Friday, 14 June 2013

You are my whole world...

On Pinterest, I saw a wonderful thought: "Every child in your class is someone's whole world!". It is so beautiful and so true... Is this idea of any use in my adult ESL literacy class?  Some might think it doesn't apply to me but it does, and I believe, in the most significant way.

A special thing about teaching ESL literacy is that  for many of of my students I am their first encounter with formal education, and almost for all of them, their first Canadian teacher. Due to some cultural considerations, many of the students consider the teacher a supreme authority. Therefore, there is a very good chance that the way I treat them this is how they are going to treat their little ones. If I show them a gentle and caring way to teaching they might take it home. If I respect their opinions and listen to them, give them choices and show them that making mistakes is not a bad thing at all, there is a big hope that these things will penetrate their minds and, eventually, homes, too. 
I have realized that what I do in class affects many more people than just the number of students on the list.
It's very important to be able to see beautiful things in each of the students even if they are not visible at the first sight. I have a student in my class, her name is Zah (not her real name, though). Zah is one of the students who need more time to grasp and embrace letters and sounds. She has not figured out reading yet, but we do not give up. I respect her efforts very much, a mother of seven ( her youngest is 2) she comes to class on time and never misses it unless she has a reason to. Once, she burst into tears when she wasn't able to read a short sentence on her own. I realized then that we had to take it easy and go back to ABC's. Nowadays, we have been preparing for the graduation party ( end of the year official celebration). We decided to do something special, make some posters and drawings to express our feelings about Canada, learning English, classmates and so on. A couple of days ago, I gave out craft paper and all necessary tools and this is when Zah magnificently turned from a troubled student into the star of the show. Gracefully as an artist, she brought paper to life and turned it into beautiful letters. I was impressed how easily and quickly she did the thing that would've taken me two days at least and not as beautiful regardless my Master's Degree. I felt sorry that I didn't give them any opportunity earlier to show off their talents and nurture their motivation. Zah has gained self-confidence on that day!

It’s the end of the year, and I am absolutely delighted to see that my students have developed a strong sense of autonomy and finally have mastered pair and group work. I decided to print out some of the ESL Literacy readers (a fantastic resource by Bow Valley College), staple them into individual books and give them out to students as a part of their morning reading routine. Zah can not read on her own yet, so she works with the partner. Today she grabbed a reader about a hairdresser Inge. The moment she looked at the cover she lit up. I have never seen her as interested in reading as this morning. She did not even want to return the book to me: she asked the permission to take it home and read it with her family. She told me that she used to be a hairdresser and they owned a barber’s shop in their country. She was happy to read and speak about it. English was not a problem anymore...

Give each of your students a chance to shine! Make their learning meaningful. Do not forget that we all, in fact, are someone's whole worlds.

These pictures are inspired from the work of Angela Maiers an advocate of children's rights. I strongly believe that these ideas are universal and so very much apply to my adult ESL literacy 

This is a picture drawn by Zah's husband ( who is not my student). It’s a flag of a different country (the country where Zah is from): two countries and two cultures come together. When I talked about it, I didn't know how much it would impact them...

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