As I approach a new milestone in my professional and academic career [ graduating with Masters of Arts in Teaching Foreign Language from Michigan State University ], I am reflecting on what I have accomplished and was able to achieve during my studies. First, I took a careful look at my academic statement that I wrote as part of my application to the Master’s program at MSU. I stated many goals and reasons that made me believe that this is the right program for me. I earned 30 credits through a rigorous master’s program, I learned through various platforms such as theories and academia, classroom observations, academic reading, useful links, instructor's lectures, discussion board, consistence designing and modifying lesson plans, literature reviews, Textbook reviews, peer reviews, research papers and many academic papers. The program included eight main sub fields, in addition to an experiential field project. It is evident from my teaching and my students' achievements that what I have learned in my master program certainly fulfilled my academic goals in this phase of my career.
The Second Language Acquisition class was an eye opening experience and put academic terms into a real life experience. As a second language learner and a language teacher, I was able to connect with many of the academic terms that explain the development of language proficiency through academic and social context. Another great area is connecting research based findings with real classroom practice. I learned how to interact to research paper findings in the SLA field as a teacher, how I can consistently use these findings to maximize my teaching effectiveness inside the classroom.
Another class that greatly reshaped my lesson plans was Foreign Language Teaching Methods, where I learned about different theories and methods in teaching foreign languages. Methods such as content based curriculum, task based activities, among other methods in teaching SL reading and writing. The class provided the proper materials that helped me make the connections between teaching theories and methods; and applying them in creating effective teaching materials that I can use with my students. This course enabled me to provide my Arabic students with learning resources that help them inside and outside the classroom as they continue their second language learning journey.
One of the most enlightening courses was Teaching Foreign Language with Technology. The scope of this course was beyond learning new technology tools or how to keep up with the fast-paced tech tools in order to use them inside the FL classroom. In addition, I learned how to maximize the use of technology tools to help my students achieve their learning goals. I also learned about hybrid and distance learning, and each method’s strengths and challenges. I was able to create a demo course on Desire To Learn platform, which was a great learning experience. In addition, I worked on many lesson plans that integrated technology tools to best meet the objectives of each lesson. After I finished this course, I continued to apply everything I have learned in my classes and with my students, which gave them the advantages and better ways to use and practice their Arabic language skills.
Assessment for Foreign language Teaching was an interesting field to invade. I learned that principles of creating both a valid and reliable assessment tool. I also learned about standardized testing and how it can change the dynamics inside the language classroom. Through creating a powerpoint presentation, many formative and summative assessments . I believe that this course helped me to improve my assessments tools to best assess my students using tests that are appropriate for the classroom context. Also, with assessment that meet the stakeholders' educational and administrative goals. Most importantly, it enhanced my ability to provide my students with the best reflections on their Arabic language learning achievements that will guide them during their learning process.
Foreign Language Program Development and Administration was certainly a course that provided me a broader insight into the educational process. The stakeholders’ goals, dynamics and development, which certainly impacts what goes on inside the classroom. This course also introduced great resources and made them available, for teacher professional developments. It connected me with a local, as well as global network of Arabic teachers, in an efforts to highlight the importance of collaboration within the field. The course helped me learn successful tools for Arabic language program’s marketing, evaluation, and teacher training as they fit to the second language classroom.
The Experiential Course in Teaching Foreign Language was one of the highlights of my masters program. I took this course mid-way through my studies, which felt like the perfect stage of my learning curve. I had acquired a great amount of knowledge through SLA, Teaching Methods, integrating technology and program development and administration. This empowered me with the proper knowledge and tools to visit other local Arabic classes and interact with the stockholders, by learning and sharing the best learning tools for our Arabic learners. I am forever grateful for my school at MAFLT and especially to Dr. De Felice for the amount of varieties that students can choose from, in order to meet the requirements of that course. I wish I had more time to conduct all the different options. It sends a valuable message to all of us (educators) that there are endless opportunities in our daily and professional lives to always keep learning, improving and sharing our success with our colleagues and students in the field of foreign language education.
The Language Concepts for Foreign Language Teaching course included the study of linguistic principles. I was introduced to very effective tools to teach the Arabic language’s phonics, syntax; including pragmatics as well. These are the building blocks of any language communication competence. If I helped my students to master these areas during their preliminary phase in learning Arabic, I believe they will be progressing strongly in achieving their linguistic and communication goals.
The Sociolinguistic and Spoken Language course focused on how language learners become proficient in their target language. The course highlighting the fact that grammar rules, vocabulary and writing skills are not the only skills needed. It’s how language learners are able to communication with the native speakers in different contexts, considering various social settings, language varieties and dominant powers both politically and socially. Language varieties had a great focus during this class, which emphasize the importance of relating the language to the community. I also gained great knowledge about teaching spoken language using different pedagogical approaches. In summary, the course greatly helped me with excellent teaching tools that empower me to help my students to achieve their sociolinguistic competence in learning their target language.
Teaching Culture in Foreign Language Classrooms course is my final class in my MFLT program. I learned more about how complex the “culture” term really is. How language teachers should strive to find the right balance between the pedagogical approaches and practices, in an effort to present to their learners the best resources that enhance their intercultural competence. I worked on creating lesson plans that provide my students with cultural practices from the Arabic world, while engaging them through ACTFL communication modes. Everyone in my classroom shared their lesson plans on the online discussion board. It was the best collaboration effort since we all provided feedback and suggestions to enhance each other’s teaching materials. I also carried out a reflective task on cultural classroom observation. The final assignment for this course is conducting an Intercultural Investigation project (Ethnography). It shed the light on language learners’ experience in crossing cultural boundaries, their challenges and practices to fulfill their intercultural competence.
As time passes and I feel I am getting closer to the finish line and achieving my Masters degree from MFLT, I feel at times unwilling to accept that I will leave this vast amount of support. This program supported me with knowledge, resources, academic and practical teaching tools; and most importantly gold standard role model of educators who raised the bar of the ideal educators we all are striving to be. I had the honor and privilege to work with most, if not all of the MAFLT core faculty. I cannot conclude my essay about my achievements in MAFLT without presenting my deepest gratitude to our faculty. MFLT program helped me witness my students' success inside my Arabic classroom, by applying what I have learned in my classes, using the tools I gained and acquired in my studies. Thanks to MFLT, I feel more confident that I am more prepared to move on with a wealth of knowledge and a passion to stay connected with the community of Arabic educators and learners in the U.S. and around the world.