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How Studying Abroad Influenced The Way I Teach

Updated: Apr 13


City view

Recently, I had an encounter at work that got me thinking about how my experience studying abroad has influenced the way I teach.


Let me tell you about.

 

Back before I moved to Germany with my parents, we spent a year in Canada going to a Saturday morning German language school to prep for the move. Once in Germany, my sister and I were placed in public school, Gemeinsam Schule to be exact, in the same international class to learn German together, along with other international students.


Young Frau Hannah in Europe

We were the only students in the class who were from an English speaking country, so we only really had each other at school.


Some of the other international students spoke some English, but it was only ever a few words or phrases.


When we were in regular classes alongside native German students, which was not often, it was hard not to feel like a novelty. At times, the teachers would use us an an example of native English pronunciation, and some German kids would make fun of us for being English. They would call us "Canada" instead of our names, say rude things knowing we wouldn't understand them, etc.


It was really hard to be so young in such a different country, culture, and language. I'm glad I'm bilingual now, but needless to say, I don't have many fond memories of that time.


Cut to present day where I'm a second language teacher teaching English to 2 sisters. They are younger than my sister and I were when we moved, but they face a lot of the same struggles my sister and I did. Integrating into a new country, culture, and language is a lot to ask of anyone, even more so of children.



We're currently focused on prepping them for public school in the fall, so I feel a self inflicted pressure to prepare them as much as I can. When they get into public school, a lot will be different and it'll be a lot to adjust to.


They won't be in the same class, they will have to try working with native English students who may not be understanding or be considerate of their abilities thus far, they will have to share the help and attention with 30+ students instead of between the 2 of them, and so much more.


I think I feel this pressure, not only because I can empathize with their situation, but also because I recognize the impact and influence I have on their lives in Canada. As their first experience with a Canadian teacher, I am helping to creating a foundation for which, not only their ESL abilities will be built on, but also how their academic lives continue to develop in Canada.


I want them to have a better experience of immigrating than I did, a smoother transition into a whole new world. I also want them to have fond memories, as well as positive associations, with language learning and Canada as a whole. I want to do all I can as their teacher to make that a reality.


 

I'm definitely invested in their development. Needless to say, I'm definitely going to miss teaching them come the end of the school year.


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