Why I care about English Language Learners, and you should, too.
Any fruitful education engages the talent and intelligence of an individual and equips him or her to prevail beyond present limitations, whatever they may be. I've found no greater evidence for these personal and professional convictions than in the teachers I have encountered in my own language learning experience: most notably, my parents. It is because of their dynamism and diligence to prepare me to forge my own success, that I hope to support ELLs in the same way that they supported me in my own linguistic pursuits.
At 12 years old, I struggled to develop the ability to communicate through written word; the process was full of failure, yet the fruits of their labor and mine bloomed over time. The hours it took to complete my first 500-word essay was rife with tears and frustration. I, however, had the privilege of a caring parents who had the freedom and the patience to sit with me, dry my tears, and encourage me to withstand the heat of boiling down my thoughts into coherent paragraphs. Now at 22, a bilingual French-English speaker and foreign language teacher, I find the gift of language-learning a humbling one, and the opportunity to teach languages one of the highest callings. If I struggled to begin my own writing “career” in the environment and language of my home, how much more complex is the same undertaking for an individual far from home whether environmentally or linguistically? Consequently, how much more imperative is it that ELL educators prioritize multi-level understanding of the student, patience and care in the natural give-and-take relationship of setting attainable, meaningful goals, and unwavering support as the ELL takes on the grueling process of developing a proficiency in the English language.
While ELLs comprise a group of the most dedicated, self-knowing, and diligent individuals, many do not receive formal (or effective) language education. I recognize that my identity and experience as a native English speaker, linguist, historian, and teacher bestows upon me the opportunity to meet the needs of ELLs. I am convinced that it is never the role of the language instructor to create an environment of hierarchy, but of universality that is most purely represented in effective communication. By creating environments where students can learn English in personally enriching and confidence-building contexts, English may become another available modality to preserve and respect individual histories, cultures, and identities. My hope is that in applying TESOL foundations, I may teach in such a way that allows the students to speak more than the instructor, and make the language their own for their own purposes. In my classroom, I hope to support the achievement of both a proficiency in the English language for the ELL, as well as a discipline-wide posture of readiness to learn along with and from each student. I look forward to cultivating a spirit of pushing one another along through strategic teaching methods that are uniquely appropriate for the ELL, while emboldening a sense of resourcefulness and meaningful confidence as students go beyond the classroom.
(Cover photo sourced from ELEducation.org).