Friday, October 26, 2012

First day of University...Not as a Student, but as Lecturer...and “Good Cop"?

I think it's wise to give you some background on what my Fulbright assignment is here in Malta so that the title makes sense to you.  As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malta, your responsibilities, in a nutshell, are to work as an English teaching assistant in Secondary Schools (the equilvalent of Middle School to early High School in the States), teach an English related course at the University of Malta (U o M) as well as collaborate on research projects through the university and/or on our own in the Secondary schools, along with making time for volunteer work.  We started our Secondary school assignments a couple of weeks ago but it wasn't until this past Wednesday that we started the U o M course.

Now if you recall from my "month mark" blog, I originally thought that the U o M assignment would be one of the lesser favorable aspects of my Fulbright responsibilities because, well to be quite honest, I have never taught university students.  My teaching experience extends mainly to Elementary school students (or Primary as they say in Europe) and minor experience working with the H.S. level.  So as you can imagine this was a bit daunting for me.  Given that the entire framework for the course was being redesigned somewhat added to the anxiety, but it is a core requirement of the fellowship, so basically it's do or die.

Well, let's just say what came of the two hours was something I would've never expected, not after the first class anyway.  I LOVED IT!  Like REALLY LOVED IT! Like EXCITED, LOOKING FORWARD TO WEDNESDAYS LOVED IT!  What took place in the first hour was mainly a filtering process on making sure the students signed up for the correct course (a lot of bureaucratic stuff that I won't go into).  Let's just say they had the fear of God put in them and Melissa and I were left to try to diffuse the tension.  LOTS of smiles, LOTS of head nods in understanding, LOTS of reassurence given that our sole purpose was to help the students any way we can and in the process have fun with it...because you know teaching should actually BE fun and engaging...not that many seem to be aware of that these days.  So as the fear of God was placed upon this class of 27 students and our smiles seemed to ease the shock on their faces, they eventually were able to relax a bit.  We were then able to actually talk to the students, not address them as "Lecturer" to student but actually talk to them and explain to them what we would be doing in the class.

Here is where the “GOOD COP" part of my title comes in.  After the students settled down, one student said to me...“You were playing Good Cop/Bad Cop (with finger pointed at me, a wink in his eye and a smile on his face)...YOU were Good Cop!  Thank you for that".  That comment made my month...for the first time I felt as if I can really, truly make a difference here and go figure that it will be with the U o M International students.  After that, it was pie.  Melissa and I stood up on a platform, worked in tandem to explain the outline of the course, spoke about ourselves, learned about our students and laughed with them...A LOT!  It felt really good up there, almost too good for me because I am not always the most comfortable speaking in front of people.  It goes to show that if you set the right tone, and put out good vibes, you get good vibes back.  The students were so comfortable with us by the end of the hour that they stayed after class to talk to us, to get to know us more and learn about where we are from in the U.S. and what it is like.  I don't know about any of you, but I know that is a rarity in college in the U.S.

I don't know, but if this positive feeling continues through the entire course, and it turns out to be a more favorable part of my assignment (as I really believe it will be), the possibility of more studies could very well be in my future.  It's funny how things play out sometimes because I had a professor tell me that once I was done with my Master's, I will eventually need to go for my PhD because it is a fluid “next step", that it is something I should want for myself.  I thought my professor was crazy for suggesting it (and she wasn't the only one who did) but now I see where she was coming from.  This experience is going to challenge and push me in ways that will force me outside of my comfort zone and after Wednesday, I am actually becoming more and more okay with that because life is about opportunity and learning and growing, so who knows what the future has in store for me.  For now, I am happy to be "Good Cop" for a group of International students because that is what every teacher should be for their students no matter what level you teach:-).

Until next time all:-)


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