Originally posted on August 23rd 2016 on my tumblr.
I’m now in my fourth week of work here in Casablanca, and I’ve begun to settle into the routine. Teaching at a private language center is worlds away from teaching at a primary or secondary school, so I thought I’d share a bit about my new normal.
First, the student demographic is entirely different. Instead of kids, I teach adults that range from college students in their late teens to business executives in their mid-fifties. I loved my little Spanish children in Madrid, and I also enjoyed working with teenagers at the high school in Virginia, but from a logistical perspective, teaching motivated adults is dramatically easier. Instead of trying to impart knowledge while simultaneously keeping crayons out of mouths or cell phones out of hands, I am able to focus entirely on the task at hand, which is growing and assessing my students’ understanding of English. I can’t begin to explain how luxurious it feels to finish an explanation without once being interrupted by “Is this going to be on the test?” “Can I go to the bathroom?” or “Pablo’s hitting me!”
It also helps that my class size now is a tiny fraction of an average class in school. My most common class size, in fact, is one! I teach two types of classes here. This language company uses blended learning, where the curriculum is a mix of teacher-taught and online material. First a student completes the online portion (which includes listening, speaking, reading, watching videos, and written exercises) with optional assistance from Moroccan tutors, and then they have an assessment with a native teacher: yours truly. So for these classes, I’m provided with a different lesson plan for each of the 68 units, and I use this plan for a one hour “encounter” where the goal is to determine the student’s grasp of the material from the online unit. The maximum number of students in these classes is four, and usually there are only one or two.
The second type of class that I teach is called a “complementary class.” As you can imagine, these aim to complement the online portion of the curriculum by providing extra speaking practice and the opportunity to ask questions about grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and so on. These classes have up to eight students, and my role is primarily that of a discussion leader. We usually have an article to read and discuss as well as some specific games or group activities to encourage every student to speak up.
Overall, I like the new job a lot so far. It includes most of my favorite aspects of teaching, such as explaining grammar and creating new activities to help people learn, but it minimizes the parts that I found more difficult, like multitasking and discipline. Sometimes I do miss the chance to be silly and do arts and crafts, and sometimes I get intimidated by the successful executives twice my age (especially if they don’t know the material and it’s my responsibility to fail them and make them repeat the unit), but both of these issues are easy to manage. For the first, I still have the opportunity for my goofier language learning games when I teach complementary classes and the occasional Saturday social club. And for the second, I know that it’s good for me to learn poise, confidence, and professionalism from some of Morocco’s best and brightest, even while they are learning English from me.