I cannot count the number of people who have asked me why I have chosen to study abroad in Lithuania. In their eyes most study abroad students are roaming the streets of Italy, basking in the Australian sun or gawking at London’s libraries yet I have chosen to venture to the post-soviet tundra of Lithuania. But the opportunity to teach English as a foreign language here has been a blessing! In the cornfields of Indiana, where I attend university, I have intensively studied the science TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages); however, there have not been many opportunities to teach and practice. During the summer I live in Chicago where I can teach English as a second language, but there are no opportunities to teach English to students in a foreign context. Also, being able to speak the native language of the majority of my students has been very helpful but can sometimes be used as a crutch. Coming to Lithuania has given me an unbelievable opportunity to challenge myself as a teacher of English.
In Lithuania I have administered an English placement test for beginning adult learners, served as a judge in a school’s English competition, weekly tutored two adult learners in English, interviewed for a full-time job as an English teacher at a language school in Klaipeda, edited countless papers of LCC students, and taught three weekly classes in the local secondary school as a practicum student. In the past two months I have had more opportunities to prune my abilities than I could ever have imagined. It has been a wonderful experience to practice teaching all of these students but it has been a challenge as well.
|Alicia. Photo by Jenica|
The biggest challenge is actually not a language barrier, but a cultural barrier. In America I have been instructed to teach in a very creative and interactive format; however, my interpretation of this teaching strategy, I have come to learn, is not always appropriate for this cultural context. It has been challenging for me to balance creativity with being culturally sensitive so that I can best instruct the students. I have also been pushed to teach in areas in which I am not confident. For example, grammar is a major component of English learning in EFL curriculum whereas in my internship students were from an ESL (English as a second language) and grammar is not emphasized at that particular school’s curriculum. These experiences and challenges are growing me as a teacher and I cannot wait to share these experiences with my colleagues and use these skills with my future students both inside and outside of the United States. Teaching in Lithuania has given me the tools and confidence to teach in many other different cultural contexts and I am so blessed to have such an opportunity.