Teacher of English certification

Although I have taught Spanish, French and English for years, I felt that my teaching of English needed some TLC (Tender Loving Care), so I signed up for a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language certification course.

I did some research and found a great program at the University of Toronto Institute for Studies in Education. They have various Teacher of English as a Foreign Language certification courses, designed for different regions like Korea, China, or the Middle East, so the training is specific for those learners. Since I do not foresee working in those countries just yet, I just signed up for the plain vanilla course. Technically it is for teaching English abroad, but at the end of the day you have to teach to the people who want and need to learn regardless of where they might be. Geography is not an issue. Of course, living in a target language country makes it easier for the learner to immerse in the language and culture, but that is about it.

The program is well set up with a solid introduction to the English language, history, grammar, and then on to language learning theory, classroom management, assessments, etc. It is a very neat course and I highly recommend it. After sixteen years teaching, a lot of the material was review, which was still good for me to have. It was also good to explore some of the language learning theories that I only knew from hearsay like, for example, Jim Cummins BICS and CALP (Basic interpersonal communication skills versus Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). It is difficult to organize such a generic course especially for me since I am currently teaching graduate school. But overall, I highly recommend it!

Farewell Florida, hello Princeton

 

Well my Naples adventure did not pan out as expected. So after two years I have moved to Princeton, New Jersey.

The root problem is that Naples has a very skewed demographic. Naples is the preferred spot for retired, wealthy, white (read conservative) Midwesterners (Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa) to retire or semi-retire, so the population is them and the people who serve them. It is very difficult for a middle-aged, middle class, educated, single person to thrive. In fact, other than some fantastic colleagues, I did not make any friends in two years. And I am not a totally antisocial fellow: I go to church, volunteer, go to the gym, to yoga, to the Symphony, to the bar, the cigar lounge, coffee, I lived “Downtown”, etc.

So, yes, I am grossly generalizing, but at the end of the day that was my problem. I was not happy personally, professionally, socially, culturally. I was troubled by the lack of diversity and the normalization of this lack of diversity. To be fair, Naples sits on land stolen from the Everglades, the biggest sub-tropical jungle in the world, talk about environmental disasters! What it means is that it is very new, nobody lived there until the mass production of air conditioning in the middle of the 20th C, (although native Americans did live there). It does have a gorgeous beach, however, and I will miss running on it, in shorts, in the middle of January!

But enough of the griping and whining, that was the past.

I have accepted a position to teach French and Spanish at The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey. Mr. Hun, or rather, Prof. Hun was a professor of math at Princeton who dedicated his free time to helping and tutoring kids with math, (apparently including F. Scott Fitzgerald). He was so successful with his side gig that it became his main gig and he started a school in 1914. Princeton is like all good college towns a thriving, dynamic, diverse, young and restless town – 45 minutes from New York City!

I will be living on campus but not in a dorm, although I will have residential staff responsibilities, I will also coach the Girls Varsity Tennis team! I could not be more excited for this new chapter of my life. But first, Summer in Spain with the family: Finishing The Camino de Santiago that I started last summer, going to Mallorca with my nieces and nephew, and hanging out in the country.

Why a Ph.D.? (Revisited)

After the first year of my doctorate program, and with a couple of weeks of distance to reflect and let it all sink in, it is time to come up with some road markers, some conclusions:

The program is everything I was expecting for and much, much more.

I have learnt so much, I have “discovered” Medieval and 18th C. Spanish Lit. – where have I been hiding for my whole life? Part of the secret to my discovery has been having Profs. Domínguez, and Gómez-Castellano as my teachers. They are the real deal: knowledgeable, patient, encouraging, understanding, I could not have wished for better role models.

My colleagues are also top, top shelf, both in the Masters and Ph.D. programs, in Spanish French and Italian: Sam, Ruben, Thomas, Anne, Emily, Miguel, Zully, Andrew, Rob, Sarah, Drew, Massi, K-N, Martina, Gloria, et cetera, et cetera.

The other side of the coin, my teaching experience has also been out of sight. I have taught three fantastic classes of Intermediate level Spanish language, 203. I have been very impressed with my students, a great, diverse, fun, brilliant mix. It has been a thrill teaching – even at 8:00 am. We had great discussions, games, learning moments, fun and end of the term breakfasts at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe, where the students ordered their breakfasts in Spanish!

Beyond the in-house academic powerhouses, I have met people I never expected to meet: David Gies – Jedi Master of 18th Century Spanish Lit. (UVA) and Ana Rueda, the grande dame of 18th Century Spanish Lit. (UK) (who I even had the chance to pick up at the airport and have a drink before a lecture!). I also met novelist and journalist Rosa Montero and Spanish choreographer and ex-dancer Nacho Duato, not bad for a village. And speaking of dance, I saw The Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham and Marie Chouinard dance companies, the Monteverdi and Cleveland Orchestras, heard Verdi’s Aida, and over a dozen different takes on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, et cetera, et cetera.

Yes, the first semester was mayhem, and yes the last week of the Spring semester was Hell, but all in all,Magnolias Ale and Ruben Sunrise going to class Sunrise going to class a very positive experience.