It is 5:06 AM and my alarm clock goes off. The sun fails to shine through my bedroom window, as Chicago remains in darkness. I climb out of bed, feed my dog, shower, and plug in the coffee maker. As I get ready, I keep a close eye on the clock, as I have to be ready to teach my Indonesian students at 6:15 AM sharp. I make coffee, and log onto Skype. My English ONE binder rests on the left side of the desk, while my lesson plans sit on the right side. I'm ready to teach English to Indonesian students enrolled in English ONE School in Madiun, Indonesia.
English ONE School opened its doors to Indonsian students eager to learn English this past December. It is located in Madiun, Indonesia, and the founder of the school is Risna Moy. I ran across an email from my graduate school's advisor regarding a need for native English teachers to help teach English to Indonesian students via Skype. Risna hired myself and one other native English speaker to serve as the two native English-speaking teachers for the English ONE School. Both Greg and I teach each month; I teach the first two weeks of classes, and Greg teaches the last two weeks of each month.
Madiun, Indonesia (a part of the province of East Java), and Chicago have a twelve-hour time difference. My class runs from 6:15 AM to 6:45 AM, Monday through Friday, the first two weeks of each month, while it goes from 6:15 PM to 6:45 PM in Madiun, Indonesia. The first week consists of elementary students, and the second week is made up of middle and high school students. The students range from beginning to advanced levels, and the class size varies from one student up to seven students. In the suburbs of Chicago, where I teach, I go by Ms. Jahraus, but the English ONE students call me Ms. Ashley.
The first lesson I had with the elementary English ONE students this past January was an energy rush, as I was met with a wave of welcoming smiles, waves, and friendly remarks such as, “Hello Ms. Ashley,” “Good morning Ms. Ashley,” and “Thank you for teaching us Ms. Ashley!”
The week beforehand, Risna, or Ms. Risna, emailed an excel document, breaking down each class (showing the time in Madiun and Chicago) as well as the topic to be covered during the 30 minute lesson. Lesson topics vary from family, business and advertising, to traveling, maps, and food. The evening before a lesson, I write the English ONE School an email with an attached file containing about three pages of images. Past lessons have included pictures of a McDonald's advertisement, Gatorade ad, and a Nike ad, for the business and advertising lesson. Another lesson plan for family had various pictures of families from all over the world, including Chicago and Indonesia. This way, the teachers at English ONE can print out the images for our lesson.
It is quite unreal to simply teach a lesson, while I am sitting in Chicago, holding the same images the students are studying in Madiun. I carry over my fluid teaching philosophy from my graduate courses, which mostly revolve around H. Douglas Brown's twelve principles of teaching ESL. The three principles that stand out the most are meaningful learning, anticipation of reward, and the language/culture connection. Meaningful learning is evident in all of the lesson plans as English ONE's topics always relate to the student's lives and connect to their needs in their daily life. In all of my lessons, I insert B.F. Skinner's Reward Principle as often as possible. Most positive feedback is through praise and compliments, encouraging the students to speak as much as possible throughout the lesson. All of my lessons are student-centered as I only have 30 minutes to teach, so I focus the activities and conversation on the students, having them do the majority of speaking and work.
I always begin each class informally asking the students to share what they did the previous weekend. Then, I have the students share their partner's stories. After the conversation dwindles, I dive into the prepared lesson, using the images we both have printed out, ready to examine and explore on our desks. Sometimes I simply have the students label their notes with the lesson's topic, and I have them write down what they see in the picture. After a few minutes, the students share what they wrote down. Then I dig deeper, asking the student higher level questions such as:
“Compare the first image with the second image; what are some similarities and differences?”
“Can you make any connections between the two pictures?”
To end the lesson, I relate the topic back to the students' lives. While doing this, I do my best to have a language and culture connection between English and the United States, and other English-speaking countries. I share American pop culture with the students, famous Chicago tourist attractions, and current events going on in the USA. It is a two way street, as I have the students share their Indonesian culture as well. It is a learning experience for both myself as a teacher, and themselves as students.
For instance, when we were discussing various places to travel in the world, I asked the students where they would like to plan a trip. To the beach? To Paris, France? What about Chicago? Follow up questions would include, “Who would you take with on your trip?” and “What would you take?” “What would you miss most in Madiun while you are gone?”
As soon as my MacBook's clock strikes 6:45 AM, which is 6:45 PM in Madiun, the lesson has to come to an abrupt end. I quickly summarize everything we learned, and tell the students, “See you soon! Have a good night!”
The students harmoniously respond, “Bye Ms. Ashley! Thank you Ms. Ashley!”
The students as of late have been yearning to have longer lessons with the native English speaking teachers, as they exclaim they are too short! I agree, and I am anticipating positive growth within English ONE and its curriculum, especially with Greg and I as the native English teachers. I look forward to growing with English ONE School, as I close my MacBook shut after each lesson feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, giving myself the motivation and drive to finish my Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, as well as embark on my one hour commute down the Edens highway to the north suburbs of Chicago to teach yet again, for eight hours.
I currently hold my English teaching certificate, but ever since working with ESL students, I yearn to work in an ESL classroom, not only in Madiun, Indonesia, but also in Chicago. Perhaps my master's degree will take me overseas; only time will answer this question.