Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teaching philosophy

Today was another gorgeous spring day and I just couldn't bear the thought of teaching for 9 straight hours inside the school. So, what did I do? I took it outside.

I asked the mothers of my Kids Box students (three of them aged 7-8, all cousins) if I could conduct our class outside this afternoon. I was worried they would say no, although to be honest, I would have understood. Would I theoretically let my child venture outside with a stranger? Um, no. But luckily they were fine with the idea (I think it helps that I've been teaching their children for the past three months and that I teach their other cousin, aka Lebron, out in Belyaninovo), so I led the excited three musketeers out to the courtyard behind the school.

I remember reading a book when I was younger about Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher. She was completely unable to get through to the deaf and blind Helen at first, until one day when they were outside and Anne had the brilliant idea of running Helen's hand under cold water while signing the word "WATER" into her palm. Suddenly, it clicked - Helen connected the sensation of the water on her skin with the jumbled up symbols being spelled out onto her palm, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I'm a big believer in Anne Sullivan's approach to learning. Learning should be FUN, most of all, and memorable. When learning evokes as many senses as possible - sight, scent, hearing, taste, and touch - the student has an easier time remembering and applying the new information. Sure, I could teach weather vocabulary words to my students from inside the classroom, but it was through running around outside, pointing to birds and trees and flowers, letting the kids feel the warm sun on their faces, that the learning process was made both magical and memorable.

I made up "Pirate Treasure Maps" for the kids, a skill I learned to develop last summer while I was working as a nanny. I'm pretty sure I drew a new pirate map every day for about three weeks while the kids I was in charge of were going through an intense pirate phase! Today Larisa, Marina, and Daniel had to follow their treasure maps around to different places in the courtyard, drawing pictures of the new English words I had written on the map - bird, rock, tree, etc. and at the end of the hunt, we all had some treats and juice!

After the vocabulary lesson, we started playing some games - hide and go seek, tag, running races - which was really fun because I was teaching them English words at the same time, like "Run!" and "Ready, set, go!" as well as getting them to practice their numbers when it was their turn to be "it" and count. I noticed one boy sitting in the courtyard watching us with interest, and then over the course of the next ten minutes, more and more children started gathering to watch us run around shouting in English. Finally, one of them worked up the courage to say in broken English, "What is your name?"

"Katie!" I called out. "Do you want to join in?" He didn't really understand the words I was saying, but my smile and beckoning gestures made the point and soon enough there were five extra kids joining in on my lesson!

It was so much fun but too soon, our forty-five minute lesson was up and we had to head back into the school to meet their mothers. Judging from their flushed faces, big grins, and excited babbling away in Russian to their mums, I think its safe to say that my outside lesson was a success!

I'm really falling in love with teaching. I've gotten to teach and be around children in other scenarios, as I lifeguarded and taught swimming lessons for several years and then worked as a nanny last summer. But these past eight months teaching has really made me realize how much fulfillment and JOY I get out of teaching kids. As I was racing around today making a complete fool of myself in a hopping race around the courtyard, all I could think was, "I am so happy right now."

I used to think I had it all figured out when it came to my future, my career I wanted, my "life plan" so to speak. Now I'm really not totally sure what I want to do, but I'm becoming increasingly sure that it should be something to do with teaching and children.

Anyways, I know this is kind of a boring post but I really just wanted to share my experience teaching today and just how much happiness it brought me, running around with a bunch of Russian kids and feeling the warm sun on my face!

1 comment:

  1. Not a boring post at all Katie. I loved it.