Preparation Makes a Difference
Two years ago, I taught English in Spain. That was a wonderful yet overwhelming experience. I was not communicatively proficient in Spanish and I had never been trained how to teach. I learned a lot during the three months that I was there, and a lot of what I learned, I learned the hard way.
This past Monday, I started teaching at UPTC and the experience has been so similar and yet so different.
My job description is very similar. I work with a large number of professors and each professor determines what I do in his or her class. At UPTC, I have a biweekly schedule that totals 27 different classes of approximately 25 students each. I will only see a specific class of students for an hour, every other week. I also lead an English Club and a Movie Club, in addition to a couple hours of tutoring each week.
Although my job is very similar to what I did in Spain, my experience has been very different even within these first few days. First of all, I now have training in teaching. I’m comfortable in a classroom. I know how to write lesson plans and I have a lot of resources that I brought with me. I haven’t taught in a couple months, and these past few days have reminded me just how much I love it. Secondly, I did my research beforehand this time. I conducted an ethnographic study on Colombian classroom culture last year, and I’ve read a lot about Colombian culture in general (I did not prepare at all before I went to Spain). I also am now communicatively proficient in Spanish, which makes everything so much easier.
Because of my experience in Spain, I am keeping detailed notes on each class so that I can keep everything straight in my head and not get classes mixed up. I’m preparing for the unexpected. I’ve had a variety of resources at hand, depending on the classroom and I’ve been prepared for these variations. I’m speaking up more and asking my professors more detailed questions about what they want out of me as their assistant.
Honestly, the last few days have just been a lot of fun. I’m not letting the details and logistics worry me, and I’m refusing to over think my lessons or what my professors will think of the activities I’ve planned. All the students and professors have been extremely friendly and welcoming. I’m really excited to teach more than my basic introduction presentation.
Side note: I’m official here! I got my cédula de extranjería.