Learning to Teach English as a Foreign Language

We have been offering English conversation classes to our colleagues at CIATEQ for the past few months.  The staff here is required to have a certain level of English language ability because most of the literature in their field is written in English and the center wants to attract foreign clients.  Many of the staff have studied English for several years and taken proficiency exams.  However, as we all know, speaking a language is very different than being able to pass a test!

Our classes were for individuals who already had an advanced level of English skills because we didn’t feel prepared to teach those who needed more basic instruction.  We enjoyed the classes and thought it would be useful to get some formal training to improve our skills and then give classes at the intermediate level.  We discovered that there is an English language school here in Querétaro that also offers training for teachers.  We knew a young Canadian woman who had attended the course and recommended it, so we visited the school and met the instructor.  We were favorably impressed with him and signed up to attend the four-week session that began in early August after getting approval from the Peace Corps and CIATEQ.

It´s been awhile since we’ve been full-time (if only temporarily) students and had forgotten how demanding it can be if you´re serious about your studies.  Mark Arthur, a British expatriate who was the instructor, is very knowledgeable about both contemporary teaching techniques and the idiosyncrasies of English.  His course was very intensive and included a series of written assignments and teaching classes of beginning students from the very first week of the course.

We now have much more respect for teachers.  Putting together a lesson plan is a lot of work, especially one that includes a variety of skills and is student-focused.  In our training, we were discouraged from standing in front of the class and “teaching”; instead, we were encouraged to creatively think of group and pair exercises that involved all of the students.  After each teaching experience, we were assessed by Mark on our strengths and areas for improvement.  These assessment sessions were extremely helpful in getting us to think about different ways of presenting materials and engaging the students.

Well, as the old saying goes, ¨a few months ago I couldn’t even spell teacher, and now I are one!¨, as the photos at the top of this article show.  We returned to our jobs at CIATEQ at the beginning of September and worked with HR to organize a new series of classes at both the advanced and intermediate levels.  Earlier this week, HR arranged organizational meetings at each of the two CIATEQ sites here in Querétaro.  The interest was overwhelming!  More than 100 employees showed up at the two meetings and it was standing room only.  Given that this is our secondary project, and not our primary assignment, we have less time to devote to these classes.  Nonetheless, we are eager to do our best to help the CIATEQ employees improve their English.

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One Response to “Learning to Teach English as a Foreign Language”

  1. Alan Says:

    Sounds fascinating!

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