I. My Amazing Life at CfL
In 2006 when I first came to the English language department at Brac University, it was called EL PRO. But it really does not matter what the name of the department is; what always remains the same is the wonderful teachers, who care about their students and want to learn more to support them.
On that first day in 2006, I was new to everything: the country, the university and teaching English in a foreign country. However, the director of the department and the teachers were so welcoming and so eager to learn that I was immediately assimilated into the group. I started facilitating workshops, and as I observed classes, I saw the teachers using the techniques from the workshops. The teachers would drop by my office and we would work on their special needs, which were everything from journal writing to how to teach prepositions. We would have lively conversations on the best way to reach the students.
My own work was varied. I designed and taught the first Advanced Academic Writing and Presentations Class. The students were smart and enthusiastic, and they immediately adjusted to my expectation that they become independent learners. At the end of class, the students submitted their semester’s work in a writing portfolio as an alternative assessment, and they presented beautiful anthologies.
Then all the teachers became interested in academic writing, and as a group, we decided what would be included in all the classes. As a result of the teachers’ success with academic writing, CfL sponsored a workshop on the topic, and teachers from all universities were welcome to attend.
In my second year, I started working on the pre-university program, and with a wonderful group of teachers, we radically redesigned it. We changed the curriculum to include critical thinking, integrated skills, grammar in context and the enhancement class, which introduced students to new and controversial ideas. We had so much fun designing, teaching and watching the students grow and change. We were so proud of our work!
When my fellowship was over, I did not want to leave the university, the department, and especially the people. I cannot imagine another place where I could learn as much or have th
e freedom to do so much. Plus, I enjoyed myself while I was doing it. I have to thank Lady Sarwat Abed for the trust she had in me and for the care she gave me.
I will always come back to CfL and Bangladesh. It is a second home and a first family to me.
English Language Fellow
II. My experience about CfL
The Centre for Languages is a dynamic part of Brac University. As an English Language Fellow (a program supported through the U.S. Department of State), I worked with the Centre for Language September 2008 – June 2010 as a teacher and consultant. These two years were extremely fulfilling both personally and professionally; I consider the people I worked with both colleagues and friends. They were very inspiring in their positive energy for their work, their dedication to their students and their interest in professional development. I was impressed with the wide range of activities and programs CfL teachers were involved with, including developing the academic and critical thinking skills of BRAC University and Medhabikash students, developing the communication skills of business professionals, training primary school English language teachers, and collaborating with national projects (e.g., English in Action) to mentor English language teachers in secondary schools across Bangladesh. Their most current endeavor is in establishing an MA in TESOL program. It is their personal dedication and commitment to learning and development that will enable the MA in TESOL program, and other future endeavors, to thrive. It had been an immense pleasure to work with CfL and getting to know the people who were part of that team.
English Language Fellow
III. One year ago..
One year ago, I began a fellowship in the Centre for Languages. I was sponsored by the United States Department of State. Among my responsibilities was mentoring the teachers and providing teacher training. I had been training teachers in Vietnam for the 2 years preceding my involvement in CfL. I came expecting to introduce concepts like student centered classrooms or communicative approaches using culturally relevant materials. I was also expecting to have to overcome years of instruction employing traditional methods which gives the students very little opportunity to practice their new language in the classroom. Within the first 2 weeks I had to completely reassess my expectations and try to discover new ways to make a contribution. From observing classes it became apparent that what I expected to be doing had already been done. In fact not only were the teachers employing communicative methods they were doing it in the context of Bangladeshi cultural by focusing on current social issues. It was the perfect combination of teaching English while raising the students social consciousness. I learned a lot just observing the classes.
The Pre-University course is a perfect example. This course is for students who need to demonstrate English skills high enough to be accepted into the University, where all the classes are taught in English. The syllabus is designed to help the students improve their English, while giving them the opportunity of tackling some of the most difficult social challenges in the country. Improving their English and gaining social consciousness characterizes all the courses in CfL.
I was fortunate to be assigned to the CfL and to witness firsthand how effective teachers can make such a huge difference in the lives of their students. I was inspired by their success and their determination to make life better for all Bangladeshis. The future of this young nation is in good hands, competent and caring hands, who demonstrate faith that in the face of overwhelming challenges one can still make a difference. By the time my fellowship was over I had gained enormous respect for the faculty in the CfL and I was so grateful for having had the opportunity to be a small part of it.
Senior English Language Fellow
Brac University 2010-2011
For a month during January and February and three weeks in May, 2011, I was given the opportunity to work at the CfL at Brac University having received a Fulbright Senior Scholar award. My role was to assist faculty to revise its curriculum for a sequence of courses designed for entering freshmen needing remediation before pursuing their studies in the university courses, taught in English. My major task in May was to assist teachers to design a brochure that would capture the essence of the program and explain it to outsiders, as well as parents of potential students. I very much enjoyed working with Lady Sarwat Abed and the teachers, a very ambitious, dedicated, and talented group of young professionals. I have great respect for the BRAC organization, and am very much impressed by the scope of its work, both within Bangladesh and in other countries that can benefit from its expertise and sound development policies and practices.
English Language Fellow