Thursday, November 10, 2016

Meet the New Teachers, Part 1

In the last year, eight new teachers have joined our faculty. We asked them to answer questions on a variety of topics ranging from: challenging teaching experiences, to funny language learning experiences to their favorite teaching footwear.

Meet Emily Burnett and Jason Chiu below.

Emily Burnett, DIP AM, teaching level 2.2 reading in Fall 2016

What has been your most challenging teaching experience?
This isn't a specific experience, but it is a personal challenge. I became a teacher because of how much I love spending time and learning with other people, and how much teamwork is involved in that, however I am actually a pretty introverted person. As a new teacher, I am definitely in the process of learning how to manage my love for teaching and my need for personal refuel time.
What has been your funniest teaching moment?
Last year, while I was studying for my Masters, I was teaching a class of all women as a volunteer. One day, the word "sassy" organically came up in conversation, and we were able to work out the meaning of it all together. After that, not a class went by that the word didn't come up at least 3 times in natural conversation. It became our class word!

What has been your most rewarding teaching experience?
I have an unhealthy but thankfully sometimes contagious interest in grammar, and my first semester teaching I taught a grammar class at The New School. On the first day, I asked them to describe what they think when they hear the word "grammar," and the only two words they said were "rules" and "grandma." I asked the same question on the last day of class, and the students all chimed in and said "meaning" and "creative" and "expression," among other similar and positive words. It was a pretty cool moment for me and my students.
What funny mistakes have you made while learning a foreign language?
I'm currently learning Turkish via private online lessons at a pretty beginner level, and I have found myself in the habit of trying to tell long and elaborate stories that I don't have the language for. Thankfully my teacher is so patient, but sometimes it takes me almost 5 minutes to tell a 30-second story because I am too stubborn to stop!

Jason Chiu, DIP AM, teaching Advanced Speaking, and EVEP, teaching 1b Listening and Speaking in Fall 2016

What has been your most rewarding teaching experience?
In summer 2012, I had an opportunity to work in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). One weekend, I visited a small village in the rural area, where I came across a little boy who sold postcards for a living. Unlike some privileged children in Yangon city whose families could afford a private international school’s tuition, he was not fortunate enough to have even basic schooling.  His instructors at school – which was in fact a thatched hut – were some older kids who might have completed only little more education than him.  Yet I was amazed by his linguistic potential since he was able to carry on basic conversations in a few languages, including English and Chinese.  At the same time, I was saddened thinking of everything that he could achieve if only he had been given greater access to proper education. So I started volunteering there, teaching English to children and organizing mini workshops to share my teaching ideas with the instructors. I was hoping that this would empower the entire community and help put a halt to the generational cycle of poverty.  Language education is significant because foreign languages like English will enable them to open doors to a wider world that will otherwise remain closed.
What’s your preferred teaching footwear?
Honestly, if I could go barefoot, I totally would! Actually I did it once when I was in Hong Kong – there was a torrential downpour that day and everything below my knees was soaked. I cleaned up as soon as I got back to the office and I just couldn’t put my shoes back on. It was a rather small language center and people were pretty chilled. It actually felt liberating! I made sure my feet didn’t smell though, ha ha!
What funny mistakes have you made while learning a language?
A few years ago I lived in Mexico for a while. When I first arrived, the only words I knew were pretty much “sí” (yes) and “no” (no). Whenever people asked me a question, I’d just say “sí” to avoid further conversations since I was very shy – one time a friend asked, “¿Cuántos años tienes?” (how old are you?) Feeling confused, I just automatically said “sí”.
Another time, I was telling an older friend a story. I was describing an awkward moment that made me feel embarrassed, so I told her, “Estaba embarazado” – she looked at me, puzzled. Then another friend told me, “You’ve just told her that you were pregnant.” ¡Qué vergüenza!
How do your personal interests/passions inform your teaching?
I like traveling a lot so often times I’ll use this theme in my teaching. Also, sometimes I exaggerate the problems that I encountered on my trips and incorporate them in my lessons. One time, I got students to imagine that they were on a hot air balloon trip, and along the way I threw in problems for them to solve so as to train their speaking skills and argumentation. I also like to adapt authentic materials like YouTube videos and magazine articles in my lessons so that students are more engaged and they can learn about something new.

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