Learn a Lot Before Teaching
Oksana Kurenya, Dean of the Linguistics College of MKIK, believes that one has to learn a lot before teaching somebody something. Under her leadership, the MKIK college carries out a project that develops out-of-the-box thinking, creative approach to problem-solving, and the ability to present information effectively in students. Interestingly, the project’s work results in the original methodological manuals prepared by the students themselves. Perhaps, that makes the project unique for the system of secondary vocational education. Oksana Kurenya shared her original teaching methods in an interview with the Global Women Media.
Dean of the Faculty of Linguistics of the Institute for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO), Dean of the Linguistics College of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK), PhD in Philology
Oksana Kurenya is an experienced linguist, lecturer, and mentor with many years of experience. She knows all the peculiarities of teaching foreign languages well. She teaches that to her students: future teachers and linguists.
Traditionally, the first-year students of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK) begin their training with general disciplines and acquaintance with their profession. However, from the second year of training, they immerse in the speciality deeper.
This year, the Linguistics College launched a new initiative under the leadership of Oksana Kurenya. The project titled ‘Learning to Teach’ is aimed at enhancing the professional training of students.
– What are the main idea and goal of the new project?
– The idea of the project appeared when our students began to carry out educational activities in English for schoolchildren. It was useful and interesting both for young listeners and future teachers. The students developed a plan of events and thought through interaction with the audience. Such meetings were very popular and we decided to scale them up.
Accumulating past experience and responding to the demands of today’s labour market, we launch a new project that will help students systematize their knowledge. ‘Learning to Teach’ is an initiative, thanks to which the students will combine their knowledge, creative ideas, and practical results of work in original methodological manuals. Students will have the opportunity to discover and formulate their own ways to explain the material to schoolchildren in an effective, accessible, and interesting way.
The project will result in original booklets with exercises, board games, and other materials that graduates will be able to use in their professional activities.
In fact, teaching foreign languages to children is much more difficult than it may seem at first glance. It is quite challenging to motivate elementary schoolchildren. In addition, the task of the teacher is to instil long-term interest in them making sure that it will not leave students after the end of the lesson. To make that possible, it is necessary to take into account the age features of schoolchildren, to understand their psychology, and to look for original and bright formats of information delivery, thus making them suitable for specific groups of children. At the same time, it is important not to lose the essence in the pursuit of making lessons exciting. There are established state standards in today’s school education: school students must receive the required range of knowledge.
Our college students are trained not only as educators but also as linguists. Thus, they explore language in its multitude of aspects. This presupposes that, as mentors, they are capable of delivering a large amount of in-depth knowledge. Projects like ‘Learning to Teach’ help them elaborate the most effective ways to carry out that process.
– What other skills do students acquire in the process of implementing the project in addition to formulating original methodologies?
– Students actively develop the so-called soft skills that are useful in any profession. First of all, those include creative thinking. I find it necessary for any competitive specialist today. When creating original methodological aids, students choose the format, in which the result of their work will be presented. We do not provide them with any restrictions on that. In addition, we suggest a lot of opportunities for the fulfilment of their ideas. Students from the Design and Publishing Colleges are always eager to get involved and help linguists with illustrations and designs of their projects.
When people look for accessible forms of explaining this or that information, they begin to go deeper into the subject and see its essence more clearly. That’s another important aspect.
Thus, we train our future teachers to be able to structure and simplify information properly not only in paper notes but also in their own thoughts. In my opinion, that is a very important skill that helps one keep fit mentally.
– On the one hand, creating such methodologies is a very creative process. On the other hand, it requires a serious theoretical basis. How do students test the effectiveness of their methods? Do they conduct some kind of research?
– It is important to emphasize that students start creating methodological aids only when they already have a certain amount of pedagogical knowledge and an understanding of the basics of their future profession. By the second year of training, which is the starting point of the ‘Learning to Teach’ project, students are already aware of various pedagogical trends and universal pedagogical principles. Thus, when acquiring new linguistic knowledge, they already understand how to present that information to students in the best way.
Students’ activities are mentored by experienced supervisors. I personally supervise the project. I have over 20 years of experience of teaching to various age groups and I am constantly upgrading my skills.
After the methodological aids are ready and their quality is confirmed by experts, students have the opportunity to test the results of their work in practice. At the end of their second year of training, they traditionally visit children’s camps where they organise recreational and educational activities for younger students. One of the possible options is to work with their methodical projects including exercise books, cards, games, and posters. That helps students see how children perceive their methods. Based on that, the students draw conclusions and improve or supplement the manuals if necessary. During the third year of their studies, the students undergo practical training at schools where they have the opportunity to use their projects during lessons.
As a result, such manuals become students’ graduation projects. They organise information into a certain system. Thus, future teachers develop their personal professional principles and recommendations for working with this or that educational material.
Working on original methodological manuals is serious and responsible work. This presupposes well-constructed research conducted under the guidance of mentors. From time to time, students carry out systematic practical testing of the results on a real children’s audience.
– The project is called ‘Learning to Teach’. As a mentor and experienced educator, what principles would you put in the educational process to make it as good as possible?
– Despite the changeable nature of our world, the general pedagogical principles remain universal. Those include accessibility of information, its preparedness for assimilation, and personal importance for the student.
It is difficult for me to imagine a generalized image of a teacher or educational methodology. All teachers are unique individuals, each with their own approach and style of teaching.
Every teacher can present information in completely different ways. There are no universal rules. The most important thing is that the teacher has a deep understanding of the subject and loves his or her profession and students.
When we do something with joy and love, it brings pleasure to not only ourselves but also all people around us. Probably, nothing can make the process of transferring knowledge more effective than the positive emotions that the teacher and the students receive.
– The teaching profession has been undoubtedly important at all times. However, the need for high-quality training of teachers is especially acute today. What is the reason for that?
– In today’s world, people increasingly often talk about the danger of the disappearance of most professions because of rapid technological development. They are afraid that artificial intelligence will once replace many specialists, including teachers. I think that is an imaginary danger. I don’t believe that such a situation is possible.
The teacher’s personality with its moral and ethical components is the core of the teaching process. Artificial intelligence can transfer information but it can’t replace a living person.
That is why we strive to teach our students not pattern-based teaching methods but creative and critical thinking and using the best qualities of their personality in the process of knowledge transfer.
In my opinion, the teacher of the present and the future must be, in the first turn, a conscious person. It is important that teachers understand that they influence students through not only teaching methods but also every their word and deed. It largely depends on teachers what skills, knowledge, world picture, and life guidelines those people who will inherit our planet in the future will have. That is why it is so important to learn a lot before teaching.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov