Continuing Education

Outside the Classroom: Discussing Intermediate ESL Workshop – Speaking and Listening

Strong instruction frequently inspires strong instructors. Intermediate ESL WorkshopSpeaking and Listening and Listening instructor Mariana Markova is just such a Imageperson. “I had an excellent English teacher when I was in high school - he was probably the best teacher in a city of one-million residents.  At that time I was thinking about my future profession and he was definitely a big influence on me. So I applied to a teacher-training university and got my BA.”

Teaching can be more than rookie instructors bargain on and Markova found herself bracing for some unforeseen bumps in the road of her teaching career. “I wanted to be a friend and I couldn't discipline students” she recalls. “But I learned fast and from then on I knew how to deal with difficult students and everyone loved my classes. I experimented a lot.”

Markova eventually took a break from classroom instruction and sought opportunities to apply her talents on a global scale. “I actually left teaching and became an interpreter for international development programs: Doctors Without Borders, EU-Russia Technical Assistance and others. This was all in Russia. I recently returned to teaching English and social sciences at community colleges, and I enjoy it.”

According to Markova, when it comes to teaching languages, it falls to the instructor to build a solid foundation for the student to move forward and help in building their confidence. “(We) cover various topics in class (I will accept student suggestions if they want something specific) and talk about different things,” she says.  “Language classes are always interesting because you learn something new and discuss your ideas. That’s what I love most about teaching ESL, the communication with people from different cultures. It appeals to the anthropologist in me.”

Markova is also adept at thinking outside the classroom, both literally and figuratively. “I want to take students on a field trip to Burke Museum; there I will send them on a hunt for answers Imageto a list of questions about Washington natural and indigenous history. I hope it will be a learning experience that they will remember for a long time.”

In the classroom, Markova’s students can look forward to hurdling over not only the language barrier, but their fears of public speaking. “I like getting students to talk to each other in small groups and then having a class discussion,” she says.  “I like pushing students to do short presentation in front of the class to overcome fear of public speaking. We will listen to audio records and watch clips. Some homework assignments would be to do something interesting and tell the class about it or to interview a native speaker.”

For an ESL student to be successful, Markova believes they really must be someone capable of taking the initiative in their learning process. “(They’re) someone who takes the lead - learns new things on his/her own and informs the others,” she says. “They’re a student who contributes to the class by sharing his/her experiences, ideas and opinions. Students are often very interesting people and it is the language barrier that separates them from expressing themselves. As a non-native speaker, I know this feeling of 'tension' inside you when you want to express yourself precisely but you only know a limited number of ways in another language to do it.”

As a non-native speaker herself, Markova understands much of what the ESL student must negotiate Imagewhen it comes to a new country and a new culture. She also knows how isolating this new life can be and mastering the language is one of the first steps in overcoming those challenges. “There is a lack of time for everything you want to do—it’s a regular challenge that haunts the population of this planet living in industrial societies. Loneliness and lack of friendships can also be very challenging. In some ways, being in class and interacting with others helps people build relationships that can continue outside the classroom.” 

Through her Intermediate ESL Workshop, Markova hopes to create a space where students can slow down and take their time to absorb the language and culture at their own pace. She also hopes this leads them to connect with other newcomers coping with similar challenges in adapting to a new community and culture.  
Learn more about Intermediate ESL Workshop—Speaking and Listening and Listening.

Photo credit #2: Tacoma Community House_cc_2.0
Photo credit #3: Tacoma Community House_cc_2.0