Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best of 2010: Teaching

From January to April of this year, I taught a Business French course to professionals at a real estate company in downtown Toronto, and teaching was one of the most wonderful, one of the happiest and most rewarding experiences I've had this year...

(click for more after the jump)

...Sometimes when everything in my life seemed like it was spiralling out of control or falling apart (working two jobs while finishing a postgrad program can do that do a person), teaching seemed to be the only thing going right in my life.  In my classroom, I was confident, I enjoyed myself, I had the best students in the entire world and it was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

I was given a lot of control over the curriculum - I even chose the textbook.  I helped to co-edit some of the in-house materials for the company I worked for, etc.  All this gave me a lot of ownership to what I was doing, and it just really made me throw myself completely into the role.

My students completely made the experience.  I had the largest class (with 10 students) and everyone was always very respectful of me, even though I was obviously very young, and everyone really put a lot of effort into learning.  They were very receptive to me and they were also very supportive of me.  They gave me a lot of encouragement and positive feedback, and I really appreciated that.

When I made the announcement that I was moving to Spain after the course ended, they even planned a whole party for the last day!  My company provided me with a small platter of cookies, but my students planned a whole pot luck, complete with bruschetta, noodles, salad, meat, desserts, drinks - the works.  Then they presented me with a huge gift, which was totally unexpected but really touching and very much appreciated - a travel guide to Spain, a French goodbye card all signed by them, a fresh gerbera daisy, as well as Mastercard and Starbucks gift cards.

I like teaching languages because I think that speaking different languages gives people different perspectives on how they view the world.  Languages say a lot about culture.  Chinese, for example, is notoriously sharp, choppy and almost brusque.  All words only have one syllable, and putting two to four words together can convey a whole back story or some legend with profound meaning.  This shows to me that Chinese culture really emphasizes and values efficiency.  Get straight to the point, say a lot with as little effort and as few words as possible.

French is flowery and pretty.  The French "r" is a sound that a lot of people have problems with.  And the French are very, very proud of their beautiful, difficult language - so much so that I have named the attitude "language hubris."  Authenticity and regionality play a very important role.  If you speak with an accent that is not familiar to a native Francophone, your French will very possibly be deemed unauthentic, even if you simply grew up in a different city from them, and you will be viewed as The Other.  They are so proud that they even have a whole institution set up to determine all the rules of the language, and everyone has to listen to them.

Spanish is romantic and beautiful and very multisyllabic.  Spanish words, although not as infamous as German words, can be very, very long and can contain many, many syllables.  This shows their love for enjoying life.  They don't mind taking their time doing things as long as they enjoy it, they make waiting a pleasure, even a party in some instances - so they don't mind listening and waiting for the full meaning of a person's sentences because their language is so pretty.  There's a very happy rhythm to it that, while not as distinct as Italian, still gives Spanish a very musical quality.  Or at least that's how I view it. :P

So yes -  teaching was one of the best things that happened to me this year and I'm very grateful that I had this opportunity, as well as the chance to meet and teach my wonderful, wonderful students. :)

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