I took another plunge this past week and went back to school. I started a “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” (TESOL) certification program at our local Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Workforce Development system. My first day’s experience was pretty positive.
I actually started this program two weeks ago, but the first day’s class (Saturday January 23) was snowed out. Modern education technology (stuff that wasn’t around the last time I took a college course) saved the day and class was held via on-line presentations and a short quiz. This past Saturday was my first day in an actual college classroom since about 1999.
The TESOL program is structured for 16 Saturday classes plus a final Saturday/Sunday practicum, which counts as the final exam. Assuming I complete the program with passing grade, I’ll earn a certificate for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in adult education programs. The course is scheduled to be finished at the end of May, which is a good thing as any later in the season would seriously cut into my boating and summer activities schedule.
Some things are important.
My first day in a classroom was nice. My fellow students range in age from early twenties to my age and a bit older. Our teacher was obviously experienced as both a classroom facilitator and knowledgeable in TESOL. Most of the day was spent in group activities where we were involved in doing things, as opposed to death by PowerPoint presentations.
I was nervous about how the class would go, as my last experience in a community college back in 1999 was a disaster. I had just retired from the Navy at the ripe old age of 39 (long time ago), living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and decided to gain some formal education in computer programming. That was after I crashed and burned in a Master’s Business Administration (MBA) program, which is another story and shall be told at another time.
The programming class was composed of people in their teens and very early 20’s (except me), and the class was taught by an old guy who either knew nothing about teaching or didn’t care about teaching. Either way, after several times when the teacher showed up very late for class unprepared to teach, then taught the same topic several times over, I stopped showing up. A computer sciences class taken a year later was an equal disaster, when the instructor obviously knew less about computer sciences then me. Which prompted me to ask myself why I was there, then followed through on the obvious answer.
I’m happy to say that my first day back in a classroom was positive, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the TESOL program.
I spent a year as a volunteer ESL instructor in 2008-2009, working through our local Hogar Hispano ESL program run by Catholic Charities, and really enjoyed the experience. I enjoy teaching, and was overwhelmed with the dedication and interest the students exhibited. My single biggest regret from that experience was that I did not understand how to effectively conduct an ESL class, and could not give the students what they needed.
I’m hoping to use my soon-to-be TESOL credentials as either a volunteer teacher, or as a part-time retirement job in my much-anticipated retirement years. Although I look forward to not working full time, I still want something to help keep my mind active in between time spent on boats, hiking, and traveling.
We’ll see how this latest adventure turns out.