April 6, 2003 - TESOL Greece: Allison Rainville is in her second year of teaching as an American Peace Corps Volunteer at Geo Milev English Language School in Bourgas, Bulgaria

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bulgaria: Peace Corps Bulgaria: The Peace Corps in Bulgaria: April 6, 2003 - TESOL Greece: Allison Rainville is in her second year of teaching as an American Peace Corps Volunteer at Geo Milev English Language School in Bourgas, Bulgaria

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, April 06, 2003 - 1:17 pm: Edit Post

Allison Rainville is in her second year of teaching as an American Peace Corps Volunteer at Geo Milev English Language School in Bourgas, Bulgaria

Allison Rainville is in her second year of teaching as an American Peace Corps Volunteer at Geo Milev English Language School in Bourgas, Bulgaria

EFL and the Writing Process in Bulgaria

By Allison Rainville

In the past 10 years, much has been said about the newest area for EFL teaching, Eastern Europe. As Eastern Europe opens itself to the Western experience, Americans who teach English there increasingly find themselves teaching not only English language and U.S. culture but also skills such as essay writing and test taking (mostly in regard to the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL] and the Scholastic Assessment Test).

I teach at an English language school in Bulgaria. My students are the equivalent of 9th and 11th graders in the United States. The school employs 21 English teachers and 1 teacher of geography in English. I am currently the only teacher who is a native speaker of English, although this is the first year in a long time that there has not been a British teacher here. During the first year of study at this school, the U.S. equivalent of 8th grade, students study 19 classroom hours of English per week, and most work after school with tutors as well. Needless to say, after this first year students have a fairly good grasp of English grammar and vocabulary.

In Bulgaria, however, there is still a shortage of English teachers, and some schools need teachers who can teach the language itself grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, and so on. Many of my American colleagues are in situations such as this. But increasingly, schools like mine, which already have enough English teachers to fulfill the need for teaching grammar, speaking skills, and vocabulary in English, are hiring native-English-speaking teachers to teach essay writing or TOEFL skills, or, as a couple of my American colleagues are doing, to teach content classes such as history and biology.

I currently teach essay writing to my 11th graders. Bulgarian colleagues often ask me to teach writing because it is required on tests such as the TOEFL, and the Bulgarian tradition of writing is much different from that of writing in English. However, my colleagues do not realize that when they ask me to teach writing skills, they are asking for much more than the language: They are asking me to teach, among other things, the ability to think critically, brainstorm, and organize thoughts. For the most part, my students do not realize this either. I sometimes perceive that they think I am wasting their time. Instead of just giving them the information they need to know, I force them to "play" with the language they already have turn it upside down, look at it from different angles, and see what part of it works for them. Doing this is strange for a group of teenagers who are used to memorizing and repeating, and for whom book knowledge, or the knowledge they can display on a test, will become increasingly important as they look toward taking university entrance exams.

Students in Bulgaria learn English for the benefits it can bring them in the long run. But so far, most of them do not understand that to embrace a language and benefit fully from what it has to offer, they need to be able to at least understand a different way of thinking and perceiving things, not just learn the grammar and the meanings of individual words. For example, my 11th graders were shocked when I told them at the beginning of the writing course that I would not ask them to write an essay for another 2 months. In the meantime, I explained, we would work on the process of writing, starting with how to decide on a topic. The class is now working slowly through the writing process, and I can see that the students are frustrated.

Most of the students wonder why I can't just tell them how to write essays; they don't realizing that I'm doing exactly that. Still, some do understand the process, and although I wish they'd explain it to their classmates, I know that it's not likely to happen. But their understanding is the spark of light in the darkness that gives me the patience to work through the writing process with them. Maybe the others will just take a bit longer to understand me and what I'm trying to do. In the meantime, though, we're still working on paragraph structure.

Having read quite a bit of published literature on English language teaching in Eastern Europe, I came here expecting to be teaching in a school hit hard by English teacher shortages and to be doing little more than teaching basic English. What I found is a school with plenty of great English teachers and students who, despite the grumbling and frustration of writing paragraphs, really do want to go beyond the grammar and the vocabulary to the meat of the English language. I have been pleasantly surprised.

This article first appeared in the February/March 2000 issue of TESOL Matters.

Allison Rainville is in her second year of teaching as an American Peace Corps Volunteer at Geo Milev English Language School in Bourgas, Bulgaria. She is working toward her master's in TESOL at the Monterey Institute of International Studies through the Peace Corps Master's International Program.

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Story Source: TESOL Greece

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bulgaria; TESOL



By Andrew Haizelden (dial81-131-75-202.in-addr.btopenworld.com - on Thursday, January 01, 2004 - 6:47 pm: Edit Post

Dear Allison Rainville.

I am about to start a career in TESOL/TEFL and am interested in Bulgeria in particular. Is there anything more you can tell me?
I hope to be able to travel there in May 2004


By danieldee ( on Friday, March 18, 2005 - 4:19 am: Edit Post

dear allison, i have finish college and i am in trested in teaching in bulgaria and to learn bulgaria also, so how can you help me with this.

By Allison Rainville (208-220-134-25.in-addr.net1plus.com - on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 10:52 am: Edit Post

From the author:

I found this today (March 22, 2005) and am flabbergasted that it's here. I knew nothing about it.

It should be noted that I wrote this in late 1999 and it was published in a newsletter called TESOL Matters in March 2000. Given the current state of affairs in Bulgaria and the fact that things are changing constantly (and that I have not been in Bulgaria since July 2000), I am no longer an "expert" (if I ever was) on English language teaching in Bulgaria.

Allison Rainville

By adeyemo adeshina ( on Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 8:08 am: Edit Post

i want to serve bulgeria in bulgerian Airforce, i am a nigerian in lagos nigeria. How can i go about it, i need your assistance.
my name: adeyemo adeshina O.s.
postal addr: 135 isolo road mushin lagos nigeria. or 9a akinbaiye street isolo lagos nigerias.
post code: 23401
mobil tell: 234-8023839946.email: bulgeshina@yahoo.com.au
i am an undergraduate of lagos state polytechnic.

By Anonymous (ip68-6-109-104.sb.sd.cox.net - on Friday, October 12, 2007 - 1:03 am: Edit Post

I'm from Bulgaria, currently living in the US but would LOVE to go back and do peace corps in my home country! I know I'm posting this years after you wrote it and i do hope there's still a way this message can reach you...I just wanted to know what your experience was like...I know that high schools in Bulgaria can be pretty tough to teach at. I just wanted to ask you how you ended up teaching in Bulgaria and especially in Бургас. If you have any free time, I would be more than grateful to hear your experiences. My e-mail is teodora.nikolaeva@gmail.com
I hope this somehow gets to you.

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