Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Adult ESL

I'm three days into my official summer vacation. Once again, I'm not teaching summer school due to life never quite being plan-able ahead of time. Instead, I'm volunteering to teach adult ESL to migrant families at the nearby racetrack. I'm SUPER excited about it.

As a part of my job, I've always been involved in many aspects of the community. For me, though, I have a strong affinity for working with motivated parents who are committed to joining in on the education of their children. We have been given a program that involved TPR (total physical response) and it seems like it will be effective enough to make me envious of not learning in a similar way back when I was busting my butt trying to learn Spanish for my career.

The problem is, I have so much training in bilingual education that some of the training has directly conflicted with some of my VERY strong procedural beliefs. For example, we were asked to do a True/False quiz to gauge our understanding of the situation we were entering into (to be fair, most volunteers have no background in ESL at all).

8. The best way to teach a language is by using the students' native language. (T/F)

Now obviously, they want you to answer false here (a VERY English-only mentality). Now this just reminds me of how controversial my job really is, but I believe strongly in the ability to use one's native language in order to understand the structure of language in general and build/enhance comprehension.

10. The teacher should restate in correct English what a student says if said incorrectly. (T/F)

This one rankled me too. Apparently the correct answer is "True." But I completely and fundamentally disagree. People (all people) get SO discouraged when they are repeatedly corrected for minor language infractions. Students at any age learn through modeling. So believe me when I say I often answer a person by modeling the correct English using my own perspective. But if you correct someone every time something incorrect comes out of their mouths, they will be soooo much less likely to speak out. Who wants to put themselves out there for public failure? Nobody I know!

To be totally fair, the other 8 true/false questions were spot on and great tips for people new to teaching ESL. No matter what, I'm grateful for the fantastic and well intentioned people who are giving of their time to enhance the lives of others.

1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed you are taking on this challenge during the summer! Way to go!

    I remember moving to France when I was seven and picking up French in the span of a school year (I remember it was pretty effortless). My language teacher knew two words in English: "Shut up". LOL. I survived, though. I do remember my parents (in their mid-thirties at the time) struggling much more to learn the language. They took an extra year of language school and I remember my dad practicing his pronunciation in the bathroom --trying to get those "R"s just right!

    I can commiserate with adults trying to be fluent in a new language. I don't understand why foreign language instruction doesn't start in Kindergarten -- it's so much easier to learn as a child!!