Your ETA proposal should address your interest in teaching: your past experiences and skills as a teacher; your reasons for wanting to participate in the specific teaching assistant program you have chosen; any particular projects, activities, or methods you hope to employ in the classroom during the year; and your interest in the country you have selected. In addition, if the particular program encourages you to have a side project, spend a paragraph or two describing it.
Note: Each teaching assistant program is different. In some places, students have a lot of freedom to plan their own lessons; in other places, they are discouraged from doing so and must work within a strict curriculum. Some students will be teaching in rural schools, others in urban schools; some will be teaching in universities, others will teach high school, elementary school and so on. The Fulbright website provides a specific description of each country program. Before you start writing, make sure you review the description of the program carefully. The specific nature of the individual country’s program will help determine the way you approach your proposal.
Once you have thoroughly researched the program to which you are applying, begin by listing ideas and experiences that address the following questions:
- What are your reasons for wanting to teach in another country?
- Why have you selected this particular country?
- What experiences have you had as a teacher, coach, mentor, camp counselor (any teaching or teaching-like experience you have had) and what did you learn from them?
- Are there any particular teaching methods in these roles that have or have not worked well?
- In addition to teaching, what other activities might you pursue in order to interact more with the people, place, and culture in which you’ll be living and working? In addition to brainstorming ideas about yourself and your own goals and motives, research the country to which you are applying. More than simply making a case for wanting to teach, you need to make a case for why you want to live and work in the particular country you have chosen. Knowing something about its history, language, art, and political situation will help you write more convincingly and specifically about the kinds of questions and issues you want to learn more about while you are there. This research can also help you formulate your side project.
Once you have brainstormed some ideas for the central components of the teaching proposal, you are ready to begin writing. The biggest challenge is specificity. Keep in mind the classic piece of writing advice – “Show, don’t tell.” Instead of saying you have a passion for teaching, discuss a specific example from your life when you taught others, noting specifically what sorts of lessons you learned and how you might apply them in the context of the Fulbright program. Remember that “teaching experience” does not necessarily mean time you have spent at the head of a traditional classroom. Teaching experience can be drawn from work you have done as a tutor, a writing fellow, a volunteer, coach, or a project leader. In the end, any experience you have had that you feel has provided you with the skills you think will translate well into the classroom are worth discussing here. These experiences will say much more about you than any sentence that simply lists your qualities. Strive always to show your skills and your interest, rather than tell the committee about them.
Below is a general outline that might help you organize your thoughts. This method of organization is not a fixed blueprint; you should feel free to play with the order here and mix these topics up.
- Open the teaching proposal with an anecdote or specific example from your own life that illustrates your interest in and commitment to teaching. In choosing this anecdote, try to find a moment that sets a strong frame for the essay as a whole, illustrating not just your interest in teaching, but also some of your skills and goals. You could also open the teaching proposal project with an anecdote that illustrates how much you learned from a previous experience living and working abroad and/or from learning or being immersed in a foreign language.
- Following this, you might discuss your particular interest in teaching in the country you have chosen. Again, the more specific you can be about your reasons for choosing Indonesia, Korea, Norway, France, etc. the better. If you are not very familiar with the country, research it a bit online. In discussing your interest, avoid controversial topics that might offend members of the committee in your host country. Remember, these programs are designed to foster cultural exchange, so strive to be both informed and respectful in discussing your interest in living and working in the country you have selected.
- Next, move on to a discussion of the specific teaching program to which you are applying. Are there particular methods, projects, or activities you would like to use that might benefit this particular group of students – keeping in mind their age, grade level, and conditions/policy of the school? What do you hope to achieve with the students? Be as specific as possible, and make sure your plans fit within the program description.
- Following this or perhaps interwoven with it, provide a clear and specific account of the skills and experiences you will bring to the classroom. How will you accomplish the goals and plans you described for your Fulbright year? You need to convince the committee that you are both willing and able to do the job you are applying to do.
- Side project (only applicable in some countries): After discussing your experience and plans for the classroom, provide a brief description (1 or 2 paragraphs) of a side project that you will conduct in addition to teaching. The side project can be to study the language of the country where you will be teaching. If language study is your side project, you need to discuss how you will pursue it, keeping in mind that your exact placement in the country will not be determined until after the award is granted. The side project can also be artistic, cultural, or scientific; it can involve volunteer work or engagement in a serious hobby. The most important thing to remember about the side project is that it must not interfere with your teaching duties. For the teaching assistant proposals, your emphasis must always be on the teaching, not the side project.
The Fulbright Program places its strongest emphasis on cultural exchange, so it is very important to consider how you will engage with the community of the host country outside of the classroom. Ask yourself about your interests and commitments (cooking, music, soccer, film) and consider how you might pursue those in the host country.