Monday, October 6, 2014

Meet Francesca, ESL Teacher and Creator of MAYI Learn English

Francesca is an ESL teacher with seven years of experience. She's based in Beijing, China. Since she began working with kindergarteners in China in 2009, she's developed some of her own methods for teaching English which are also adaptable for students with ADHD, Autism, and other learning challenges. Francesca has launched an IndieGogo campaign to develop her MAYI Learn English method of teaching.

1. What gave you the idea to create the MAYI Learn English method of learning ESL?

I created MAYI Learn English five years ago when I started to teach English in Beijing, China. I worked for many kindergarten classes and private training centers as well. But I had some difficulties when I got special kids in my classes. And none of classic ESL methods were suitable for them. And I refused to let these little cuties sit in the corner because they weren't capable to follow a classic curriculum.

2. It sounds like there are a lot of parts to your project, including curriculum/learning materials, software, and the magic pen. Could you tell us a little bit about the main parts of your project and how they connect with each other?

Well, in classic ESL methods, you have a student's book and a workbook and a CD. But this is not enough for special children, because the exercises are not enough or are inappropriate.

So my method includes of course my version of these traditional things, but I also created a phonics book which matches with the Magic Pen (electronic pen) and software. There's a unique interaction between them. The App will help students to learn about the sound of the letters. Phonics are very important to know how to read.

The teacher's guide will explain why this exercise is important and how many minutes you have to do it. And how to do it step by step. I also made flash cards but with new genres. Because this isn't patented yet, I can't explain too much. It's bigger than the regular version on the market and more visual.

3. How do you use aspects of MAYI Learn English in your own work as a teacher?

I still use it in my day job. It took me so long to make it because every time I used the school method, I always found something that wasn't functional.

For example: one day at school, one of my students struggled with the letter N. In the books, they had just one page for the calligraphy and one page with three different pictures of words starting with letter N. No CD or DVD was included with this method. And this child was Autistic. I had no idea what to do with him. I was completely lost. And my Chinese assistant told me, "It doesn't matter if he can't do or follow the lesson. Don't waste your time with him." I was choked and angry. And I said "No way, I will never let him alone in the corner." So I used plastic jigsaw puzzles to create a huge letter N. And I passed my hand over it, and he did the same.

I thought at this moment: that's the key. Make it bigger and think out of the box. And I was right. And after that, he wrote the letter N in his book.

4. What do you see as some of the main challenges in teaching ESL, and how does your project help address these challenges?

The most challenging part for me as a teacher is to change people's minds. It's not true that if your child has fun during the class, then he or she will learn nothing. Education must have real innovation and not just for classic students but also for gifted "babies." And I also want to continue to improve my method for English speakers in the future.

5. Why did you decide to utilize IndieGogo to help fund your project, and what will supporters of your crowdfunding campaign receive in return for their support?

I decided to use the IndieGogo crowdfunding website because every school where I worked before wanted to use my method, but their management was unacceptable for me. Then I decided to launch my campaign.

My backers will get my method + T-shirt + electronic pen or CD/ DVD. And they will have their names and pictures into the books + credit in the App and DVD.

The magic pen is a pen that I handcrafted by myself for my ADHD students (it's a prototype). I made this pen to let my ADHD students have a stronger focus. If they hold the pen for a long enough time, then the pen will change color and the ink as well.

If I receive enough pledges to open my own training center, then the backers' names will be on the glass wall. I said IF. And it will be like this for each center that I will open in the future. This is my dream!

Thanks, Francesca!

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