I took the 120-hour Advanced TESOL Certificate course in need of a career change. I didn’t expect to do that well on the grammar and methodology modules. Yet, to excel on a lesson planning assignment is one thing, actually teaching the lesson is very much another. In taking the practicum, what once seemed like a foreign and frightening territory, became a thrilling place to stand up, discover skills I never knew I had and to empower others on their learning journey.
The first day jitters were very real. I was most nervous about my ability to teach and explain grammar, as many new teachers are. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the practicum requires lengthy and in-depth preparation, but this is what will make you a better teacher!
I was also fearful because I had no idea what kind of support I would receive from my supervising teacher or from school. My fears were dispelled as the practicum became an opportunity to receive a tremendous amount of guidance and support from real and experienced teachers who wanted to help me to do my best!
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Teach English in Context
The first week of class observations, I watched the supervisor use techniques that successfully engaged students. I saw how grammar was taught using examples that applied to the students’ lives or the way the teacher moved her body along an invisible timeline to explain time and tense. I saw how simple and fun it can be to teach something as seemingly complex as grammar!
To teach English as a second language in a truly meaningful way means to meet students where they are at in their communication needs at their current stage in life. I ended up observing and teaching students in their early to mid-’20s. I saw first-hand how valuable it is to teach real-life topics such as online dating, cross-cultural experience with food, and career promotions. The Practicum allowed me to see how students enjoyed the learning process so much more when you use the Communicative Approach, and how much better they learn to speak English.
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Why Supervised Teaching Experience is Important
In preparation for each of my lessons, I often felt unsure how to exploit a grammar topic such as phrasal verbs, so I would sit down with my supervising teacher and offer up my ideas. She would then offer suggestions to improve my plan, outlining how she might teach them or the challenges students often face with phrasal verbs.
I remember learning about the direct method in OnTESOL’s course and how unappealing it seemed to teach in that way. Surprisingly, it was a method I fell back on many times in my first few classes I taught. I mainly fell back on this method because I was faced with very quiet students and all I knew to do was explain. My supervisor explained to me that I will be much more successful at engaging students if I encourage them to work in pairs or small groups. She encouraged peer to peer correction and to have them provide examples to demonstrate their learning.
Even if the Practicum is not required to teach English abroad or online, I highly recommend completing this separate module after passing the online TESOL course with OnTESOL. The practicum will provide you with golden nuggets of wisdom that you’ll feel so blessed to have as you enter the classroom for the first time on your own. Among many things, it taught me how to expand and widen my understanding of how ESL learners learn and how to engage them in a meaningful and communicative way.