So far, my volunteer work hasn’t begun. As planned, I am spending my first month here obtaining my TEFL certification so that I am more qualified to teach English. At this point, I’m officially half way through the certification course. I have class from 10:00-5:30 everyday, and our typical schedule is as follows: Grammar from 10:00-12:00, break, Phonology or Lexis from 12:30-2:00, Lunch from 2:00-3:00, and lesson planning and teaching practice from 3:00-5:30. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, Road2Argentina offers free English classes to the community from 4:00-5:30, and I am proud to say that I have already taught a four occasions!
Teachers who are TEFL certified learn how to teach English to students in a full immersion classroom. A full immersion class means that the teacher (in this case, me) only speaks English to the students, and does not permit them to revert back to their native language. Teaching a beginner or low-level class is especially difficult because learners struggle to understand basic English, let alone instructions in English. A constant battle for English teachers is keeping a balance between STT (Student Talk Time) and TTT (Teacher Talk Time). The teacher’s main job is to elicit the target language and grammar rules that are part of the lesson plan for that day. A skilled teacher would not say “To change a verb to the past tense, you usually add ‘ed’”, but would elicit various examples from students to demonstrate this pattern (and in a beginner class, explain what “past tense” is without using this jargon). Last week, I taught three 30-minute sessions to a low-level class, and then ended the week teaching a full hour to this same class. I was fairly nervous and dependent on my lesson plan the first two times I taught, but the past two times were far more natural, enjoyable, and rewarding. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is definitely an adventure and a skill that requires training and practice.
Today was one of my favorite classes so far because we took the afternoon to focus on the culture and politics of Argentina. Because the majority of people I will be teaching are Argentines (and besides the fact that I’m living here), it is crucial that I understand this culture and the country’s past, present, and future. As most of the world knows, Argentina’s economy just went into default again, and the national government (depending on who you talk to) ranges from being fairly corrupt to extremely corrupt. The next presidential elections are taking place in 2015, and because of Argentina’s current fragile state, this election is critical for the future of this country. In a 2-hour lecture of the political system, we barely scratched the surface of everything that’s going on here. A strike has been organized for the end of this month, and from what I’ve heard, the Union leader who organizes these strikes utilizes his power to shut down the entire country for a day.
Argentina is a developing country with incredible potential that has not yet been reached due to political corruption. I am intrigued by everything that is going on here politically and economically, and will certainly continue to post as I learn, understand, and experience more.
I’ve only been here two full weeks, and I can barely begin to express everything I have learned about teaching, learning, patience, and myself. It’s hard to imagine where I will be at the end of this journey, but it fills me with great joy to know that I am growing and learning everyday.