Through Julia's experience: What is it like to teach English as an online volunteer?

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Julia tells us a little bit about her experience, what's she learning from it, and how she feels about online volunteering! Find out more in this interview:

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am originally from Kenya, but I currently live in the US. I’m also a student attending the University of Minnesota, studying Philosophy and Spanish. Coming from a multilingual family (I speak four languages), I have always loved learning new languages and cultures. I even learned German for two years but unfortunately, I couldn’t continue with it (I’m hoping I can pick it up again in the future). As I started learning Spanish, I fell in love with the languages and wanted to learn more about the culture. My passion and interest in language is the reason why I decided to intern online at Springfield.

What do you like the most about teaching?

Although I learn Spanish in school, a lot of it is mostly academic stuff. I like that I get to interact with native Spanish speakers and learn about the use of language colloquially. I know that the Spanish in Argentina is quite different from that spoken in other countries, so I love that I get to hear the dialect. It is safe to say that I have learned a lot of Argentinian slang from my students. When it comes to teaching, I find it interesting how the teaching styles in Argentina and the US are different. Working with all the amazing teachers has given me the opportunity to learn about the educational system in Argentina and also experience not only the work culture but also the different communication styles.

How do you feel about online volunteering?

I like the flexibility and convenience that online volunteering offers. I can work around my schedule and be able to take up as many courses as I can since I don’t have to commute to the institute. If I have an English class after my university classes, I’ll simply log on to zoom and join. I particularly love that I am able to work in another country from the US. I don’t think this would have been possible before, but with a lot of students learning from home, I got to have this opportunity. However, it is frustrating at times when there are technological issues and you can’t effectively communicate with others, both teachers or students. I also occasionally find it difficult to find engaging activities for students, especially those at the teen level since they find in-person activities more fun. However, I have now come to discover that they enjoy taking kahoots and quizizz!

Do you think the experience helps you to develop new skills -hard and soft ones-?

Although I can manage my time well, this experience has really helped me in developing my time management skills. Juggling between lesson planning and my university coursework has been a challenge that has pushed my boundaries and allowed me to come up with ways in which I can prioritize my work and also multi-task when necessary. Furthermore, since the teaching styles in Argentina are different, I have learned to develop my own management style. In the beginning, it was a challenge because I didn’t know what to expect, but I quickly adapted to the environment (though virtually) and was able to meet set expectations. I have also become more flexible in terms of the tasks I partake in during class as well as lesson planning. The final skill that I would say I have developed is technological skills. I have had to prepare activities such as games and scavenger hunts that are more challenging to organize online. However, I like that I get to learn as I go and this way find what works and what doesn’t.

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