Through New EyesAround the beginning of the Twentieth Century, my grandparents left their old lives behind in Eastern Europe and sailed over a vast ocean, that, at the time, separated them all but irrevocably from the past. They were welcomed in America, more or less, and proceeded to build a life for themselves and a foundation for their children and their children's children. The single biggest obstacle that they had to overcome was learning the language of their new home: english
In overcoming this obstacle there were two factors, that I believe, alternately helped and impeded them, the former being that they learned primarily through almost complete immersion in the english
language (1), and the latter being that they didn't have the assistance of guided language classes to augment and clarify what they were learning through experience. Through immersion they were forced to sink or swim and fortunately they did the latter. But the technique they developed, while keeping them afloat and eventually propelling them through the rough waters of their new life, left them with a halting, limited grasp and ability with their adopted language, that formal schooling would have helped assuage.
It is this last piece of the puzzle that taking this course in teaching EFL has put into place for me. It has opened my eyes to the myriad of issues that I was previously unaware of, and that I now realize are so important for a new english
language learner to struggle with and overcome. This struggle is profound for any student of EFL, but unlike my grandparents or the students living in an english
-speaking country, the students not so fortunate need the classroom that much more. Since I hope to teach in a foreign country, the lessons I've learned will be integral to my being able to successfully fulfill my teaching obligations.
Everything in the coursework is potentially important in this task, but a few components have stood out and made an impression on me. Being a new teacher, I believe it will be critical to my success that I focus on these in order to build a strong foundation upon which develop my teaching style and, bit by bit, incorporate all the elements into my repertoire.
The foreign language learner is immersed in a sea of new language. Having a teacher to manage that vast, new body of information, to organize it and to regularly assess a student's progress in mastering it is an enormous assistance. This area covered in the text, while helpful to the student, has been crucial to my understanding of my role in this process, as it discusses issues that I would have never considered. The subtleties of eye contact, gesture and voice, the details of group work versus individual work, even the arrangement of the classroom, are issues that I've now addressed, albeit in a cursory manner, and I will now be able to walk into a classroom armed with this knowledge, as opposed to confronting them in ignorance. Likewise the large issue of problem behavior is daunting, but at least I'm aware of the issues and have a resource to turn to should I (and I invariably will) encounter them.
Along similar lines, the information presented on lesson planning and the format of ESA is invaluable. It is through the lesson plan that I believe my role as organizer and guide of the journey that the students have embarked on, will receive possibly its greatest support.
While these are just a few of the areas that stood out to me, the entire coursework is crucial to my feeling that I'm not alone. The one area presented in the coursework that has above all the others altered my perception is that of grammar and overall language usage. Being a native english
speaker, I take my ability to speak for granted. These areas addressed in the coursework have enabled me to grasp what a complex undertaking teaching EFL is. Whereas in the past I didn't give a great deal of thought to issues of grammar, I now see through the eyes of a new learner and intend to study this subject with an eye to understanding it thoroughly myself in order to render the greatest possible assistance to the students confronting it for the first time.
I have a new found respect for the road that lies ahead for both the students and that of the one I've just begun.
1- Baker, C - Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (1993)