Orientation Day: Teaching the Teachers to Teach

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It’s almost never easy adjusting to a foreign place and culture, and my arrival in Belgium was no exception to this general rule—I doubt I’ll ever forget when I first tried to ask for directions in Dutch, only to have a kind woman ask if I needed medical assistance … But there’s also something thrilling about having no idea what’s going on. Even simple tasks are transformed into adventures, and any successful endeavor, even if it’s just grocery shopping, starts to feel like an important accomplishment. I’ve never taught a class before, but I imagine the feelings are similar. You mostly have no clue if you’re reaching students, or if they consider you a ridiculous ass, but sometimes you witness a moment of true learning, and it’s a remarkable feeling. Today, the Fulbright ETA grantees had our first orientation session to prepare us as teachers. And I’d like to think that what we’ve done so far, at least in terms of sheer embarrassment, has already readied us to some degree for the task ahead.

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At any rate, the fact of our shared experience seems to have initiated a sense of solidarity among us, and as a group, I think we really profited from our instruction. The teachers training us to teach were wonderful. Indeed, we owe a profound debt to Greg Thomas, Thomas de Graeve, and Cecilia Gielen. They were funny and insightful, and very punctual! And their commitment to sound and effective pedagogy was inspiring. I only hope we’re able to put what we‘ve learned to good use. Finally, to round out a great day, it didn’t hurt to have a groovy lunch with Nathan and Erica, full of banter and silliness, and even a fortuitous sighting of the amazing U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Denise Bauer. Next step, the classroom!

– John Foster
2015-2015 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Belgium

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