language learning.

As far as application in the classroom, the examples in the book did an excellent job of translating these theories into concrete classroom activities and scenarios that will be prevalent in the EFL/ESL classroom. Spada and Lightbown did an excellent job in explaining the significance and relevance of these theories which make this book, while challenging at times, a very intriguing read. Their melding of theories, along with research in the field through case studies, paint a picture of the SLA classroom that will mimic the classrooms that us as future EFL/ESL teachers will be living in daily. 

For how this has changed the ways in which I view teaching, this class made me reevaluate second language teaching that I have received in the past, what methods were used, and then forced me to reflect on if there could have been a better method to explain the materials in order to achieve internalization. I feel that this will be especially useful for me later in the degree program, when it gets closer to teaching others outside of a classroom setting. In my own classroom, I hope to take these theories and put them to the test. Through later curriculum development courses, I see myself using the theories discussed in this class at different stages to achieve a well rounded and effective teaching method. With my previous experience teaching, I recognize now the ways in which I can elevate my teaching beyond simple lecture based classes to encompass a wider variety of learning methods through interaction and involvement of the students in the learning process.

Overall, this class was challenging but also an extremely important part of the TESOL experience. Learning the theories behind why we teach the ways we do helps put into perspective the enormity of the subject and it’s importance in the EFL/ESL classroom.

Second Language Development and Case Studies

It’s almost the end of the second week of classes and we’ve been going at a pretty good clip through our course work. Here are some observations that I’ve had in my classes:

In second language acquisition, the text we are using is a book called How Languages are Learned by Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada. In this book (coincidentally, my professor studied under Spada at the University of Toronto), we go over how primary and secondary languages are acquired by children and adults alike. It’s interesting to see several themes in my own second language acquisition journey reflected in this book, and makes me understand why, as an adult learner, I felt like I was incapable of learning a second language.

In Research and Writing, we are examining methods of research, both qualitative and quantitative, and coming up with research proposals for implementing case studies of our own in regards to our topic of citizenship English in Oklahoma City. I hope to come up with something that would be helpful in shaping my Master’s thesis, or at least something worth presenting at the annual TESOL conference in a year or two.

Next week I am traveling out of the country for two weeks to road trip around Iceland with friends, so I am interested to see how taking satellite courses impacts the rate at which I learn about the course material. One of the big reasons I chose this program was the faculty’s encouragement and willingness to let students travel during the semester.

Until next week,

Miriah

First Impressions

Now that week one is in the books, I wanted to give you some first impressions that I had in regards to the program, coursework, and just how many options there really are in the field of TESOL.

The TESOL program at Oklahoma City University is diverse in age range, nationality, and purpose, which I think makes this a very well rounded program. Class sizes range from 8-12 people, and in one class we have traditional and non-traditional students, international students from Korea, China, Japan, and Singapore, and interests range from teaching English in their home country through the TESL program, linguistics research, and teaching abroad.

There are also a surprising amount of available extracurricular activities relating to TESOL studies. We have opportunities to help instruct citizenship English lessons at local libraries for recent immigrants who are looking to pass the citizenship exam, as well as helping international students from Japan’s Kindai University on improving their English proficiency and pronunciation.

As for the coursework, it seems fairly standard. Research and writing of course has a 12 page research paper, but that’s about it. I’ve been writing those in my sleep since my undergrad in Religion back in 2007-2011. Really where the most learning is going to happen will be in Second Language Acquisition. Here we are delving into best practices for learners of second languages and most effective teaching methods, as well as trying to understand how people acquire a second language.

Before I applied for this program, I had been researching TESOL intensive classes that are designed to prepare and certify people that were strictly wanting to teach abroad. I’m certain that while these weekend seminars would have served their purpose as far as getting a certification, now that I am enrolled in a Master’s program, I am glad that I didn’t take that route.

This program not only opens doors for me as far as teaching abroad, but having professors that have connections with some of the top schools in Asia, Europe, and the Americas certainly makes finding a job 1000x easier than if I had tried to do it on my own.

Even if I decided that I didn’t want to teach abroad after graduation, I have learned that current Masters students are already placed in adjunct professor positions throughout the state (side note, it has always been my dream to be called Professor). There are also numerous opportunities for publication and research positions in this program, and I plan on taking full advantage of that!

So for me, it’s a no brainer to take advantage of the path that I have set for myself. I’m looking forward to learning more about the program, and more about the opportunities that come with being a Master in TESOL!

Miriah