Alana Devenny

Alana Devenny

All the World’s a Classroom

Alana Devenny

Alana Devenny always knew that she wanted to become a teacher, and over the years has fulfilled many volunteer roles working with kids, enjoying watching them learn and grow. Her background studying in French before university also sparked a love of linguistics, and the opportunity to incorporate Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) into her Education degree was an additional draw to Bishop’s.

A friend who successfully applied for B.E.S.T. funding in 2017 was part of the inspiration for Alana to submit her project to teach in Cape Town, South Africa for a month this summer. “I gained lots of insight about teaching abroad after going on exchange to Aix-en-Provence in France, and last year I completed an internship teaching French in British Columbia. But I was eager to apply what I’ve learned through my TESL minor,” she said. Cape Town, a vibrant city in a country with 11 official languages, would allow her to put her skills to the test in a linguistically diverse environment.

We spoke to Alana while she was partway through her internship, waking up before the sun as she was in the southern hemisphere during the winter. The South African school day, consisting of eight lessons with just two short breaks, is longer than what the average Canadian high school student is used to. Responsible for preparing and teaching English lessons every day, Alana’s experience was helping her to understand how her Grade 11 and 12 students learn and respond to material. She was also able to observe classes in math, science, Xhosa (one of South Africa’s more widely spoken languages), life studies and physical education, and was even called on to substitute teach on occasion.

One of the major differences between Canadian and South African schools is technology – or rather, the lack thereof. “Here, you can’t rely on technology as a teaching aid,” explained Alana. “There are no PowerPoint presentations, no smartboards, and not nearly as much printed material. Fewer resources means that I’ve been using more of a lecture style of teaching, and I’ve had to be creative in designing group work and interactive activities that make the learning memorable.”

“I’m developing my lesson planning skills and adjusting my teaching strategy to fit the reality of the school and the students,” said Alana. Expanding her teaching toolkit to become more flexible and adaptable has been an important lesson for Alana’s own development as well, as she plans to teach abroad after graduation. “It has been so valuable to experience this cross-cultural environment, working with students of different backgrounds, and that is only going to serve me well in my future classrooms,” she affirmed.

Her B.E.S.T. project is something that Alana will always remember, and she encourages other students to take full advantage. “This is an incredible opportunity that Bishop’s offers to make your university experience that much more rewarding. Dedicate some time to researching a project that will help guide you towards your career path or post-Bishop’s goals, and then invest in your future by applying. I promise you won’t regret it.”