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christopher ward, indonesia, 2011-2013
Fulbright Scholar Christopher Ward

Fulbright years: 2011-2013
Country: Indonesia
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Major: Linguistics and Chinese Language and Literature
UGA Graduation Date: May 2011
Hometown: Lawrenceville, GA      

Christopher Ward’s Fulbright year as an English teaching assistant in Polewali and Tarakan, Indonesia was so effective that he was one of five ETAs asked to stick around for another 12 months.

As the son of an ESL instructor, Christopher grew up “bopping from country to country” with stops in Malaysia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. While he was not uncomfortable on international soil, Christopher admits his first weeks on the job were more memorable for the difficulties they posed.

“My first semester of teaching was really rough,” Christopher says, adding that he started out with students who “saw English as a waste of time.” “Things were just not clicking. Sure, there great days here and there, but only a select few students were active in my classes and I wanted more. It seemed like I was trying something new in the classroom every week but wasn’t really receiving the results I wanted.”

But when Christopher – who plans to study computational linguistics in graduate school now that he’s back stateside – developed a points-for-participation system in the classroom, his students’ interest level increased accordingly.

“I tried something … which basically gives a student a point each time they raised their hand,” he says. “Regardless of whether they were right or wrong, even when they were simply asking a question, they would get a point. The more points, the more things (they) could trade for at the end of the month, mainly candy. The results were amazing.”

Christopher adds that the points system encouraged students who’d never been heard from in class to speak up and led regular participants to increase their level of contribution.

“The classroom became students all pushing each other to be more vocal, and use more English, which was what I was going after,” Christopher, who added that the system—and the results—encouraged him to sign on for a second Fulbright year. “Students no longer thought that using English out loud and in a public setting as a horrifying, awkward thing.”

Christopher went on to supervise extracurricular activities like English Club and debate team, established an Ultimate Frisbee club (for students who’d never seen a Frisbee) and taught in 28 classrooms, reaching more than 800 students.

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