Today, I met my ESL instructor and her class for the first time and all I can say is that my first day experience far surpassed my expectations. Over anything else, it has resurfaced all the reasons why I chose to go into the TESOL field.
Half of the students are young, in their 20s and 30s, while the rest of the class look like either working adults or elderly folks. Most of the students looked to be of Asian descent, though I noticed several students who looked to be of Hispanic descent. The teacher allowed me to introduce myself and asked the students to ask me anything they wanted to know about me in English. I was surprised at how active and willing to participate the students were. They showed little hesitation in asking me all sorts of questions, from my own ethnic origins (which many of them could relate to) to whether I was single or not (naturally, this generated a lot of laughter).
I took note at how well the teacher incorporated me into the class, especially because she could not have planned any of the content I said. For example, whenever I used the infinitive form of a verb, such as “every Friday, I have to go to class”, the teacher would point that out, repeat what I said, and have the students repeat it aloud. This was a way to review (infinitive) something they had learned before but through a very natural interaction of them asking questions and me answering them.
I also took note at how the teacher spoke to the students. While she spoke slower and exaggerated her enunciation, she always spoke in full sentences, rather than speak in mere phrases or broken sentences. To me, this is important not only for the student’s language learning process but also to show a mutual respect between teacher and student, that the teacher expects the students to strive for the best, rather than taking shortcuts and lowering the standards based upon the teacher’s preconceived notions of what students are able to comprehend.
The teacher also passed out a pop quiz, testing them on irregular past tense verbs, and asked for volunteers to write the answers on the board. I noticed that every chance she had, she opened the class up for volunteering and participation. By listening to what the students had to say, I realized that students often know more than you think. For example, one student said “What a pity”, a rather difficult idiom, in response to finding out that I was coming to their class once a week. Another student responded to the teacher’s question of the difference between hearing and listening, which I even had to think about before attempting to articulate it. The student said that hearing has to do with sense (or the senses) and listening has to do with paying attention to something, which brilliantly sums up how we differentiate the two.
I spent a whole hour in front of the class talking about myself and answering their questions. During the entire period, there was not one dull moment. I only regret that in the next several weeks, the teacher has assigned me to step out of the classroom and practice asking and answering questions in English to her classmates.