Teaching and Learning
So much happens every week at ERI that it takes a while to sink in. I have completed 5 weeks of my internship and now I’m left with 4 more. I have done so much more than I initially thought I would, and that’s just a part of studying abroad. You never know! Mostly everything comes as a surprise. One of these tasks, like I mentioned earlier, is accompanying students to the field trips and learning from the local people themselves. Students always have an assignment for these trips and we, as interns, are also support them with as much help as we can provide.
While the students presented their study on campaigning, strategies and community gathering after the first field trip, they had to write an essay for the second. With minimal experience they’ve had writing in English, it was a hectic task for them. We came back from the trip on Friday, spent the next day recovering from the journey and worked on the essays on Sunday. In a setting like this, I often end up working during random hours, though it is exciting to spend time with the students and learning more and more about them.
There were so many interesting things about this field trip that students wanted to talk about in their essays. As much as I wanted to relax and read a book, I wanted to tutor students who needed help. It ended up being a very long tutoring session involving reading of a bunch of essays. But, like Billy says, what we’re doing right now is going to uplift the students who feel frustrated due to language barriers, even if we don’t see apparent results. These impromptu tutoring sessions become more like a friend helping another friend and I do not feel like I’m doing a job. We have been cancelling English class almost every other week, but when we have one, students are excited to learn, uplifting me in return.
There are moments when I realize a student does not remember something we went over in the English class and that is a little discouraging, but then they understand when I individually explain them. It is like my high school classes – most of the students would be too afraid to speak or ask a question in class, especially when a few would be outspoken enough to dominate the conversation taking place. I keep reminding myself that the learning process is different for everyone and I need to to know what works for them to be able to tutor them.
I recently realized that classes at ERS are not taught by one teacher throughout the semester. Members of campaign and legal team also share their knowledge in the industry. Like every student has a different learning style, every teacher has a different teaching style. It makes it hard for students to adjust, especially when they struggle with language so much. That’s where our role comes in. While Tera attends the morning class to write down anything the students might have trouble understanding, I attend during afternoon. Often, when the students aren’t clear about something that was discussed in class, they come to one of us for help. I’ve only had basic environmental classes until middle school, which makes it both exciting and hard for me to explain a concept in detail. It takes a substantial amount of time in such a scenario but it works for the students, which is great.
This is the project I briefly talked about in my previous posts. I believe this internship is also providing me an opportunity to work for my supervisor, Billy, as an actual client. I have been working on the project since the second week of my internship and have made several drafts so far. But I’ve realized that designing is not a simple task and beauty is subjective. Billy offers suggestions on all the drafts I present to him, which is helpful to understand what he visualizes. With my interest in web development, I am likely going to work for clients who would want a result that I wouldn’t get to instantly. I know it takes weeks, months, sometimes years to get what a client truly appreciates but experiencing it in such a way just after sophomore year of college is extremely beneficial for me.
In this project, I’m focusing on color, texture, grid and layout, typography, trying to convey the message that ERI would want to send while also making sure I don’t make the depiction too abstract. I started by adding a lot of solid shapes at the bottom (mainly because I love shapes), while the main text was spread throughout the rest of the page. I was then told that everything in the poster should mean something, which is fair. That is when I realized that I can’t create what pleases my eyes. I have to think clearly and find that balance where it is neither too abstract nor too vague. For confidentiality purposes, I cannot post a picture of my drafts but I hope I can share the final document if and when it is used.
One of the things I was eager to discover was finding work related to my classes and major at IWU. ERI has three teams – training, legal and campaign. I am a part of training team at this center. While the training department comes under one foundation, legal and campaign come under another. And these two foundations have different websites that I was initially hoping to work on.
Right now, however, I am working on FENR’s website, administered by the legal and campaign departments. The things I am focusing on are hierarchy, theme, navigation and color scheme – basically everything I learned in web design classes last year. As of now, they do not have any content, so playing around with dummy text reminds me of my projects. Anyway, I’ve been trying to make it simplistic and give it a clean look. I would add a link on my blog post whenever I complete working on it.
Meanwhile, I am also teaching a colleague how to work on WordPress and play around with colors, fonts and layout. I’ve mentioned this several times now but everyone here is so excited about learning new things from whomever they can. When my colleague saw me working on my blog and came to know I was going to work on the foundation website, she told me she wanted to learn it too! So now she joins me every time I work on the website and I show her what I do step by step. Overall, it has been so much more than just teaching English or providing language support to students. Students have also had limited exposure to computers, so teaching them basic things like keyboard shortcuts and adding bookmarks is fun!