As both my flight to Japan and my inevitable first day of work in Japanese schools draws closer (less than a week away!) I’ve been thinking — and reminiscing — about teaching ESL. If I could jump back to late evening of the first Monday in November 2013, I would search for a frazzled girl who was nervously pacing her adopted city streets and giving herself a pep talk before going to her very first class as a teacher; I would stop her and I would give her the following advice: “Dear, poor part-time English teacher, stranded abroad. Welcome to the profession of blank stares and glazed-over eyes. Welcome to class periods of awkward silences and zombie students. Welcome to the job you’ll both cry and laugh over. You’ll love it, I promise.”
From November 2013 through April 2014, I taught English conversation classes at EPITECH, a small computer science and technology university located in Strasbourg, France. It was two classes per week, each lasting two hours. A maximum of 10 students could sign up for each class. These kids were all meant to have a “high language proficiency,” meaning I could skip over all the nit-picky grammar and teach all the fun stuff. Easy, right?
I received no training. No textbook. No syllabus. No real indication of the language ability of my students, which ended up being all over the place. Nothing. My boss simply said, in his very best broken English, “Go teach ze boys how to speak!”
…Yeah. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty big request. Continue reading