Helene Combe

Through my journey as an English teacher and a language learner

Month: May 2017 (page 2 of 2)

My first day on a primary school

Today is important: today was my first day teaching (or at least, being a teacher assistant) in a franco-american primary school.

I teach two classes :CE1 on the morning (18 kids, between 7 and 8) and on the afternoon CP (21 children, between 5 and 7) and the most brilliant one is 5. So, this morning, I started my day with a spelling test, which I haven’t done myself since an awful long time.

Their levels were astounding. Half of the class is native, but the second half can easily pass for natives. The concept of the school is completely different from where I used to work: the courses are in English and in French, which means that they are doing Maths, or History or Civics, in these both languages. They follow a syllabus, of course, but also, they have the opportunity to discuss about the news. So today, a little seven years old guy told me he was glad to see that Macron had been elected president. He didn’t know why, he didn’t even know what Macron looks like but since he heard that it was a good thing, he wanted to talk about it.

That’s the thing with kids: they want to share. They are not afraid to speak up, they want to communicate, whatever the language is, it’s not a barrier. This is what I want for my students, I want them to feel confident enough to talk about anything. Kids don’t care about mistakes, they say “goed” instead of “went” and “dinner” instead of “lunch”, and they don’t give a crap. We need, as adults, that kind of confidence back.

I really hope that this experience will give me that extra confidence that I need, because I have to be able to teach natives speakers as well, and sometimes, because I am French, it’s more complicated. But the journey is just beginning, right?

Being a learner

To be an efficient teacher, you need to be an efficient learner.

English is not my mother tongue (even if I practice it since an early age), French is. I do think mostly in English, I do want to teach English. So, I used to, and I still, work on my English every day, as my learner will have to.

Anyway, learning a language is an experience itself, and it may seem easy when you already know the language. Explaining something in French to someone is basically torture for me. I just know it. I don’t know why, I don’t know who decided to put these letters there, and I don’t care. But I do care about explaining the English language, the details of it, everything.

I have decided, after reading a lot of articles about learning (mostly language learning to be honest, and more precisely about the way we learn languages, since there is an experiment saying that learning 2 or 3 languages at the same time make it easier) to try again: I registered to different websites and I bought some grammar and vocabulary books. The experience, as I call it “the language learning experience”, got two steps:

-First, learning again a language (or two) that I already encountered before. In my case, it’s German and Italian: I used to have a basic level in both of them (I studied them in high school). I have begun last week and surprisingly, I feel better using German than before. Italian is still a bit harsh, frankly, but it’s been only a week. I work on it almost 20 minutes a day and I hope to see results by the end of July, cause I am actually going to Italy and Germany, so I’ll practice directly on the field!

-Secondly, after a few months of that diet, I will introduce a language completely unknown to me. I choose Japanese, cause one of my friend can teach me face to face. I really think that having a teacher is necessary at some point. Having books and apps is good, but you cannot expect progress without an actual human being explaining to you some details.

I will continue to write about this particular subject, that I really hope to develop. I also hope that this experience will help me to be a better teacher and to understand better what kind of tools our students can have.

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