When I arrived here in Puerto Vallarta I had many preconceived ideas about both teaching and living in a foreign culture. The past weeks has taught me that the idea that both would be easy was hubris in many respects.
Despite the fact that I have been speaking English all my life years and also in spite of the fact I have an above average mastery of the language, I had forgotten the “whats” and “whys” of grammar just not the “hows.” Teaching the nuts and bolts of grammar required me to relate material to students in a way they could understand when in some cases I didn’t understand it myself.
I now understood that I would have to relearn things from grade school in order to be effective as a teacher. On the positive side this deepened my empathy toward my students. I admired there undertaking of this challenge.
Something that I did know going into this endeavor was the importance of the teaching practicums. I had experience presenting detailed information to groups large and small but I never had any critical feedback that I could use to improve upon. This feedback has helped me a great deal in my efforts to develop my own personal style and to become ever more effective.
As I improved in one area, I discovered my shortcomings in another. For instance, when using the student workbook I proved to be highly proficient because of the clear outcome that this type of work provided. On the other hand, my initial attempts at teaching grammar points proved to be less successful. Apparently I wasn’t being clear enough in my examples and my explanations.
I was able to use this feedback to move forward, become better at this skill, and discover what I needed to work on next. I find it hard to comprehend how a person could teach without these hours of practice with actual students. I know I will be better at my craft because of those hours.
My deficiencies in my knowledge of Spanish created some hurdles for me both in teaching and in adapting to the culture in which I was now living. At times I found it frustrating attempting to communicate with some locals about basic things. I could only imagine some of the frustration the students must have felt when tried to explain simple concepts with words they did not comprehend.
However, as my time here went on that continued exposure to the pasts of the Spanish language I didn’t know brought rapid improvement in my understanding. I supposed this was how the concept of teaching English as a foreign language worked. I was fortunate enough to see this in the classes where I taught the same students for several days in a row. I believe this is an extremely important aspect to the teaching practices that would have left me less able had I not been able to do them.
One other thing I never expected was the level of joy that I felt when my students grasped and then used the concepts of the lessons I taught. Receiving joy from helping another person achieve their goals is something everyone should experience. I believe it would make the world a kinder place because it illustrates how much we are all in this together.