Sample Research Paper on Teaching Assistant Project- Reflective Essay

Background Information

According to statistics from the Harvard Business Review (2018), there are currently
more than one billion people willing to learn the English language, while in 2012, close to two
billion were speaking the language at a useful level. As more multinational organizations
continually mandate the use of English as the main language of communication, Farrell (2016, p.
225) states that there is an increasingly growing demand for teachers specialized in ESL. These
work in English-speaking countries helping immigrants understand their new language or in
other countries as foreign language teachers. Working as a teaching assistant in a TESOL
environment has exposed me to a wide range of opportunities where I have worked towards
helping non-native English speakers to learn the language. At the moment, I am engaged in an
institution in which I attend to three classes that have proven to be extremely eye opening and
helpful in my preparation towards my future teaching career. In this reflective essay, I reflect on
my classroom experience as a teaching assistant, the role played by this experience, and the
effects it may have on myself as well as my future students.
Aims of the Exercise

As an assistant language teacher, my key tasks include assisting the main teacher in
delivering English lessons to the students. I am also involved in the planning of lessons as well
as the various class activities, both academic and non-academic. In some instances, I help in
teaching the special classes where I mainly deal with students with various barriers that interfere
with the normal learning process. Writing this reflective essay is very important to me because it
helps me think about my current experiences as am ATL, and the role that these experiences play

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in my future career as a fully-fledged teacher. Based on the class and students that I am handling
at the moment, my language focus lessons are on the English language vocabulary and its usage,
as opposed to deep grammar and other complicated curricular content. The basic aspects of
language that I am currently focusing on are spellings, pronunciations, correct formation of
sentences and correct usage of words. I believe that the skills I get at this juncture will come in
handy in my future career.

The Teaching Experience

While growing up, I was always the curious child in the crowd that asked all the
seemingly irrelevant questions. As much as my parents warned me against it, I was never afraid
of strangers and this made it easy for me to make numerous friends, some of whom were decades
older than me. This exposed me to great new things and it was then that I knew that I wanted a
people-centered career in future. A career in teaching English to speakers of other languages
gives me a chance to teach and interact with immigrants into the United States, while it can also
offer me the opportunity to work abroad. As a current teaching assistant in a TESOL setting, the
work comes with a significant amount of satisfaction and rewarding experience as we assist our
students to get a grip of a new language. I have often come to the realization that this job is more
than just the mere teaching of a language but the integration and coming together of diverse
cultures. In spite of the challenges that come with the different cultures, especially the ability to
communicate effectively, I can strongly agree that it is a challenge worth getting into.
Working as an ATL (assistant language teacher) has been more fun than it is challenging
especially when I see a student understanding the content and actively participating in the lesson.
Sometimes, it really gets interesting when they marvel at our prowess in the English language,

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and they often feel like we are geniuses. As the only foreigner who can fluently communicate in
the language of their dreams, they view me as a role model and they look up to me irrespective
of their ages. The teacher-student relationship in a TESOL setting is a far cry from the typical
traditional relationship between a teacher and their students since it does involve disciplinary
issues, punishments, strict academic grading systems, and rigid classroom rules and regulations.
On the contrary, Farrell (2014, p. 33) states that it is a flexible and open environment that creates
room for dialogue, open expression of ideas and views, and sharing of diverse cultural beliefs,
values, and norms even as the students continue to work towards their key goal of learning the
English language.

What type of teacher would I like to be?

Farrell (2014, p.27) states that on the basis of their work, a significant number of TESOL
teachers get to work far away from their home countries on fixed term contracts of between nine
and twenty four months, while others work under permanent terms of employment. Others
switch between overseas teaching stunts and summer courses, which also often require lots of
travelling and movement, a factor that makes the profession quite unsettling and cumbersome for
many. In this regard, I would like to be a flexible teacher that would be open to diverse options
both in my profession as well as in my personal life.
Traveling all over the globe is not the only aspect of a TESOL teacher that requires
flexibility and the ability to stay open minded. The fact that they get to meet and interact with
people from diverse cultures during their working life also requires a great deal of flexibility,
open-mindedness and the ability to accommodate the diverse views and cultures of others.
Besides, the profession entails spending some time in a classroom setting and also taking part in

