I received a 2013–2014 U.S. Teaching Assistantship grant following my graduation from Emory University in May of 2013. I work in two Austrian secondary schools as a Native Speaker English Language assistant. Part of my job is to assist in lesson planning and instruction of English language classes. Here I have treasured equally the opportunity to hone my craft both by teaching alongside and by observing more experienced teachers than myself with groups of all different ages and sizes, from whole classes of 25 3rd formers (8th grade American equivalent) to individual activities with more advanced students.
This has allowed me to experiment with different styles and formats of materials and content delivery as well as observe a number of experienced practitioners with varied styles, which has accelerated the development of my own personal voice and style as a novice educator. This has been invaluable as I begin the lifelong process of developing as a foreign language educator.
My job is about more than just teaching the English language, as foreign language instruction is about more than just teaching students to express the same idea in other words: it is about understanding between individuals of disparate cultures. In Austria I have had the unique opportunity not only to help my students develop linguistically but also to share American culture, politics, economy, as well as pieces of my personal America – my favorite national parks, American Judaism, my favorite American literature. In turn I have learned from my students and coworkers so much about their personal Austrias.
Invaluable to my experience in Austria has been to share a Studentenwohngemeinschaft with three local univeristy students. Whether at film screenings at the university’s Programmkino or just grabbing a Glühwein with colleagues, this has provided an incredible opportunity to totally immerse myself in the local language and community. The strong international presence at the university in my placement town of Krems has allowed me to step outside the German language as well by participating in a number of language exchanges: English for Italian, German for Spanish, and Hebrew for Austrian German. This multi-cultural and mutli-lingual environment constantly challenges me and inspires me to work harder on my own language skills – I am constantly surrounded by the fruits of such labor.
This experience has stoked the flames of my passion for foreign language acquisition and instruction, and encouraged me to pursue a career in international foreign language and cultural education. Without Fulbright I would have never had the opportunity to experiment with this sort of work, and likely would have missed out on what has already become and will continue to develop as a major life passion of mine. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity.
Ari Frankel is a graduate of Emory University with a degree in German studies. He taught at a BHAK, BHAS and BG in Lower Austria as a US Teaching Assistant in 2013–14. The following year he taught at various BRGs in Tyrol. Photo courtesy of Ari Frankel.