Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015
We continue our series on the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Certificate Program (TCP) with three students in the Summer Intensive cohort, as they adjust to teaching in a real language school, our Community Language Program (CLP) on the TC campus. Their stories add to the rigor and richness of the program.
“I think it’s the sense of meaningfulness that I’m seeking in terms of something that’s more purposeful,” said student Takako “Tata” Sato.
Ms. Sato, originally from Japan, is a Barnard College alum who worked in the advertising industry in New York for more than 30 years before deciding she wanted a career change. “I work with a lot of Japanese business people, and I’ve noticed how even though most Japanese people learn English solidly for six years, so few of them can speak it. It’s almost a national problem at this point,” said Ms. Sato, who speaks both English and Japanese fluently.
With such a small population of TESOL teachers in Japan, Ms. Sato hopes that her training in this program along with her expertise in the business world will help assuage this problem.
Sophia Solomon, a full time teacher in the CUNY system, applied to the TCP to eventually teach abroad in Asia and Africa. Originally from East Africa, Ms. Solomon has more than 18 years of experience teaching.
“Underneath it all, I’m curious about early childhood education in other parts of the world, and I think, my opening would be with the TESOL Certificate because I already have experience teaching, and I already have a teaching license. But, if I wanted to work in other places [where] I don’t speak the language… with the [TESOL] Certificate, I can access that world and continue working with children,” Ms. Solomon said.
Krystina Armand, 22, first became attracted to the TCP after a bit of encouragement by her mother. Having recently completed her studies in East Asian Studies and Korean at State University of New York, she is now interested in teaching abroad in Korea or locally in New York. “I would like to teach, and if not, I would look into teaching others how to teach,” she said.
Both Ms. Sato and Ms. Armand had no teaching experience before applying to the program. Now that they have completed four weeks online of the TCP and an additional two weeks on campus, including teaching lessons at the CLP, the two students feel more confident about their abilities.
“For our first teaching experience, I think it was really great,” said Ms. Armand.
“I think it goes to show how well they prepared us,” said Ms. Sato. “It was a bit nerve-wracking because these are real students. I think it was a good experience.”
Along with teaching in the CLP, students are required to take five courses to receive their certificates (Classroom Practices, Pedagogical English Grammar, Second Language Acquisition, Second Language Assessment, and Intercultural Communication). Ms. Armand finds particular comfort in grammar, and favors the Pedagogical English Grammar course as one of her favorites in the program. “You know how some people might like long division, or something random like that? I just really like grammar, so that class definitely single-handedly encouraged me to keep going in this program because it kept me interested.”
Some students, however, needed convincing before feeling confident enough to enter the classroom as an instructor. “I have always been grammar-phobic,” said Ms. Sato. “Words like ‘gerund’ send me into a tailspin of terror. For some reason I never learned grammar in a pedagogical context, so I was so worried about grammar. In fact, that was one of the hesitations in applying to this program.”
She wondered how capable she would be at teaching if she could not explain grammar rules to her students, but after taking the course, taught by Applied Linguistics/TESOL doctoral student, Elizabeth Reddington, her approach to the topic changed dramatically.
“I think of [Reddington] as the grammar goddess because she’s just so wonderful. She’s amazing. I’m shocked that I find myself reading the grammar book on a Friday night at home because the more you get into it, the more interesting it is. Surprisingly, all the classes are really great, but I’m really enjoying the grammar class,” said Ms. Sato.
Ms. Sato is still unsure of what she will do with her certification, but hopes her career change will be one that is meaningful. “I think there are so many people who struggle because they can’t express themselves, and whether they’re Japanese business men or recent refugees who arrive in this country who can’t really express themselves… I think it’s just an amazing vocation that hopefully, I will be able to commit myself to.”
Nori Kato is a Staff Writer and Office Assistant for the Department of Arts and Humanities. She is also a graduate of the International Educational Development program at Teachers College.