TAPIF Lesson Plans | First week interrogations!
While everyone’s experiences at their schools were pretty different, one fairly common experience was being grilled by students the first “observation week.” Some of the questions I got included:
“Do you have children?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
And my personal favorite: “Are you a vegetable?” (The student was trying to say “vegetarian.”)
The first two weeks of TAPIF are supposed to be an “observation period,” where you’re supposed to sit in on classes and learn from how teachers run their classes. For the first week though, I went around to my classes so the teacher could introduce me to them, and pretty much always, ask me questions about myself.
Generally, the students had pretty standard questions prepared (“Where do you live? What languages do you speak? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do you have any pets?”), but every so often, they’d pull out some more creative ones of their own! I didn’t really need to prepare anything for the first week, but here are some things that were (or could have been) helpful to know beforehand:
- Take in some visuals: I believe I took in some brochures to show them what my hometown was like (and to talk about Sleepy Hollow Cemetery tours!), but it would have been great to take some printed out photos of me with my family or some NYC postcards as well, so that I could talk about the names of family members or famous American monuments. My teachers often had me use a map in the back of the textbook to show where I was from, but that’s another good visual aid to have handy.
- If you do have access to a computer/projector, you could have some images on Powerpoint. One of the other assistants told me that he pulled up Google maps on the projector and showed them just how far different American cities are from each other by car, which is a great way to help students see the vast scale of the U.S. if that’s where you’re from!
- Prepare some questions to ask the students: For one of my classes, the teacher asked me to ask the students some questions. I don’t remember exactly what I ended up asking them, but because I was with the whole class, certain questions could get kind of tedious. Some teachers wanted me to ask students to spell their names or tell me their birthdays. This would also be a great chance to do some polls; I don’t remember if it was me or another assistant who mentioned having asked students what they think of Americans or the United States. I definitely asked this later on in the year and got “McDonald’s.”
- Speak slowly, enunciate, repeat yourself, and write on the board: It took a while for students to get used to my heavy American accent, so I needed to slow down a lot, enunciate, and repeat myself. For example, I usually pronounce the number “25” as “twen’y-five” instead of “twenty-five.” That dropped “t” made a huge difference. I generally tried to keep my pronunciation pretty natural once I started working with students so that they could get used to hearing a native speaker, but for the first day, it can help to be a little clearer so students aren’t as worried about not being able to understand.
- Along similar lines, I generally liked to repeat myself, and if students still didn’t get what I was saying, write it on the board. When it came to my name, I’d usually say it, spell it (and give them a chance to write it down if they were taking notes), and then write it on the board while repeating the spelling aloud. Students often didn’t know how to say the letter “y” or mixed up “e” and “i,” so it doesn’t hurt to review spelling.
I think I answered everything pretty honestly, and for the most part, my teachers were great about being supportive and helping me out. According to the orientation training we had, we’re technically not supposed to be used as “TVs” and should be there to observe classes, but by that time we’d already done it! I actually really enjoyed meeting all of the students and it was generally pretty adorable.
I was also pleasantly surprised that as a POC, they didn’t probe too much about it; I think I got asked to write down or say some words in Telugu (an Indian language), but for the most part, it didn’t come up unless we were talking about which countries I’d been to or unless my teacher brought it up.
If you have other ideas or questions, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments below!