Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Katriina's Project Reflections - English for Tourism

When I was 3 years old I told my mother I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grow up – ballerina, artist, princess – I didn’t mind as long as I didn’t become a teacher. I still can’t say teaching is my calling, but after 3 weeks of teaching I must admit, I do enjoy it.

Student presenting on her
Since Cohort 6 began facilitating sessions, the focus of Up Close’s English classes has changed. We’ve left behind the traditional approach of teaching English through endless grammar and vocabulary exercises, and instead focus on teaching English for Tourism. We’ve been planning each class around the characteristics of a “good host”, with topics ranging from the tourist attractions in Mallasa, to information about celebrations, traditions and history.

The highlight of my teaching career so far has been our “transmit your culture” class. We asked all our students to bring something that represented their culture, be it food, an object or a presentation. Knowing that the majority of the students have full-time jobs and may have other priorities, we weren’t expecting a massive turnout.  We were pleasantly surprised when every single student had prepared something for the class; two sisters prepared a Todos Santos offering for the souls of the dead; children played panpipes; and one family brought miniature objects they had bought from the Alasitas Fair.

Class, with objects representing their culture
The class ran well over our allotted hour and a half, but our students had put so much effort into their presentations and were so passionate about talking about their culture that we couldn’t interrupt. Although the students’ levels of English vary significantly, we felt it was important to let everyone present. Some students presented their culture in Spanish, but we then went over vocab so that by the end of the class everyone had learnt something new.

For our next class, we teachers have promised to present our cultures. Following the presentations of our students, I’m going to have to think a bit harder about how to respresent my culture - I don’t think that showing a few photos from home will really cut it anymore!

The dedication and commitment of the students in Mallasa has really impressed me. Although none of us had any previous teaching experience, the students have been extremely patient and welcoming. I don’t think I’ll ever want to be a full-time teacher, but I am starting to see the attraction.

Written by Katriina Virtanen
Edited by Sarah Cassidy

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