I’m Grace Logan, a freshman in the School of International Service, and I am currently volunteering as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and tutor at the Next Step Public Charter School in Columbia Heights. I have connected CSLP with my Spanish 456 course, “Indigenous Peoples of Latin America”, as I’m often using my Spanish language skills when volunteering at the school.
I started volunteering at NSPCS only two weeks ago, and I frankly had no clue what to expect. I had been given a general idea of my duties by my onsite supervisor, but no specifics. I arrived early and was put into a classroom of about 15 ESL learners between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, a classroom teacher, and a teaching assistant. During the first hour of every session, I was to help translate information and lessons for the classroom teacher, and walk around to help individuals when they started working on their own. For the following two hours, I work as a tutor with a small group of three or four students. We all work on a group activity together, such as creating our own imagined phone conversation or learning how to fill out forms of consent.
I was initially nervous about working with students who were my age (and older) because I had only taught young children in the past, but I ended up enjoying it immensely. Having the same type of humor and maturity level as my students actually makes the lessons and the learning more fun. The students also truly care about learning English, which makes the process all the easier. It’s night school, so most of them are coming from working all day, but they all still clearly want to be there and want to learn. It’s a dedication to learning that I rarely see from the students in my own classes at American University.
Teaching English has always been something I’ve enjoyed, but I’ve especially loved it so far with this group of students. I have the opportunity to work on my Spanish for an extra three hours a week, while also helping my students to improve on their English. Many of the activities allow the learning to be fun and engaging, in contrast to the boring lectures often found in schools. While I enjoy this working part of the job, teaching English, my favorite part of the job has been having side conversations with my students during breaks or after we’ve finished our work for the day. They tell me all about their lives both here in DC and in their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala. I love learning about people and hearing their stories, and knowing more about my students only adds to the classroom experience.
Teaching at the Next Step Public Charter School has so far been an experience unlike any past teaching position I have ever held. Contrary to my expectations, I have truly enjoyed working with students my own age and find that it is often a more rewarding experience than working with young children; the students’ progress is quicker and more visible. I feel as though both I and the students have learned a lot already in these past two weeks, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester holds.