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TESOL Club allows students to connect over passion for teaching and linguistics

| Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In the fall of 2019, during a methods class for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) minors, students brainstormed ways to promote the program on Notre Dame’s campus. 

Eventually, a plan to create a club developed among the students. The Student Activities Office (SAO) granted the TESOL Club official status in the spring of 2020, but the club’s first year has not been without its challenges.

The club officers were only able to have one in-person meeting before the pandemic struck the U.S. and the University shifted to remote learning. The first SAO Activities Fair in which the TESOL Club participated was completely virtual.

After officers had regular virtual meetings over the winter session to prepare for the coming semester, the club would have had their first fully in-person meeting this spring had it not been for recent restrictions on campus life due to an increase in COVID-19 cases on the Notre Dame campus. Instead, they had to meet via Zoom on Monday evening.

Senior Olivia Wright, TESOL Club vice president, said at the beginning of each meeting, virtual or not, “the question we always ask, besides the Notre Dame introduction, is ‘What [languages] have you studied?’”

Wright came to Notre Dame because of the TESOL minor, she said. Half of her classes focus on linguistics — anything and everything related to dialects, structures of language and code-switching — and the other half focuses on teaching skills such as teaching methods and classroom management.

“It’s a very small minor, and it’s relatively new — it’s only about five years old — but everyone I come into contact with in these classes is enamored it seems by language and by wanting to learn and teach different languages,” Wright said.

As she got older, however, she realized few people knew about this program she loves and takes so much pride in, she said. That is where the club comes in.

The main purpose of the organization is, Wright said, “to create a network of like-minded people — whether they’d be interested in teaching or whether they’d be interested in languages in general — so they can gather together to learn new methods in language acquisition, as well as to think about what they want to do after graduation.”

In order for its members to practice teaching and share ideas, some of the club’s activities include sharing language teaching resources, connecting students with current professionals and holding “micro-teaching” sessions. 

The pandemic has made it difficult for the club to host these sessions thus far, but Lisa Oglesbee — the club’s faculty advisor and the coordinator of English for academic purposes with the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC) — explained the basics of “micro-teaching,” which consists of asking students to “give practice lessons to each other.” 

She said students direct these sessions in her own classroom, and “everyone [else] in the class has to act like they are language students. Students are always really scared to do that at the beginning, but at the end they really love it.” 

Oglesbee said the biggest challenge the club faces in the near future is that the majority of current officers are seniors — all while they are still trying to get the club off the ground. And the younger classes of TESOL minors are even smaller.

“Both the club and the minor have taken a little bit of a hit from the pandemic,” Oglesbee said. “It’s hard to get the word out there, it’s hard to rub shoulders with people and it’s hard to have conversations over coffee.”

Despite all of the difficulties the pandemic poses for organization and recruitment, the TESOL Club has been able to consolidate over the past year.

“Noémi and Olivia have been great about developing a community and recruiting officers,” Oglesbee said, referring to Wright and to senior Noémi Toroczkai, who serves as the club’s president. “I feel like we’re just starting to roll.”

The club hopes to connect with more students through language classrooms and by sharing more content on its Instagram account, such as a student spotlight series to highlight “everyone’s language journey is unique,” Wright said.

Being a member of the TESOL Club is not limited to students in the minor, Oglesbee said. She herself has a master’s degree in TESOL, and learning to teach languages has opened many doors for her, she added.

“I can get a job anywhere,” she said. “It’s a fantastic skill to have, to be able to get a job and to be able to travel the world and meet people from different cultures.”

Anyone who wants to join or learn more about the club — because of interest in languages, teaching or in the intersection of both — can request membership on the SAO website or send an email to [email protected] for more information.

Wright said any students who are interested can also send a direct message to the club’s Instagram account or ask around in the CSLC office in 334 Bond Hall. 

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About Adriana Perez

Adriana is a Notre Dame senior from Guayaquil, Ecuador, majoring in political science and minoring in the Gallivan Program of Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of The Observer for the 2021-2022 term. You can find her at @adrianamperezr on Twitter.

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