Language Acquisition

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 childIMG_0549, 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 DSC00309workshop 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!

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My Educational Philosophy

I believe …That education is empowerment, liberation of the mind and a journey of discovery of self and the world.

Learning... Is fluid, its everywhere and a natural part of our existence and survival.

The role of a teacher... Is to advocate for learning, facilitate the best environment and photo (69)opportunity for learning to take place. To Inspire and provoke the mind to engage in the learning process.

The classroom... is a place well adapted to suit individual student needs, a place of positivity, organization and diversity. Its a space of collaboration, debate, exploration, reflection and experimentation, where there are no wrong answers, only learning opportunities.A place where each child is equipped, recognized and appreciated.

Teaching... is supporting students to discover and nurture their potential. I believe the constructivist methods of teaching allow for student-centered learning where student2013-05-28 08.41.17s take the lead in their learning and inquiry. Teaching is providing relevantly differentiated work and challenges are used to stimulate further inquiry. Teaching is providing instruction that is deep and wide in scope to facilitate trans-disciplinary learning. The use of research based sequential and progressive teaching
methods for student achievement.

Special Needs Education... Is equality. Children with Special Needs are always the hardest workers. Their unique learning styles and strengths demand continuous knowledgeable and skillful teaching. It is to foster independence, equip students with skills and knowledge whilst students to reach their full potential.

Success.. is the ability to try again and to introspect.

Learning to Communicate

Over the Summer break I was fortunate to be granted the privileged of teaching students with Autism at the Autism Society of Zimbabwe. Autism has only recently gained some attention in Zimbabwe as a disabilityIMG-20150626-WA0002 that requires specialist support, rehabilitation, therapy and early detection. The founder Helen, has a big heart and great vision of one day building a vocational center for skills training for a means of possible income for the older children. Her team is made up of graduates who volunteer for a small remuneration, in comparison to the workload, their efforts are priceless and commendable.

I was in awe at the hunger to learn these children had. I learnt their language of communication through occasional touches, nibbles and sniffs as they searched for sensory input in identifying me. My days there were inspirational and fulfilling, I became part of the family and part of their routine, which is quite important to the children. I discovered how creative and artistic some of the children are and giIMG-20150626-WA0004ven the chance to use an I pad they created the most alluring abstract pieces! Of course turn taking was also part of the lesson but each child savored their chance. I also tried to introduce a variety of colors but work was handed in with drawings colored in one color!

On one of our morning walks one child who is working very hard at his speech therapy, but shys away from speaking yelled “Ice-cream!” as a truck sped past. That was a moment of many tears for me! Im back at work now but I miss my morning hugs and gentle touches of inspection from the children. Their moments of awesome when they say a word or point to an object in relation to a previous lesson. When they respond to a greeting without echoing and the best is when they show caring for each other even if it means wiping tears or mucous all over the other’s face.