Philippine Chronicle # 1: A Filipina Teaching in the USA
Now that the holiday season is officially over, I am also officially back to work – physically that is – starting next week. However, if you work in the academe as I do, you know that instruction does not begin and end inside the classroom. Setting the tone while making a good impression from students on the first day of school can be difficult without careful preparation. Thus, I got busy. I started on lesson planning as soon as the ball dropped on January 1st. For the past few days, I have been preparing my materials for the courses assigned to me this Spring Term.
I will teach four courses this semester: 2 ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) intensive writing courses, and 2 ESOL non-intensive grammar/writing courses. While this is not the first time I will teach grammar and writing, what makes this semester quite interesting is two of my classes, the non-intensive, are scheduled in the evenings. Wish me luck, considering our nippy winter nights. Yes, I have to brace 8 cold weeks even in our brief Florida winter.
This will be my third year teaching college here in Florida, and some of you may be asking the same question I asked myself when I made the decision to pursue a teaching career here in the US: Is it easy to teach college in the US? I must admit, it was a long journey for me. I remember the first time I heard one of my students addressed me as “professor”, I looked at my student and asked her, “Are you talking to me?” As an immigrant, who once felt I had to prove myself even to get credentialed to teach preschoolers (I taught previously at summer camps and Montessori preschool), I felt both honored and humbled to be addressed with such hefty title. Flashbacks of hard work and sacrifices suddenly appeared in my mind. Then I cringed. I do not think there is really such thing as “easy” in life. Even those who have become instant millionaires through winning a lottery have shown persistence in their quest at some point in time. As a matter of fact, I agree with Theodore Isaac Rubin who beautifully phrased it, “…easy (only) comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”
That being said, my answer to the question is it depends. I believe that successful teaching in the US is contingent on two important factors : 1) how prepared are you to tackle the job responsibilities, and 2) how much support do you have or get from the organization you are working for. For disclosure, I am not involved with any human resource department or hiring agency. Therefore, everything I discuss in this blog is solely my opinion based on my experience and observations. For no. 1 factor, I believe that some of the important qualifications in becoming a successful TESOL instructor/professor are: 1. education (preferred Master’s Degree in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, Foreign Language, or English); 2. teaching experience; 3. sensitivity to and understanding of cultural diversity; and, 4. personality and work values. For the latter, it is beyond your control. All you can do is to understand your organization more and be proactive.
Teaching in the US or anywhere else, in my opinion, is more complex than a teacher merely teaching a subject. There are other elements that are essential for this human experience of learning to be lasting. The abilities that help us to succeed in instruction include not only the ability to provide good content material. It is also important to render a positive environment and creative approach to make the lessons meaningful for our students’ lives. We have to remember that the end goal of education is not merely to teach a subject; it is to improve people’s lives. Oh yes, and make money too.
So, do I find my job easy? – Let’s just say, it is fulfilling!
“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on a cold iron.” – Horace Mann