#24 Take a Language Class

I cheated, you guys. I didn’t take a language class. I did something way better for myself professionally. I took a course to Teach English as a Second/Foreign Language (TESOL). If you’ve talked to me at any point over the last nine years, you know that traveling to a foreign country and teaching English has been a dream of mine. When I graduated from college I applied to the JET program, but was rejected. I took an online certification course and fell in love with making lesson plans. Then, I was supposed to go to China in 2007, but the program was uncooperative. I was going to move to Korea in 2009, but I broke my ankle.

When a groupon for Target Language School popped up, I jumped on it. TESOL classes usually run about $1600, which is an amount I’d never managed to save, and the time commitment of a week of 9-5 classes or every Saturday for a month never seemed to fit with my schedule.

Well, I finally made it happen.

Despite having to go Allston every week, it was awesome. My class consisted of nine girls – all far more well traveled than me and most had some teaching experience or were actually teachers. It seemed like every one of them had done a semester abroad in Ghana. “Oh, it’s so beautiful, right?” they cooed. I immediately became wistful for the same types of experiences. It’s not like I’ve never traveled outside the U.S. I’ve been incredibly lucky in that I’ve had the opportunity to travel to England and Ireland while in college and Amsterdam, Sweden, and Iceland in the last few years. But the idea of living somewhere outside the U.S. for a few months and having the time to really explore every square inch is an incredible opportunity that is afforded to the majority of college attendees. I was really bumming that my semester in Prague didn’t pan out.

Our teacher, Meghan, was fantastic. She’d spent some time in Spain (strangely enough, in the same program with one of the other students) and Thailand. Her knowledge of having traveled abroad and her experience working for international companies was just as valuable as all the planning materials in the books we were given.

Creating the lesson plans were still my favorite part of the class. I pulled most of my warm ups, follow up activities, and structured group learning from games I had learned from back when I was performing improv comedy. I will take any chance I can get to play a game of Big Booty. Teaching is awesome.

Throughout the course we had to create four lesson plans: Grammar, Listening/Speaking, Reading/Writing, and Wild Card! I put ample amounts of time into creating engaging and fun plans for every age group. I had a slight mess up with the grammar one, so I was happy to get that one over with first.

The biggest challenge was actually creating a lesson plan for children. My Wild Card plan was on transportation and involved singing, but I worried that the song was too complex because of verb tenses that were used. Instead, I decided to just focus on the vocabulary and being able to identify different modes of transportation within the song. I really wonder how it would’ve gone over had I been teaching it to children, but my classmates and teacher loved it.

Another challenge I found was creating lesson plans with the assumption that your learners all had some knowledge. This meant that you could pretty much start anywhere and say “We’ve already done units on [insert every possible topic here] except transportation. So, here is my unit on transportation.” I really wanted to challenge myself to create lesson plans that started at square one of something with no set previous knowledge.

I also worried about creating lesson plans for adults that could’ve been considered as condescending. Then I remembered that we all have to start somewhere. Personally, I love acting like a kid and being goofy. So, I chose to tailor my warm ups around that idea so that students would be comfortable getting a little weird with the material. I find that I learn best when I am engaged, moving around, and having fun. I loved being able to create the opportunities for future ESL learners.

Currently, I’m still in the midst of the last component – my online Business ESL class. Business ESL is perhaps the most lucrative form of ESL teaching and in high demand overseas. I’m a social workerish artsy type by day, so it’s been fun and challenging to learn all these business terms that I may have to teach some day.

Future Business ESL students, I promise to stay away from so-called buzz words and phrases like synergy, organic growth, and leverage. Trust me, you don’t want to do business with those douchebags. It doesn’t matter though. Chances are you’re having a meeting to buy that company anyway.

All kidding about the future owners of the United States aside, I really hope that I get an opportunity to use this at some point in my life even if it’s through teaching classes locally or volunteering for one on one tutoring. Although that game of Big Booty would be really hard with just two people. Anyway, when the opportunity presents itself to me, I am more than ready.

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