Participant perspectives: Making a difference with an English Club in Benin

[pullquote align="left|center|right" textalign="left|center|right" width="30%"]Getting my SIT TESOL Certificate let me be the teacher I always wanted to be! [/pullquote]I always worked in business and corporate America, not in education. In 2005, I left the business world and traveled extensively for the next four years across continents and throughout developing countries with the intention of changing careers and exploring structural poverty, critical issues of health, education and environmental exploitation. In 2010, I took the SIT TESOL Certificate at the International Language Institute (ILI) in Northampton, Massachusetts and have put it to good use ever since. While in the states, I taught (as a volunteer) recent refugees their first English classes, which was extremely rewarding, culturally fascinating and entertaining!

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Last year, I joined the Peace Corps to work as a Community Economic Development volunteer (due to my business background) in Benin. However, my favorite part of the day is my English Club at the local secondary school. I guess I have the best of both worlds – teaching business and English. For local Beninese people, learning English is so important but also very challenging. It’s important because not only has English become the preferred global language for international business but also two of Benin’s most important neighboring countries, Ghana and Nigeria, are English speaking countries. It’s challenging because there are virtually no qualified English language teachers in most villages or schools. In addition, English classes in school are focused on reading and writing only, not speaking. This is in part because reading and writing is how the students are tested, and in part because with large classes (50 or so students) it takes too much time for everyone to practice speaking. Because of this, even when someone knows a little English, they don’t have the courage or skill to use or practice speaking it. That’s why I try to keep my English Club fun, interactive and focused on listening and speaking English. I’ve used all the tricks my trainers at ILI taught me. I can’t imagine a better learning environment than ILI in Northhampton, MA. It’s the quintessential New England college town, picturesque, easy to walk around, and has great little restaurants. The school itself was amazing! The trainers were encouraging and energetic. They provided endless opportunities to learn, observe, receive feedback, and interact with the many international students and of course practice, practice, practice teaching. The reason why I joined then Peace Corps is similar to why I began teaching – I always wanted to.

photo (17)So, at 51 years old I finally did both. More than just the adventure of it, I really wanted to do it as an opportunity to have the time to observe and study the issues of poverty and injustice. It’s definitely been an adventure and thank you SIT and ILI for all of the valuable skills and resources you’ve given me.

In addition to earning her SIT TESOL Certificate, Abbe Eaton also holds an MBA in Finance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Candidate for SIT’s Master of Arts in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management degree.

 

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