Marcella Roberts graduated from LTS in 2010. Her MA Project was titled: Pronunciation for Integrated Skills English Courses: A Teaching Portfolio. Below, she shares how she has used things that she learned in LTS in many different teaching contexts.
Where did you teach after graduating from the LTS MA program, and where are you now?
Since graduating, I’ve taught both in the U.S. and abroad in Switzerland and China. Immediately after finishing the LTS program in August 2010, I taught at the American English Institute (at the U of O) for one year. After that I moved to Switzerland, where I taught on and off for three years at a residential summer camp for children aged 10-17 from many countries all over the world. I also taught for one semester at Arizona State University (between summers in Switzerland), and then taught at a university in China for 8 months in 2014. As of September 2014, I’ve been teaching in the INTO Intensive English Program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR.
Is there anything you use in your teaching now that you first learned in LTS?
Definitely. The focus on Communicative Language Teaching, as well as all the practice developing curriculum and materials, has continued to help me throughout my career as a teacher. When I was teaching in Switzerland, I was given a class of students and pretty much no guidance on what to teach except for an estimate of their level. I therefore had to draw on all of my practice and knowledge learned in LTS with needs analyses, adapting, creating and using materials, as well as ways to make language learning authentic, communicative and fun for students. Throughout the rest of my teaching experience, which has been in university programs, where more guidance, materials and textbooks have usually been provided, the basic language acquisition and teaching principles that I encountered in the LTS program have still been invaluable.
What was your MA project about, and did you apply it later in your teaching?
My MA project focused on pronunciation, and specifically how to integrate it into classes focused on other skills (or on integrated skills). To do the project, I had to really delve into pronunciation and learn about it in depth, which has definitely helped me in my teaching experience since graduating. While teaching in Switzerland, I often did pronunciation focused lessons, as well as integrated it into other content and skill focused lessons. During the time I was teaching in China, I developed a four week mini course on pronunciation for university students, which included a focus on the International Phonetic Alphabet and in depth practice of segmentals and suprasegmentals. Since having started teaching at INTO OSU, I’ve also taught specific pronunciation elective courses, during which I’ve drawn on, and added to, the experience and knowledge I gained while doing my MA project all those years ago.
What was most challenging for you as a new teacher?
It was challenging at first to have the confidence in myself as a teacher to be able to adapt my original lesson plans to what was happening in the classroom. Through experience, I’ve learned that sometimes going with the flow, adapting activity lengths, and responding to questions or issues as they arise can be more beneficial than rigidly sticking with a lesson plan even when it’s not working. But this definitely took time for me to realize, as well as time to understand how to do it in a way that helps students and keeps everyone focused and learning.
What advice do you have for students looking for language teaching positions after graduation?
Use your time in the LTS program to learn and share with such a wonderfully diverse group of students from all over the world. Many of the language teaching positions (especially in teaching English) are in countries all over the world and knowing something about countries other than your own, as well as being willing to travel and/or live abroad, will be valuable assets in finding rewarding teaching positions.