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ASJA Girls’ teacher writes book to help students prep for CSEC Spanish orals

Vishanna Phagoo Secondary school Spanish teacher Faria Khan with a copy of the book she wrote for students on CSEC Spanish orals. - Marvin Hamilton
Secondary school Spanish teacher Faria Khan with a copy of the book she wrote for students on CSEC Spanish orals. - Marvin Hamilton

With 18 years of teaching experience, Faria Khan has been able to decipher the specific problems students face when they are doing their Spanish oral CSEC examinations.

Seeing this, she said she decided to compile all the possible questions that may come up especially because there are no books like these.

“It came about two years ago when students in my online classes asked me, ‘Miss, why don't you put all of these notes in a book for us?’”

She uses six PowerPoint presentations to teach her students at her online Spanish oral crash course sessions.

“Kids want to take down all the notes, they don't want to take down just what they need, they want to take on everything and it's time-consuming and I found that we focused too much on the writing and less on speaking. So, I thought, okay, maybe if I put it in a book, they could study it and we can focus on the speaking.”

Khan said her inspiration also came from wanting to help students after seeing them struggle to recover their form one notes which are needed to prepare for their CSEC examinations.

She first thought of writing this book two years ago, but given the time constraints being a full-time teacher at ASJA Girls’ College, San Fernando, and having online sessions, she wasn’t able to publish the book sooner.

“I decided to work on it on my holidays, so it took a couple of July/August vacations and a couple of weekends in between and it was a really nice, fun project. I had the notes, but I wanted it to be covered extensively. I had about 220 questions when I finished the first draft and then I said, ‘No, I want when it goes out there that the topics are thoroughly covered.’ So, I held it back for another year and I added 30 more questions and that's how I got to 250 on six topics.”

Though she launched the book – CSEC Spanish Oral Conversation: Crash Course – on November 26, she has already received many positive reviews.

She said, “One of my students recently bought the book this week she said, ‘Miss, I love that all the notes are together because I can find all my different notes and whatnot.’ So that was one of the perks of it.”

Now that Khan is a self-published author, she said she realised it’s a completely different avenue to being a teacher despite using her teaching and research skills to bring her book to life. She said she even received help from other local textbook authors who would offer her advice and helped her a lot throughout her journey.

“I also found now I'm finding a little challenge because it's self-published. I am the one who has to now go to the bookstores and meet and liaise (with customers), so I've been doing that recently."

To those aspiring to be self-published authors, Khan told WMN that the process was easy to her as it’s what she was accustomed to – researching, compiling and getting what needs to be done on her own.

“Over the years, I create my own resources since I’m accustomed to creating my own PowerPoints and then with the online classes during covid19 was a huge learning curve. I found that when I was looking into publishing the book, I realised that I had already covered most of what the publisher will do. I had already designed my cover, I had already applied for my ISBN (International Standard Book Number), I formatted, edited and proofread.”

She said she even had a colleague reread her book to make sure everything was in order and was suitable for publishing.

Khan, who recently turned 40, has been appointed as the head of the languages department at ASJA Girls’ College, San Fernando after acting in that position for the past nine years. She said though she’s excelling in this field, it isn’t something she saw herself doing.

ASJA Girls' College Spanish teacher Faria Khan moved from PowerPoint presenations online to writing a book to help students prep for the CSEC oral exams. - Marvin Hamilton

“When I started my career, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and when I started to teach at ASJA, my alma mater, I realised this is where I needed to be. I realised I had a love and passion for teaching and more so the Spanish. I only developed a lot of passion for Spanish when I went to my own lessons teacher in form five and that's where my whole perspective and love for the language came, and then I realised that having the right teacher makes a world of difference on whether you're going to like this language or not.”

Since then her goal has been to get children to love Spanish and she even tried new strategies to see what would work best.

“A lot of feedback comes back to me, so I know I'm heading in the right direction and I'm doing some things right. The students and parents do give feedback and I have even converted many students who hated Spanish. Now they are improving and they're doing well. That's my goal as a teacher.”

Khan hopes to write and release another book soon, but no solid plans have been put in place as she is still focusing on teaching as many students as she can. She also offered advice to students who are pursuing the language.

“Start orals early. Don’t wait until form five to try to cram everything. My advice is to start early, start practising your conversational skills, speak with your friends, and don’t wait last minute.”

Though she is still working on getting her book it to all major stores in TT, it can be purchased at Charran’s bookstore at its San Juan, San Fernando and Trincity Mall branches, Fun N Learning Supplies, Princes Town, and from her directly at 792-2881.