Journey toward Effective Teaching - '20 MA TESOL Student Shirley Xu

shirley xu tesol 12
Jan 22 2020

The first cohort of the NYU Steinhardt - NYU Shanghai Joint MA TESOL program will graduate in May, 2020. Shirley Xu, a teacher at the British International School, is a member of this first graduating class. Though majored in international trade and had no professional training in education, Shirley has a great passion for education. She has devoted herself to language education since graduation and joined BISS as a teacher two years ago. Due to her passion for language education and expectation to update her pedagogical skills, Shirley became one of the first students in the MA TESOL program. Recently, the Office of Graduate and Advanced Education (OGAE) interviewed Shirley and invited her to share her experience of studying in the program.

shirley xu

Shirley with her classmates in New York

Q: Why did you decide to apply for the MA in TESOL?​

Shirley: NYU has always been my dream school. When I first learned about the MA TESOL program that jointly offered by NYU Shanghai and NYU Steinhardt, I knew it would allow me to benefit greatly from exposure to the world’s top-class education resources. Meanwhile, I was greatly attracted by how the program curriculum is designed. When I discovered that the courses featured here were conducive to learning of theories in foreign language teaching and practice including “the structure of American English,” I knew this program will directly shore up my shortcomings in teaching, namely the lack of theoretical knowledge, and support me to apply the theoretical constructs to real life. On top of that, I looked forward to the immersion in New York, it would be really nice for me to be a student again.

This program allows me to maintain my working professional while pursuing further education. The classes are normally held on weekends and holidays, so I can better control my time since my school and work schedules are mutually exclusive.

shirley xu tesol 2

Shirley at TESOL Symposium hosted by MA TESOL

Q: What is your experience of studying in the MA TESOL program like?

Shirley: It has been a very intensive but also a really rewarding experience. I very much appreciate the practical way in which the course is structured and delivered – we’re able to apply what we gained from the course directly in our own class. For example, in the first summer, we had a course on the Structure of American English, and through that class, we learned some of the most effective ways of teaching grammar communicatively. We worked in teams and went through three demo-teaching. For the final project for that course, I made a portfolio of activities for teaching grammar, many of which I can use in the classroom today. 

shirley xu tesol 3

Shirley with her classmates

Q: What was something that impressed you most during your study in the MA TESOL program?

Shirley: The first course of the program was led by Professor Robin Harvey, and she greatly surprised us in the very first class, which was totally taught in Hindi. We were stunned at the beginning of the class, as we had no idea what she was talking about. Through her repeats and body language, we gradually started to understand Professor Harvey and tried to repeat after her to communicate. This experience greatly impressed me and helped me to have a better understanding of how language learners feel when learning foreign languages.

shirley xu tesol 4

Shirley with her professors and classmates

Q: What do you like about the small-sized class of the MA TESOL program?

Shirley: I am grateful to learn from all the professors and classmates in the program. They are all kind and helpful. Our professors, even though they are very busy, they would always sit down with us and help us as much as possible - whether it is to give out advice or help with the questions in the course. They always get back to our questions in a timely manner, regardless of how late or early it can be. 

shirley xu tesol 5

Shirley with her professors and classmates

All my classmates are very experienced teachers from diverse backgrounds. We learn a lot from each other, in addition to the group assignments and projects. We even have the chance to do class observation at their schools. I not only just learn different teaching techniques from them, but also have been inspired and motivated by their passion for teaching. We are very supportive of each other. I remember once when some of my classmates were doing a teaching demo at a school, a majority of my classmates showed up in an exciting surprise!

shirley xu tesol 6

Shirley with her classmates in New York

Q: What was it like to study in New York City during your second summer?​

Shirley: The immersive study experience in NYC allowed me to fully experience the diverse environment and academic atmosphere at NYU. The courses we had were led by experienced professors. We listened to a series of workshops, and learned a lot in teaching practice from guest speakers. In the meantime, we also had the chance to interact with local teachers and teachers from Saudi Arabia, and learn about the differences in teaching practice between China and other countries in the world. 

shirley xu tesol 7

Shirley with her classmates

The course design in NYC is a combination of theory and real practice. Outside of the classroom, professors took us to visit local museums, libraries, special learning centers and language schools. We also moderated several mini-workshops at local ELS language center and communicated with students there.

shirley xu tesol 8

Shirley and her classmates at ELS Language Center

I visited cities nearby with my classmates over the weekends. Our professors also invited us to their homes and let us experience the local culture. I really appreciate the course design of the TESOL program. The experience of studying in NYC has greatly inspired me in my everyday teaching practice. 

shirley xu tesol 9

shirley xu tesol 10

Shirley with classmates in New York