Elsa Teaches English

Victor Hugo is perhaps most famous in the U.S. for having written "Les Miserables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Victor Hugo is perhaps most famous in the U.S. for having written “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Most people who blog have a goal they would like to achieve with their blog: I would like to use my blog as a springboard to teaching English in Paris. I have experience teaching English to U.S. citizens and foreigners alike, I’ve travelled, and of course, I love Paris. What a joy it would be to put all of those passions together!

I worked part-time as a substitute teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools from 2002 – 2010. I substituted for many subjects, but English was my favorite. It was also my favorite subject in school. I tried to pass on my passion for English to my students. In one class, high school students were taking turns reading a story set in New Orleans, and although the characters all spoke in a deep, southern drawl, the students “read” the text as proper English. I told them that the characters’ language is part of the story – you don’t get the full flavor of the story unless you read it using the language that the author used. So I read it to them, and even acted out what the characters were doing. Some of my students laughed so hysterically they were crying. (!) I was all smiles: I love bringing English to life.

But it was actually in 1992 that I discovered my passion for teaching English to non-English speakers. I worked as a Literacy Volunteer in Montgomery County and I taught English (reading, writing and literature) to a GED class for international adult students. I developed the Essay Pyramid to serve as a blueprint – or roadmap – to help these students write a comparative essay for their GED test, which is a requirement. As I told an administrator during orientation, if I had to learn essay writing using the “web” method (think: spider web, not internet) they showed me, I would have had a hard time learning to write – and I’m a decent writer. I could only imagine what someone who doesn’t speak English well would go through trying to use that method. So I developed my own method of teaching comparative essay writing.

Was it a success? The woman with the most broken English in the class came to me after I explained the Essay Pyramid and said, “You…….understand [what we need].” It was one my greatest triumphs while teaching.

Currently, I am seeking to teach English once or twice a week to non-English speakers in “open” classes, where students pay per class, at least in the beginning. I plan to start at the very beginning of language learning, by teaching consonant and vowel sounds, how words are built, etc. A student could attend just one class and still get something out of it. Also, I understand non-English speakers often have trouble coming up with a hefty sum to pay for, say, an 8-week class. Paying per class would probably easier.

This page will be updated from time to time with my latest adventures in teaching English.












Victor Hugo image used by permission of William J. Federer of American Minutes.

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