From Tutor to Business English Teacher and Mentor: My Personal Teaching Experience
2019-06-10 Elizaveta Pachina Alumni Experiences
Although I have never formally been a teacher, I have had the opportunity to teach and tutor in an informal way. As an international student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, I was not allowed to work off-campus, so in my second semester, I joined the tutoring center and began to help a variety of different students with the various subjects I had studied in previous semesters. I assisted students with retail math, writing, textile science, and a few other subjects. I did this during my second semester, and then again in my fifth semester when I returned from my exchange program in Florence, Italy.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Mira S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Dealing with various groups of students
The experience of dealing with many different students taught me a great deal about how people learn. The difficulty with group classes is that they may be taught in a method that does not work with a particular student’s learning style. Often the opportunity to go through the material one-on-one was very helpful for students. Many of them had learning disabilities that were not disclosed to me. From a privacy standpoint, this was understandable: I’m sure nobody with a learning disability wants it to be broadcasted to strangers. However, it made teaching much more challenging. But for the most part, I was able to overcome these difficulties, by some focused study. Overall, the grades of my students improved.
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Understanding the learning styles
There was a menswear design student, however, who continued to get D level marks, in spite of my efforts. He was frustrated, and so was I. He complained to the center that I wasn’t teaching him properly, and while they supported me stating that nobody else seemed to have this problem, it felt like a very big personal failure. So, I set my mind to overcome his difficulties and gave some thought to how I could do it differently.
During our next session, I began to draw pictures.
When I saw the spark of understanding in his eyes, I finally understood what I had been doing wrong. I had been going through the textbook with him, rather oblivious to the fact that his eyes were blank. He had a form of dyslexia that made reading text very difficult and therefore could not learn that way. Although I have horrible artistic skills, once I started sketching it out, his grades started to jump. It was then that I truly realized how differently people learn.
Tutoring was exhausting, and it was at that point that I developed immense respect for teachers. The amount of emotional energy you had to give to the student after student was daunting at times, and yet it felt so good to see them succeed. It was rewarding to be able to play a role in their success story.
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Working with Business English Students
When my visa finally ran out in the United States, I returned to Toronto, Canada to work in the retail industry. I worked for a company, now known as TJX Canada, which brought employees into their planning and buying departments, through a six-week classroom training program named PACE. I completed the training program with great results and was placed in my department the following month. As I gained experience in my role, I was often called on to do on the job training with new PACE participants, and then later, to teach some of the classes. Their training and development methodologies were so sophisticated, that I still refer to them today.
Teaching in a classroom setting was overwhelming in a very different way than tutoring had been. The first class I had to teach was a type of shipping strategy that in all likelihood they’d never have to use and was a decidedly boring topic. To keep them engaged and entertained, and to ensure they did not fall asleep at their desks, I did use techniques such as games and humor. I went on to continue these types of activities for the rest of the time I was at the company.
In my current role, as a part of my family business, in India, I often work one-on-one with junior team members to develop their writing skills. I have asked them to read, summarise and review books because I feel that reading is a key part of language development. I’ve also been designing an onboarding course for new employees to familiarise them with the various types of businesses that we are involved with. While this is not teaching in the strictest sense, it does require to think about the way students will learn best. Now, with our recent acquisition of a stake in the education business, I am looking forward to more formally developing my teaching skills.
Are you ready to start your teaching career?
The ITTT course was very helpful in drawing my attention to things I may not have thought about, while training, teaching or tutoring informally. I feel a little nervous, but definitely more prepared than I would have been otherwise. I enjoyed exploring and understanding various techniques that I might, one day, be able to incorporate into my classes. I’m looking forward to this next step in my teaching journey, and to what the future will bring.
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