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This is an interesting point that happens to many teachers who are living and working in a non-English speaking country. How often have we sat in the class and found ourselves explaining something to a student in their own garbled English in order to get them to understand. We’ve all done it, not proud of it, and in fact the hardest part is that we do it more often than we think. Why? Because the power of 20 people over 1 is greater than 1 over 20.
Whenever we do it we do try to remember to make sure we speak clearly and accurately for the student to not only pick up the answer but also not reinforce their own bad English as way to explain something.
But in the long run though we are always taught that a great teacher has a very powerful influence over a class of students, we need to always remember what teachers take away subconsciously from their students.
I want to list a few points here:
- Though I always recommend teachers to get to know and understand the culture of the students they are teaching, I also encourage them to maintain their friendships outside of school with other native speakers, if only to make sure their English stays on track.
- My experience with a large range of teachers coming through our school, is that they definitely leave a different person after they finish and all due to the benefit of understanding something about a culture and religion that in the past they had been either ignorant of or afraid of. The greatest thing is that they leave usually very enlightened at how alike we all are as people and how propaganda and racism are generated only by people who know nothing.
- Teachers also appear to be far more flexible in their understanding of learning differences related to culture and expectation when they spend more time with their students, particularly in discussion.
I think the thing for any new ESL teacher to take away from teaching in a foreign land is to be proud of their language and yet open to learn something new about culture, but always be aware that everyone sitting in front of you is there to have what you have, so to be careful in comprising what you have by slipping into the ‘ESL student language zone’, and try to explain anything in a graded English level language to suit the students needs.