Toolbox of Skills

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Throughout my internship with ARYSE, I am developing a variety of skills that I will certainly use in the future as well. One of the transferable, or soft, skills that I am developing is patience, especially due to the virtual nature of the camp this year. There are many pauses in conversations or videos due to interpretation, as many of the students speak other languages, such as Swahili, Arabic, Dari, and Tigrinya. Additionally, due to the lack of face to face interaction, there can be moments of silence in conversation; students may feel unsure of when to speak up or not realize when another student is about to speak due to the inability to see facial expressions or hand gestures. Nevertheless, whenever I do get to hear the opinions of students, I am always in awe of their brilliant responses. 

This leads me to the next set of soft skills that I have developed, which are my listening skills. I feel that oftentimes, while teaching, it can be easy to fall into the trap of asking too many questions just to keep the conversation going. However, during these moments, both patience and listening skills are required. Some students may just need the extra time to develop their responses. For example, this week, the theme of camp was health and wellness. On Wednesday, we discussed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Students learned about safe practices and shared their feelings regarding the pandemic. One student, who was very quiet during the beginning of class, spoke up in a breakout room session. I was amazed by her insightful response that morale is very important in fighting off this disease.

Some of the hard, or technical skills, that I am developing are my skills in tutoring ESL. (This of course involves the development of soft skills as well.) I have realized that tutoring youth is very different than tutoring adults. From my experience, adults are more likely to speak up when they do not understand something or feel that an activity is not helpful for them. When working with youth, I realized that I have to be more aware of the students’ needs based on their responsiveness or reactions to activities. Furthermore, all activities with youth must be engaging and fun. Primarily, at their age, it is most important to focus on things that they need in their everyday lives or everyday conversation. A soft skill that I have developed in this process is being conscious of the words that I use with students. This especially applies to words with similar meanings, but different complexities, such as “are you familiar with …” versus “do you know…”. While teaching ESL, I have also picked up some more skills regarding flexibility. For example, I meet with one student once a week for extra English practice. This week, since the theme of camp was health and wellness, we discussed sports and exercise in our lesson. While our lesson began with conversation starters regarding sports, it later switched to videos and visual aids. In particular, we were discussing baseball games and the tradition of catching balls at a game. After that, I was reminded of a similar clip of the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, a TV show that I often watched as a child. Together, the student and I watched the clip, and she truly enjoyed it. Following that, I turned the lesson into using words to describe the scenarios in the clip, scene by scene. From this situation, the student learned new vocabulary in the moments where she felt that she knew how to describe the scene, but just didn’t have the exact words to do so. Additionally, we began talking about words related to the scene – for example, the difference between crashing into someone versus bumping into someone. Overall, the structure of our lesson was very flexible, depending on what she wanted to learn and how the conversation naturally flowed. 

Another technical skill that I am developing is the use of virtual platforms for teaching. Primarily, I have become more familiar with Zoom and how the variety of features that it offers can be used in a classroom setting.  Some of the most commonly used features in PRYSE are: 

  • breakout room sessions – facilitates small group discussion, which is especially helpful when there are groups of students who have different comfort levels in speaking English or when students need individualized help  
  • interpretation – multiple interpretations can occur at the same time, rather than one by one; this can save time during shorter class periods  
  • annotation – students can draw on the same screen to express their ideas (or play games such as charades) 
  • screen sharing – useful for lesson plans, videos, or art created by students 
  • remote access of screen – useful in helping students navigate platforms that they may be unfamiliar with on their own screens 

There are moments during my internship where I feel uncertainty. For example, an interpreter and I meet with a student every morning to help her with her English homework. When we first began the homework, filled with historical words such as “espionage”, we quickly realized that the homework was Common Core English, rather than ESL oriented work (which was incredibly unfair to the student). At first, I was unsure of how to best approach this situation – how could I help a non-native English speaker with material that is even difficult for students who have spent their entire lives in the American education system? In this situation, talking to the program director and interpreter was very helpful. We decided to focus on making sure that the student understood the principle ideas of the passage, as well as the core English concepts, such as what it means to make an inference or determine the mood of a passage. The student constantly impresses me with her perseverance and intelligence despite this difficult situation. 

Ultimately, I feel that my leadership style has changed throughout this internship. Previously, my leadership style used to be more coaching focused. Now, my leadership style is more democratic and listening-based, especially since ARYSE has a collaborative atmosphere between students, counselors, interpreters, directors, and volunteers. 

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