Teaching Assistant Project – Reflective Essay 5
diverse outdoor and social activities over weekends and evenings. Farrell (2016, p.231) explains
that this is unlike the conventional teacher’s job whose teaching tasks may be adequately covered
in a confined classroom setup. With these requirements, I would also like to be an actively
involved and very accommodative teacher. As earlier stated, people in a foreign country and
unable to communicative in the native local language are likely to suffer from inferiority
complex and self-esteem issues which could interfere with the school life of the school going
children, or the ability to earn a decent livelihood for the adults. Therefore, I believe that by
being accommodative and being actively involved in their lives, as opposed to merely being their
teacher, I can offer the hope that they may not be receiving from other quarters.
Over the period I have served as a teaching assistant, I have also noticed the keenness
with which students listen to the teacher and the level of the need to learn English. As a result,
they try to mimic every word that the teacher says. With this, I have gradually understood the
significance of the teacher’s fluency and accuracy in learning language because it eventually
affects the learners’ ability to speak English. As discussed earlier, the most conducive
atmosphere for learning should be an open, encouraging, and accommodative environment,
especially if teaching immigrants to an English speaking country. Due to their immigrant status
and the inability to effectively communicate in fluent English, the students may be undergoing
some form of emotional torment because they feel that they do not fit in.
As a teacher, teaching my learners and ensuring that they achieve maximum outcomes
from the lesson should be the ultimate goal of any teacher. This means that a teacher must be
able to recognize and take advantage of any new learning opportunities that come up. Having the
ability to recognize them in the day to day activities of the learners helps a teacher in designing
an environment that optimizes students’ learning opportunities. In this way, the teacher gets to

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provide and employ more naturalistic teaching methods that boost the learning experience. In my
time as a teaching assistant, I have come to the understanding that this type of teaching
environment will require me to be an alert teacher that recognizes every teaching lead that arises.
For instance during a speaking contest, the teacher may notice the wrong usage of a word, or a
wrong pronunciation, and use the opportunity to teach the class about using the word in every
day communication, or how to distinguish other commonly confused words with similar
meaning, or different meanings but similar spelling. My classroom experience has taught me that
missing such an opportunity may result in skipped topics because some issues may not
necessarily be part of the syllabus. Besides, it also helps in instilling and emphasizing on content
that has been taught earlier.
According to the class teachings, the role of the 21 st century teacher is far beyond the
traditional teacher whose key role was to create content and pass knowledge to their students.
However, Cohen (2014) notes that the modern learner has transformed and requires an equally
transformed teacher who is more empowered than the traditional teacher. Besides imparting
knowledge, other roles include acting as the controller, the prompter, the resource, the assessor,
the organizer, a participant, as well as the tutor. I have also understood that like any other special
needs class, a teacher in a TESOL set up must go the extra mile of meeting the individual needs
of students from varying cultures and at different levels of their English language skills. The
teacher in such a setting is not only there to impact knowledge but also to act as a link between
two or more cultures by trying to understand the student’s culture background and also try to
orient them with the new English culture. Hall (2017) further argues that it is an extremely
intensive undertaking because it requires one to teach high level writing skills to people who
speak other languages. This entails intense amounts of speaking, reading and writing exercises

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which may not be typical or characteristic of teaching roles in other categories of teachers. Being
in a TESOL teaching environment as a teaching assistant has exposed me to the fact that the
roles of a teacher are more than what I initially imagined them to be.
Watching the classroom set up on a day to day basis has exposed me to the real teaching
experience which may require me to make some changes to aspects I may have previously
overlooked. I have always prided myself in my social capabilities and ability to accommodate
new, fresh, and diverse ideologies and cultures. With the thought that these, coupled with my
exemplary communication skills, would be adequate in working as a TESOL teacher, I have
gradually recognized my areas of weakness which I will need to work on before I can become an
effective and efficient teacher of students speaking other languages. One of my weaknesses is in
the area of planning and organizing, where I have often felt a deficient. My stay in the classroom
has taught me that this is perhaps the most critical but difficult tasks a teacher has to play, with
the success of the entire teaching activities relying heavily on the ability to plan and organize the
lessons, both classroom and extra-curricular. Besides, this assists students in knowing what they
are required to do next, based on the instructions from the teacher who must have planned the
same in advance. With this in mind, I must make extra effort to ensure that my organizational
skills are above board. All in all, I believe that my life as a teacher will be an enjoyable skills
because it will expose me to a whole new world of experiences, not to mention the fact that I will
be interacting with people from various backgrounds on a day to day basis.

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Reference List

Cohen, A.D., 2014. Strategies in learning and using a second language. Routledge
Farrell, T.S., 2014. Reflecting on teacher–student relations in TESOL. Elt Journal, 69(1), pp.26-
Farrell, T.S., 2016. Anniversary article: The practices of encouraging TESOL teachers to engage
in reflective practice: An appraisal of recent research contributions. Language Teaching
Research, 20(2), pp.223-247
Hall, G., 2017. Exploring English language teaching: Language in action. Routledge
Harvard Business Review, 2012, Global Business Speaks English. Available at [Accessed 16th December 2018]