Nathaniel Tutor Interview
- Q. Hi Nathaniel, how are you? Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. Hello! My name is Nathaniel, and I was born and raised in California. I have spent most of my professional life involved in education in one capacity or another. Currently, I am a teacher in the school system for students with moderate to severe disabilities, while also working as private tutor in the evenings and on the weekends. Prior to working in Special Education, I spent over eight years working as an English teacher in Hokkaido and a few years teaching English to immigrants here in the U.S. I’ve always been extremely interested in how language works grammatically and how it is intertwined with culture to become functional. This led me to get my M.A. in TESOL in 2004, while providing me numerous opportunities to teach, study, and live in many interesting places throughout the world. I have been very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people through my interest in language.
- Q. You live in California! Could you tell us about your town?
A. I live in Santa Cruz, which is a city of about 50,000 people located near San Francisco, San Jose, and Monterey. Santa Cruz has a bit of everything, from the mountains to the sea. It’s pretty awesome to be able to go for a walk through a redwood forest and then only have to drive a mile or so to get to the beach. It’s a very popular surfing spot and outdoor recreation destination for hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts; in short, there is always something to do here. There is definitely a small town feel here as locals are very interested in promoting local shops, locally produced items, and local artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. There are lots of fairs, festivals, and other promotions put on throughout the year. Santa Cruz is also a very popular tourist destination, especially during the summer when people from all over the area come to the beaches. There is an amusement park, ‘The Boardwalk’ which has rides and concerts throughout the summer which attract many visitors. I could go on and on, but I hope this gives you a general idea.
- Q. I think California is good for sightseers. However, there are quite large, so do you have any recommended places for sightseeing?
A. Yes, you are right, California is quite large. There is so much variety, like many places that is becomes difficult to pinpoint any ‘must dos’ for visitors. I guess it depends on how much time you have and what your interests are. Many people are familiar with the Los Angeles and Hollywood and Disneyland sort of thing, so I’ll skip that, but I highly recommend San Francisco to get a big city feel for California. Also, I recommend that people explore the extensive State Park system as there are natural wonders littered throughout the state. Places like Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, the redwood forests, or many of the beautiful towns and cities along the coast are well worthwhile.
- Q. What do you like to do on your holidays?
A. Well, most important is spending time with the family. At least once a year, we like to go on some sort of extended vacation visiting relatives, friends, or some sort of exotic location with nice weather and warm water! More regularly, I enjoy taking advantage of all the wonderful places in my area. I like to go to the beach, camping, hiking, bike riding, snowboarding/skiing, or for drives exploring small towns, parks, or the Missions of California. Other times, I’m content with relaxing with family and friends, going out to fairs, festivals, shows, sporting events or just getting together for BBQs around the fire.
- Q. According to your profile, you’ve taught English in Japan for nearly 10 years. How was your life in Japan? Do you have any unforgettable stories?
A. There are so many unforgettable stories and experiences from my time in Japan that I would not know where to begin. Although I was able to visit most of Japan, I was based out of Hokkaido my entire time there. I lived in Sapporo for one year, but then lived in smaller farming towns in Northern and Eastern Hokkaido for the remainder of my time. Living in Hokkaido was fantastic, I met so many great people who were so warm and welcoming. The small towns I lived in really made me feel part of the community, and I’ll always appreciate and cherish those experiences. I will never forget how much those close to me went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and happy. On a more general level, being so close to nature and able to go camping or snowboarding whenever I wanted was pretty neat. Not to mention how great the food is.
- Q. I’m interested in your lesson, “English and Mass Media.” Please could you explain a detail of this lesson?
A. Sure. There is a bit of preparation required on both ends for this lesson. This lesson uses news articles or videos as the basis. Usually, I will select a few articles and videos in advance based on student interest and level and send to the student to choose from (or if the student had a specific article he or she wanted to use, then that is fine, too). Based on the article, the student provides an oral summary (a student can also submit a written summary if he or she likes) about the article and is given an opportunity to ask any clarification questions. I then ask the students to explain important vocabulary and phrases from the article to check understanding and hi-lite useful terms before asking a series of questions about the topics presented in the article. In addition to the language aspect, one goal is to identify the purpose of the article and show how the information presented may be biased. Students are then challenged to compare the themes presented to other real-world examples or personal experiences in a free flowing conversation. Along the way and after the lesson, I provide students with feedback, tips, and strategies to include in their English repertoire.
- Q. What is the biggest feature of your lessons?
A. My flexibility and understanding of the need to focus on student needs and goals is the biggest feature of my lesson. There is no benefit to the student if I overlook his or her purpose for studying the language. For example, if a beginning student is just interested in learning some basic phrases to communicate on a trip, it probably isn’t appropriate for me to correct every error or mistake when meaningful communication is taking place. Conversely, if a student is preparing for a standardized test such as TOEFL, which requires mastery of grammar conventions, then I do need to take the time to explain grammatical mistakes, since that goes hand in hand with his or her English needs. In addition to recognizing the individual needs of learners and the flexibility I present in my lessons, I also try to emphasize the cultural aspects within language. Yes, we can learn structures and syntax from textbooks to produce meaningfully communicated language. However, the more understanding we have about the culture and it’s relation to the language, the more prepared we are to engage in natural, pragmatic, and functional conversations. And it is this idea, even if only a bits at a time which I try to share with my students.
- Q. Finally, would you like to leave a message for our students.
A. First off, I love English and I hope you do too. Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. I hope to be creating a few more types of lessons in the near future to add a little more variety. I look forward to meeting and working with new students. Also, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to Cafetalk and the wonderful students I have met and worked with so far.