Gabriel Guillen: Teaching & Learning Language in a Global Community
May 18, 2010
When I lived in Spain, I was the coordinator for Student Affairs and Integration for Middlebury College, opening Madrid’s door for American and international students. In today’s world, where there is global communication, and many people travel beyond their countries’ boundaries, English is a must for everyone – whether we like it or not. In my case, it was even more important that I spoke good English because I was working for a US college.
So, I enrolled myself in the Monterey Institute’s Intensive English Program during the summer of 2006. I couldn’t have had a better experience. I improved my oral and writing skills in the program more than I ever did in the past. In fact, it goes beyond. They were professional, encouraging, and open to students from all over the planet. Monterey opened my eyes not only to California but the rest of the world.
In 2008, I received a fellowship by the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to teach Spanish and promote Spanish culture at a Texas university. I was confident I’d get the job. Especially after my English program, I knew I’d be speaking to a lot of my future students in English, and also instructing them in the language. And I actually got the position! I wouldn’t have gotten it without my experience in Middlebury and the English course in Monterey.
I’m currently teaching intermediate and advanced Spanish. I use some of my English teachers’ strategies and tips for assisting my own students. I do activities like playing Scrabble, cooking or debating about university and life controversies. I give my students feedback on their writing, and also encourage them to give self-evaluations on videos of their performances. I try to make it fun by using comedy clips from the Internet, and cartoons. I basically want to foster a good atmosphere with some humor. It is also rewarding to see student's progress and to see them gradually eliminate stereotypes about Spain and Latin America.
The best thing about being a teacher is that I am not just a teacher. I am also a learner. I am not just learning to become a better teacher, but I’m also learning from my students’ experiences and opinions.