Summer is having its last hurrah, as we head into autumn and cooler weather. We’re well into the new term at Wright College, halfway through the first 8-week session. The semester is divided into two parts, with new registrations each 8 weeks, so sometimes a sense of continuity gets lost between the new and returning students.
At long last, after paying my dues for two years with split shifts, morning and evening classes with long gaps in between, and hideous commutes, I now have the perfect teaching schedule. My classes are now back-to-back, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. I finally have later afternoons and evenings free, and I no longer sacrifice huge chunks of my day to between-class breaks.
I continue to teach Level 2 ESL, and I’ve recently been assigned a Transition reading and writing class, which bridges the top ESL level and college credit classes. I’m finally able to make use of my experience teaching academic reading and writing skills, and I’m quite content with my new work situation.
Reading and writing are both immensely complicated, multi-level skills requiring critical thinking, fluency, and using the language for purposes other than day-to-day communication and survival skills. It’s taken the first four weeks to decide what activities best fit the needs of my 20+ students. I focus on sentence-level grammar, progressing to paragraph writing, and finally, in a week or two, will introduce basic essay writing. I’ve settled on three or four textbooks that, I feel, best present the materials I want to cover.
As I’d previously discovered while teaching in China, there’s a fine line between teaching “correct” English-language academic writing and encouraging individual creativity. I make sure to acknowledge students’ use of vivid description, and their use of descriptive adjectives that is sometimes original and startling. At this point, I hold back from “correcting” student writing too much; as in my speaking classes, I believe that fluency is more important than accuracy. The students are eager to learn, and seem to be enjoying the course so far. I’m feeling my way, and as in every endeavor, creating a new class is a process that requires trial and error.