Grateful for our Teachers – Emily Shawn
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire
As you’ve no doubt heard us express over and over again, TALK is extremely proud to have a team of teachers and staff members that are devoted to the task of either teaching or creating the best conditions for teaching and learning. In this season of Thanksgiving, we want to honour them by spotlighting just a few of these amazing individuals.
For the next few weeks we’ll introduce to some our amazing teachers, Juliana Schulz, and Liande Heyns. This week, meet Emily Shawn.
Why did you become a teacher?
I started teaching in an AmeriCorps JumpStart early literacy program while I was in college. I’m a huge bookworm, and I loved being able to share that with the enthusiastic preschoolers. I also love traveling and learning about the world, and I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to teach English in Ecuador and Chile. I will have been at TALK for two years this coming January!
What do you love about teaching?
I love making connections with students, getting to know them, and watching their progress every class. I learn so much about the world through students, and I love being a part of how they confidently learn to communicate in English.
What do you love about teaching at TALK?
The TALK school has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, both in-person and online. You can tell right away just by walking into the Boston building that it’s a great place to be. I love the community built among teachers, students, and directors, as well as the sense of purpose the students bring to class.
What has been the hardest part about moving classes online?
Oh boy, the hardest part of moving to online classes has been the technology! It’s interesting because every student (and teacher) has had a different experience with using technology, and a different comfort level with it. It’s a challenge for me as a teacher to make sure that the class balances everyone’s experience with technology, both taking the time to explain something seemingly simple to someone who might not be used to video calls, and also trying to keep up with fun, tech-savvy activities such as Kahoot! and interactive crossword puzzles. While a lot of learning most certainly can be done online, it does take a different type of focus and attention for the students than they are used to.
I also miss seeing my co-workers and students in person, of course, but I’m glad we can connect safely and virtually.
What has been the biggest challenge and why?
I’m a person who thrives off of reading the energy in a room, and it’s much harder (though not impossible) to do that in a Zoom classroom. Particularly working with students who speak many languages, facial expressions and body language give valuable clues to communication that are harder to come by online. However in some ways this does mean that I am more aware of how expressive I need to be as a teacher, and it also gives the students the added challenge of deciphering speech without the same visual clues they would have in person.
How have the students adapted?
I am eternally impressed by the level of dedication and commitment shown by the students. While there are always some who have a difficult time focusing during a long Zoom meeting, for the most part students are eager to speak in English, listen to their peers, and share their experiences with the class. Some students really take advantage of the online platform by sharing pictures, resources, and other materials—in some ways, this may be easier to do online than in-person. Overall, the students have really risen to the occasion and proven that they have the ability to learn and communicate online.
What has been the benefits of moving to online classes?
I feel profoundly fortunate to be able to meet students and teachers from all of the TALK schools in the online classes. Online classes have given everyone, students and staff alike, the opportunity to create deeply meaningful connections and friendships with many people they would not otherwise have met—and these connections are the very reason many students choose to learn English. It’s a very powerful feeling that students in Florida and Atlanta, who I have not yet met in person, can still make me laugh and think deeply even while I’m situated all the way over here in Boston. Of course, it’s also important that the school is committed to keeping students and staff safe during the pandemic without dropping the rigorous academic standards the students enrolled for.
What if anything have you learned during this time?
During this time, I’ve learned that humans are more resilient and more connected to each other than I could ever have imagined. I have also learned that my impact as a teacher often goes much deeper than I realize. Without being in-person, it can be difficult to assert how attentive students are at all times. Yet the students in my classes have truly gone above and beyond, making videos and writing thank-you cards to me and Celia to let us know that we as teachers have touched their lives in a positive and meaningful way. Thought this may not be as immediately evident as it would be in a physical classroom, teaching at TALK is still an immensely rewarding profession.
Thank-you Emily for you dedication and heart. The excellence you’ve exhibited has certainly become part of our students and for that we are grateful!