This article appeared in The Herald of 3 February 2016
FOR the dozen students who have just finished a sought-after course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Tesol), language will be their passport to travel the world.
LEARNING TO TEACH: Some of the students who completed the Tesol course with their lecturer at NMMU last week are, from left, Hannah Njoroge, Cathy Crooks, lecturer Eileen Sheckle, Fezile Fani and Jihaad Allie. Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University applied languages lecturer and Tesol trainer Eileen Sheckle finished presenting the one-month course last week to students from across Africa.
“Teaching is not about your performance as the teacher but about what the pupil is learning and what you can learn from what they do,” she said.
Every year about 40 prospective students apply with the hope of being accepted into the course but only 12 can be admitted.
“Each applicant has to hold a degree in any course as well as write an essay to prove their command of the English language,” Sheckle said.
From arts and social science graduates to experienced teachers, the Tesol class of 2016 said they felt ready to handle a classroom.
For sociology honours student Fezile Fani, 21, her need for a purpose led her to join the Tesol course.
“I never thought I would consider teaching because someone else’s education is a big responsibility. But I wanted to travel and needed to have a purpose. Teaching was the obvious choice,” she said.
Her Kenyan classmate, Hannah Njoroge, 30, of Nairobi, said teaching was “just in her genes”.
“My parents own two schools back at home and are both teachers, so I’d step in when they needed a substitute teacher. After completing the course I want to go to South America and Asia and teach English there.”
Mali-born American Cathy Crooks, a missionary who now teaches in Mpumalanga, said the course had revolutionised her teaching methods.
“The course is incredibly intense and very demanding, but it’s one of the best experiences I have ever had,” Crooks said, noting that she could never go back to the way she used to teach.
“After teaching for six years without any formal qualification my way of teaching will be completely different from now on, as traditional teaching is about the teacher accomplishing their goal when it should be about the learner learning and not sitting there for 45 minutes absorbing information.”
Together with NMMU lecturers Jacqui Luck and Sharon Rudman, Sheckle introduced the internationally recognised course to the university in 2006. The three women started it when they noticed an increase in people of other professions who wanted to teach English.
“There is an interest from people who want to teach English but they don’t want to get a whole degree in it [English]; they want to teach and travel,” Sheckle said.
“They might be architects or IT graduates who just want to travel while paying off their student loans. With the course they get a certificate and the opportunity to do just that and return with a whole different world view.”
With a focus on speaking, reading, writing and grammar, the students are taught the invaluable skill of teaching by becoming the student.
“By pretending to be foreign learners in this class they learn and understand what it is like for the people they will be teaching,” Sheckle said.
She said the course was developed from a masters programme at the SIT Graduate School in Vermont.
“From this, they [SIT Graduate School] distilled the essence and the key learning areas into this intensive one-month course,” Sheckle said.
To put their skills into practice, the intermediate students are divided into two groups of six, with one group teaching adults in Gqebera township and the other teaching international students at NMMU.
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Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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