Christopher Garth

What is your current position?

I’m the current English Program Coordinator at the Japan Center for Michigan University

When did you complete your MA TESOL degree?

I completed the MSU MA TESOL program in May of 2013.

Tell us about a story, class, or person, from during your time in the MA TESOL program that had an impact on you or your career?

What stuck out the most, for me, was working with Dr. Polio and seeing how the faculty there, in every step of the process, cared about making sure the students were learning as much as humanely possible. There was one point where she was talking to us about content-based language teaching, and she kind of stopped and told us “remember, you’re language teachers”. That was one thing that really stuck with me, because I’d sometimes feel swamped with hearing so much about research and it just reminded me that everything we learn has to be framed in terms of how it can help the students you are teaching language to. From any angle – motivation, vocabulary, grammar, or even when talking about theory – I just think they had really good eyes at pressing students to explain how everything they learned related to their teaching and to second language acquisition in a very practical way. It is something I am glad they do there, because as someone who wanted to go to grad school to take me own teaching to the next level, I didn’t want someone to just throw theories at me or make me read research. I wanted to learn things that were hands-on and practical, and what I got from the faculty here was invaluable.

How did the MA TESOL program help influence your career path?

I always knew I wanted to teach. That said, it really helped me, as someone who was already very comfortable being in front of a classroom, to further develop my teaching personality. There was a moment where I decided that, from now on, in every classroom I step foot in for the rest of my life I am going to have an impact in that classroom. All of the teaching experience I got through the program, and learning so many practical teaching methods, gave me so many new ways to make an impact on students to teach them in memorable and effective ways. Just learning all of those new techniques made me realize that I could take my teaching to the next level and really leave a lasting impact on any future classes I would teach.

What was your favorite class in the MA TESOL program, and why?

Oh, man. I liked a lot of them! I have to admit that I had a real disdain for research at that point! I enjoyed the research classes because of how much fun I had with my classmates, but it wasn’t my thing so much. What I really enjoyed, as a teacher, was the English Functions and Structures class. Initially, when I first went into the classroom, I had little training with teaching grammar because I had just been a substitute before in teaching language. This class made me come up with a lot of my own theories about teaching language, critically analyze textbooks that I would see being used a lot, and thinking about effective ways to teach grammar. Having a whole semester to sit down and work through being able to explain detailed grammar to students was eye-opening to me. I would even have to think about how to explain things I never thought about before, like grammar structures that native speakers just don’t think about a lot in their heads. Having to do that really helped me grow as a teacher.

What advice do you have for current MA students?

If there is ever a possibility for you to do anything extra, or do anything to supplement your studies, do it immediately! I helped PhD students out with their research, which was great, and helped former students by participating in their studies. Whenever there was anything to participate in, I immediately sent out my e-mail. Both of the jobs I have had since then came as a direct result from having a good reputation that I built through helping people and from being there and putting in 100% all of the time. Especially with faculty, I think that it is important for them to see that you are engaged and participating in a lot of opportunities. Not only because it can help you find a job but because you will learn so much from it as well.