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After attending an English as a Second Language School and spending a shit load of money attempting to learn how to teach Italians how to speak my native tongue, I have come to the conclusion that, A) I don’t even know my native tongue, and B) I have completely forgotten ALL of the grammar rules. (Did I even know the grammar rules?)
It’s impossible to re-learn grammar in 3 days after 30+ years NOT studying it, and even harder to attempt to teach it to people who barely know nouns. I know this because I am still enrolled in an Italian language course that I sometimes wonder why I bother, because everyone in Florence speaks some form of English, no matter how badly, and one can get by just fine! But what I have gained, is a sincere empathy for my Italian instructors! Some of these people were Italian language teachers in real Uni’s before they started teaching Italian as a Second Language and I can see the sheer frustration on their faces when I have a blank look on mine.
There were times during class when I just wanted to go running out the door! But after spending enough money to have taken a really nice vacation in say…. Morocco, I realized that I had to see it through to the end! And see through I did. I suffered through a post “lost baby” traumatized director of the school (who also taught us and was an insane micro-manager). A mad teacher-crush and a dimwitted secretary who insisted on making copies on the ONLY copy machine in the school, RIGHT before we were to teach our lessons. We also had to pay for our classroom copies to teach their students for free… There was also the 15-year-old computers and monitors that only used Italian language (Hello!!! This is an ENGLISH LANGUAGE SCHOOL!), one of which didn’t even work and the keyboards were not only broken but the keys stuck together! After forking out that amount of money you’d think they could at least invest in a working keyboard!! €25-€50 max??
Ok, so I’ve bitched enough about the school but one thing I realized when teaching someone a new language is that without the basic rules in life, all the grammar in the world isn’t going to matter.
If you’ve ever read the book, “All I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulghum then you will get my point…
“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
At the end of the course, which has not only has broken my wallet, but also my very soul (insert dramatic sigh here), we had to create a portfolio and in the portfolio a Teaching and Learning Philosophy. I wanted to put Robert Fulghums’ ideas about kindergarten in there, but alas, that would be plagiarism. So, I will just add my philosophy, and if I am lucky enough to get a job and stay in Italy then I will be counting on everyone who reads this to keep me grounded, honest and sane, while I tip-toe through teaching the brambles and barbs known as the English Language…
1.) I believe that we are all students first. No one started off as a teacher knowing everything.
2.) I believe that we all learn by example. In order to have interested students we must first be interesting teachers.
3.) I can learn just as much from my students as they can learn from me. And therefore, always taking a personal interest is key.
4.) You will only ‘get’ as much as you ‘give.’ Teaching can be difficult at times and everyone has a bad day. I will try to keep my personal problems, personal and focus whole-heartedly on my students while in the classroom. Their time is just as valuable as mine.
5.) I want my students to always be involved in the learning process. Therefore I will strive to make my lessons as interesting as possible and try to keep a sense of humor during the ‘dark times…’ i.e; exams.
6.) I will continually update my learning process by attending classes and seminars that will teach me how to be a better teacher. I will strive to stay current in the field of the English Language and the world around me.
7.) I will spend as much time as is possible with my students, until they have a grasp on what I am trying to teach them. It is important for me that my students take something, no matter how small, away with them when they leave my classroom.
8.) I will continually ask for help from my fellow teachers and mentors and never be the kind of teacher who thinks their way is the only way. When I do encounter people like this, I will gracefully smile and say, “Thank You for your input.”
9.) I will make every attempt to learn the native language and customs of the people in the country that I am teaching in.
10.) I will have a positive outlook on negative situations and I will always smile. I will smile until my face feels like it is going to crack.
My poor students…🙈🙉🙊