Home Country: United States
Comfortable being uncomfortable - it’s not your typical tagline but substitute teacher Jessica Olson says it’s a must when you’re dealing with new and diverse classrooms. “I frequently go into new environments and use whatever materials that I have available to me in order to make it work.” Jessica is in the process of finishing her final semester of classes at Hamline University before student teaching in the fall. Her aim is to become a full-time Spanish teacher. She says while Minnesota might seem like a homogenous place, the school district where she works has a population that is 44 per cent English language learners. “In order to best serve this community from all over the world, I need to be a global citizen and get to know the schools and communities in various locations.” She says volunteering abroad ensures you are involved with communities in a deep and meaningful way. “It will allow me to help out as I learn from the communities that I am serving, so that I can take this information back home and spread it to my students.”
Why are you passionate about teaching English abroad?
Learning a new language doesn’t just facilitate communication, it leads to greater understanding. It allows people to connect with worlds and ways of thinking that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. I am passionate about teaching English abroad because it not only offers people a new skill, but also helps bring our world together.
What experience/skills can you apply to teaching English abroad?
I currently am a substitute teacher in Saint Paul Public Schools. Saint Paul School District has a large ESL population and, no matter what class or age group I am teaching, I am dealing with a variety of English comprehension levels. I have planned lessons and served as a longer term ESL teacher in an elementary school as a part of this position as well. I also study education as a graduate student at Hamline University and am in the process of finishing my final semester of classes before student teaching in the fall. My license will be in K-12 Spanish. Knowing Spanish as a second language is a huge asset for me because I am better able to identify with the struggles faced by language learners.
Why do you believe you will be effective in teaching English abroad?
Working as a substitute teacher means that I am always learning new things on my feet. Classroom environments require you to be flexible and alter lesson plans without notice depending on student comprehension and external scheduling. I frequently go into new environments and use whatever materials that I have available to me in order to make it work. I am comfortable being uncomfortable. Conflict is inevitable and I am dedicated to work through any misunderstandings that may arise. I recognize the role of culture in the classroom and have worked with people from around the world. I have a sense of humor. I can laugh at myself and learn from my mistakes. Most importantly, I am motivated. Teaching languages is a career for me and I am excited to learn new, more effective ways of teaching each day.
What are you looking to gain from the experience?
I am currently studying to become a full-time Spanish teacher in a linguistically diverse area. While Minnesota might seem like a homogenous place, the St. Paul school district where I work has a population that is 44% English language learners. This population is steadily increasing each year. In order to best serve this community from all over the world, I need to be a global citizen and get to know the schools and communities in various locations. Additionally, as a Spanish teacher, I play a role in teaching my students to think globally and from a variety of perspectives. Volunteering abroad offers me a unique opportunity to do this because, unlike tourism, it gets me involved with communities in a deep and meaningful way. It will allow me to help out as I learn from the communities that I am serving, so that I can take this information back home and spread it to my students.