Hello again! First of all, before I post, I wanted to say thank you to all of you for reading this blog! I love your comments, and it’s great to know that people near and far are following along. I haven’t posted in a few weeks because things were, for a bit, very quiet and there seemed to be nothing to post about, and then things became very busy and I had no time to post.
However, I recently realized that most of my posts have been about getting settled in Georgia and traveling around the country, but I haven’t written much at all about what I’m actually doing here. That being said, this post is all about how I’m spending my time as an English Language Fellow.
One of the primary responsibilities of Fellows is supposed to be teaching, but for a variety of reasons, this fall I ended up with only one class that meets only once a week for two hours. Also, due to a variety of reasons, despite having been in Georgia for over two months now, I’ve actually only met these students twice… So, the natural question to ask then is, “What are you doing with the rest of your time?”
Lots of things!
For example, in just the last few weeks I’ve been busy:
- Facilitating professional development workshops with the teachers in the English language department.
- Presenting at “The Eighth International Scientific Conference: Education in the 21st Century” at the university.
- Creating and leading the new “English Coffee and Conversation Hour” for GU students.
- Participating in ETAG – Gori (English Teachers’ Association of Georgia – Gori Chapter) meetings.
- Taking Georgian lessons.
- Participating in classroom observations and post-observation discussions.
- Meeting with local schools to set up opportunities to work with 10th, 11th, and possibly 12th graders there.
- Teaching my one course, which is an academic writing class for M.A. in English Philology students at Gori University.
I’ll elaborate on the first three of these below, and I’ll save the others for a later post.
Professional Development Workshops
These workshops are one of my favorite things that I get to do. The English language teachers at Gori University are an excellent group to work with. There are about 25 teachers, some full-time and some part-time. The new English Language Program Coordinator is a big proponent of professional development (PD), so we’ve set up a schedule where I lead PD sessions every other week. So far our topics have included, “Principles and Methodologies of Effective Language Teaching,” “Focus on Communicative Language Teaching: Features of CLT and Practical Classroom Activities from the Communicative Approach,” and “Designing Effective Lesson Plans.”
The Eighth International Scientific Conference: Education in the 21st Century
On November 13th Gori University hosted this conference and I was invited to participate. My colleague Zura (the director of the foreign language department) and I worked together to transform my first PD workshop into an article and conference presentation entitled, “Methodologies and Approaches to Foreign Language Teaching: Historical Contexts, Key Features, and Suitability in Today’s L2 Classroom.”
The goal of this presentation was to emphasize the importance of considering current second language acquisition (SLA) research when making decisions about foreign language program curricula, materials, syllabi, and teaching techniques. It provided key features and historical contexts of five different historically or linguistically significant methodologies and approaches to language teaching (the Grammar-Translation Method, the Direct Method, the Audio-lingual Method, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), and Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT)), a brief overview of what we currently understand about how languages are learned based on SLA research, and then compared this knowledge to the different techniques, showing how CLT and TBLT are most aligned with what we currently know about how languages are learned. It ended with a discussion of how the changes, developments, and insights in SLA and language teaching research should affect the decisions foreign language teachers, program directors, and other stakeholders make concerning the roles of these methodologies and approaches in their language learning classrooms and programs today.
The presentation was prepared in English, but Zura translated everything into Georgian. We had decided to make a game-time decision about which one of us would present and in which language once we saw who the participants in our breakout group were. The group was comfortable with English, so I presented. At the end of the presentation there was a short time for questions and comments. One interesting comment from a participant was that they (the audience), were “the victims of the grammar-translation method” because they could listen to and understand the conference presentation with ease, but expressing their own ideas in English was significantly more difficult. I was glad that this comment was made because it emphasized that one of the goals of my project— to promote communicative language teaching techniques— really is needed and valued here.
English Coffee & Conversation Hour
Before things got busy here, things were actually very quiet. As an extrovert far away from all my family and friends, I really needed more regular interaction with people. Also, with having only one class, I really wanted opportunities to get to know and interact with more students at GU. I love meeting people for coffee and conversation and I have a budget for project expenses, so I proposed the idea of creating an “English Coffee & Conversation Hour” for GU students. My thought was that if students wouldn’t come for English conversation itself, they might be persuaded for free coffee, tea, and snacks. Then, if students came to the club, I would also gain a group of people to get to know over a cup of coffee; it sounded like a win-win situation to me!
The idea was a success! This past Wednesday we had our first meeting, and approximately 20 students attended. Two of the Peace Corps volunteers in Gori (Rachel and Kate) also joined, and it was great to have them there. The students were awesome— some seemed a little quiet or shy at first, but as soon as the discussion activities began, the room filled with conversation and laughter. The students seemed very smart and motivated, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better over the upcoming Wednesday afternoons. Even in just the few days that have passed since then, it’s been really nice to see more familiar and friendly faces while walking around the university or Gori. Oh, and in the end, I think most of the students actually came for the opportunity to practice English and not for the coffee, but I won’t complain 🙂 .
GU also featured the club on their website; you can check it out here: http://www.gu.edu.ge/ge/events/studenturi-gonisdzieba.page
Okay, that’s all for now; I’ll try to write more soon!