“Oh Captain, My Captain”
Ok, ok, so perhaps I’m being a little overly congratulatory with the quote above. Yes, it is from Walt Whitman, and yes, he was talking about Abraham Lincoln–but, it’s also a quote from Dead Poets Society, which is a movie I’ve watched here twice already! I loved it before, but now that I’ve been a teacher for a little bit, I think I love it even more. Welton Academy (the fictional preparatory boarding school where the movie takes place), looks and feels a lot like the way I remember Kenyon: lots of neo-gothic architecture, fiery fall trees, and old British Isles traditions. It all feels a little familiar. But I’d sort of like to tell you a bit about my students over the past couple of weeks:
They’re a great bunch! I’ve gotten the chance to teach the most advanced students in our town for our Peace Corps mandated “practice teaching.” We had a couple days of registration at the beginning of the whole process and we filtered students into three levels of English; beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Teaching the advanced group has really been a lot of fun for me because I get to work elements of art and culture into our lessons rather than just teach pure langauge lessons. So far we’ve done lessons on travel, tourism, music, and art. Participation is the hardest thing to come by in the Mongolian classroom. Most kids aren’t used to being asked to speak in their English classes because their own teachers aren’t comfortable speaking. That’s really where we as native speakers come in, and what our prime responsibility will be during our time here. We have to get everyone to speak as much as possible. The biggest asset we have to getting students engaged here is most definitely competition. My goodness they are competitive here! I have a classroom full of 16 and 17 year olds, a group I think many teachers dread because they can often seem awash in jaded adolescence, but if you start tallying points on the chalkboard, these kids will crawl, scratch, elbow, and push to be the first to answer a vocabulary question. It’s a wonderful problem to have…too much participation…when the alternative is the squirming silence you usually enjoy with Mongolian students. It’s not that they’re not interested in learning, they’re just reticent to be wrong in front of everybody (as anybody would be). Our games and competitions have made all of that go away though, and this second week of teaching has really been a lot of fun.
All you teachers out there, if you have any excellent game suggestions that can be adapted to the English language classroom, I’d love to hear them! You’d be doing me a huge favor.
All my best,