My first experiences with teaching were during my year abroad in Madrid where I taught a class on conversational English to high school students. Because many of the students learned their target language through grammar and written exercises, I had to find interactive ways to teach and get my students to speak English. Learning had to be fun.
Several years later, I still believe learning should be enjoyable, and I incorporate many of the teaching techniques learned in Spain into my college courses at East Carolina University and Pitt Community College. For example, students often learn best through interaction. I encourage interpersonal communication by creating activities that require my students to speak with one another. During listening comprehension exercises, my students have responded well to authentic materials such as clips from television shows and music. Not only are these learning techniques fun, they keep students on their toes, and they also help create a sense of community among the class participants.
Fun does not necessarily mean easy. My goal in the classroom is for students to gain real understanding of complex material, which can be challenging for many of them. Throughout my own schooling, I have had the most respect and admiration for instructors that pushed me. Moreover, I remember the material that required more effort on my part to learn. For this reason, I try to test students in ways that require more than memorization.
Finally, I believe learning should be practical. While I would hope that each of my students will continue studying Spanish after my class, I understand that many of them will not do so. Therefore, in addition to the language, I teach about Hispanic culture. In my class, not only do we study the structure of the Spanish language but we also discuss social and global topics within the target language. Language is not only about grammar and memorization but it is also about the culture and society in which we find a language used.
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