In my work with English Learners I have discovered a necessary patience. I have been working with English learners for 5 years now and have found that each child’s journey is extremely different. To begin with, there are many layers to every child, in addition to the language barrier, layers of cultural diversity,practice and norms, religion, behavioral uniqueness, interests and passions. I remember once greeting a Chinese student in Japanese by mistake, in my attempt to ease her a little (break the ice). Her response was a fragmented sentence with undertones of robust anger of how the Japanese had killed her people, with gestures of be-heading included. Lesson learnt, I did my research and now with a more open heart and mind I enjoy learning about the cultures and languages that these students belong to and that avoidance of eye contact at times is a sign of respect for authority. The general stereotypes don’t apply and society robs itself of the possibility of a better world, by lack of understanding of our diversity. The IBO philosophy humanistic in form makes it possible for humanity to get along, with mutual respect and celebration of one’s uniqueness and that of others, peace is a possibility.
I recently ventured into the world of Japanese Anime to learn some conversational words of which my Japanese student finds hilarious and always unpredictable, nevertheless he nods me on. I find it refreshing that we can both laugh at our mistakes and that learning English shouldn’t be laborious and bland, but with cultural understanding, the academic part, is a bonus. I have been privileged to work with German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Czech, Swedish, Italian, Spanish/Italian/French, Norwegian,Jewish and I await the opportunity to grow more.Above all I have learnt that we are all human and possess things we value and as an educator it is important that I understand these things first.
I held a professional workshop in 2014 that outlined the theories behind language acquisition and most importantly how to help support the third culture population of language learners. The most valuable asset is empathy.
One student I had was multi lingual and learning English for the first time. His homework on one occasion was two pages long of information he had to cite in a persuasive essay. As expected I found myself in a whirlwind of papers, tears,pencils, furniture and shoes as he found this the only effective way to express his frustration. I watched as he wore himself out. From that, I learnt a few Spanish/French/Italian words not appropriate for this platform, however, I became his advocate. His interest in soccer was our common conversational starter and from there he learnt mathematical vocabulary. It’s a journey that thrills me especially when these children gain confidence to speak English for the first time (the silent period can be daunting for both teacher and student), but when that period is over as I’ve recently found getting them to stop at times, can be interesting!