“An experience doing the educating while studying abroad? Sign me up.” Those were my thoughts when I heard the Amsterdam program staff first mention CIEE Teach during our orientation on August 18th. Fast forward to December 10th, the last day of my CIEE Teach lesson, and I’m feeling nostalgic for the times that my Dutch students and my American friends doing CIEE Teach with me shared.
CIEE Teach has been a wonderful way for students to engage with young Dutch students by giving them weekly English lessons, and to engage with the CIEE community in developing relationships with fellow student-teachers. It’s community building twofold. Over the course of four months, my peers and I really got to know each of the students we were working with. In meeting each week to plan our lessons, we got to know other, too. The weekly meetings became a staple in my student life in Amsterdam, and lesson plan meetings slowly extended into study session invitations, attending concerts and parties together, and ultimately, friendship.
Each of our students have personalities that stood out to us. We had energetic and lively students, class clowns, troublemakers, quieter students, shy bookworms, and more. I could tell you the details of Dana’s drama with one of the boys in class (Jason has some playground competition coming his way soon), Yulya’s exclusive 11th birthday party (none of the boys were invited), Valentijn’s hockey team rankings (not doing as great as they were in October), and Jonathan’s favorite soccer team (Ajax). Our awkward English lessons of September transformed into hour long conversation sessions with our class by mid-December. We stopped needing lesson plans a month before that (though, of course, we made them anyway). We understood our students, and their varying proficiencies in English, and we developed as teachers in learning when and how to adapt to those needs.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, however. After I missed two classes because of flu season, I came back to what my friend Emily said was even worse when I was gone - these kids were going over the board with their hyperactiveness. It didn’t help that their actual teacher Kelly was also absent for a while due to sickness (the October cold really got to people). The first half of November was spent trying to bring the classroom down to a level where the students standing next to us could hear us speak - half-joking threats of leaving in December and never coming back only worked until Max realized that our program ends in mid December. Despite the revelation that we weren’t going to leave the group because of the students’ bad behavior, the kids calmed down pretty quickly. Kelly, their teacher, says it’s because she explained that they won’t be seeing us anymore quite soon. Our students had grown attached to us, and we to them.
We improved our Dutch, learning playground slang and basic adjectives, while we helped them with their English. The storybook scenarios we crafted up together, discussions of what each student aspires to become, and our weekly recap of what each student did that weekend created, I think, a space where our students could venture out into the uncomfortable world of learning a new language, all within the comforts of childhood. CIEE teach was an experience that taught me about the bravery and connection that goes into being a teacher and a student. Here’s a video bringing some of these experiences to life: