New TEFL class prepares students to teach here and abroad
By: Angela Lehman
VCU Global Education Office
By: Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-3636
RICHMOND, Va. (August 9, 2017) — On a bright summer morning, seven small children wiggled in their seats. They were in an ESL class, applying language skills to subtraction word problems. They didn’t know it, but two of the adults in their classroom were also students, honing their skills to teach English.
Katie Hines, a recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University who completed the VCU Globe program, and Gabrielle Norvell, a health sciences and psychology major in the College of Humanities and Sciences and also a VCU Globe student, were participating in a new Teaching English as a Foreign Language class offered by the Global Education Office this summer. As part of their field work, they spent 30 hours in a classroom at Bensley Elementary School. On this morning, while the classroom teacher delivered the lesson, Katie and Gabrielle were on hand to provide individual attention, moving among the children as they circled key words, wrote numbers and asked questions.
The new TEFL class, designed and taught by VCU’s English Language Program faculty, attracted participants from around the university, throughout Richmond and from as far away as Mexico. Lectures, hands-on instruction with faculty mentors and applied class work in area schools helped prepare the students to teach here and abroad. After an intensive four weeks of instruction, they received a certificate of completion in Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
This class built on the success of intercultural communication work already being done with VCU Globe students. Unlike many other TEFL programs, it included immersive field work that helped students develop cultural competency along with pedagogical and linguistic skills, said Amber Hill, Ph.D, director of the English Language Program and International Student and Scholar Programs.
Offering such a class was a logical collaboration. Many students in VCU Globe express interest in working abroad or with international populations in the U.S., and many of ELP’s faculty have experience teaching English abroad. “We have internal demand and the ability to supply that demand,” said Hill.
In March 2018, Katie will go to Paraguay to volunteer with the Peace Corps. Although she hasn’t received her specific assignment yet, she knows that teaching will be part of anything she does. Both Katie and Gabrielle studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico with VCU Globe, where they also had a chance to work with students learning English.
Terry Franson, who coordinated the non-credited TEFL class, noted that the students clearly increased their grasp of basic issues related to second language acquisition and the interplay between culture and language. Although some students chose to focus on K-12 education while others on post-secondary or adult education, they all understood how the information pertained to their different situations, she said. “Also, they were constantly evaluating their own cultural [perspectives] and how those impact communication.”
The culminating assignment required students to present a 45-minute lesson in the classroom they had observed, as well as a condensed version of that lesson to their peers in the TEFL class.
The next classroom where they present may well be much farther from home.
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