Sunday, January 22, 2006

I may get defensive, but sea cucumbers are much worse!

I am applying for an English teacher training course. Although I have been teaching English for 16 months now, I have never received any formal pedagogical training. In fact all too often when someone asks me, “But WHY is it that way, Claire,” I usually respond, “It just is. Accept it and move on.” Probably not the best answer. As part of the application I have to finish a “pre-interview task.” This was the last question:

“Think about your own experiences as a learner. Think back to your time in school, or maybe you have been an adult learner. Please describe a successful learning experience you have had and what made it so successful.”

This was hard! I also think it is a great question. I have posted my answer below. If you have a memorable learning experience, post it!

This was a very difficult question to answer, and I thought about it for an hour. I remembered many great teachers and professors, but I could not remember specific lessons. Mostly memories of great elementary school teachers flooded my mind. However, my 6th grade science teacher stands out the most. Ms. Salvo taught earth science in North Charleston, South Carolina (USA). Marine biology was the theme for the year. We spent every lesson talking about different aspects of the ocean and every week she read us books about the lives of marine
creatures. She would bring in seaweed and shells. We got to touch things and draw them. In the spring, 50 students were selected from all of the earth science classes to go on an over night camp on Seabrook Island, South Carolina. I was lucky enough to go. I will never forget the things I learned about the ocean during that week. For example, sea cucumbers spit out their stomachs when they feel threatened. Those types of things definitely leave an impression on an
11 year old! I also remember the smell of the mud flats as we walked through the swamp at low tide. It was not good. I lost a shoe in that mud. The entire year left a deep impression on me. Although marine biology could be very dull, the teacher used a variety of methods to make the ocean come to life. The trip at the end reinforced tedious facts by making science real. I often think of teaching English the same way. Grammar is boring, but I must make the language
come alive for my students.

PS: The camp was called Saint Christopher and it totally rocked! Also, the book that my teacher read was about a hermit crab that lived in a tidal pool. He is born and grows up and has a totally traumatic experience when he has to find a new shell. I cannot remember the name of it, but if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

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