Essay # 1 – Focus on Learning
For this essay, I would like to focus on my experience so far on the TESOL course. Our TESOL group of students have so far been shown many different techniques and been made to feel like students as a way of letting us learners get to see it from the student’s perspective. The crux of my ideas and formulation for future actions with regard to teaching, the TESOL student has to know how it feels to be a learner to understand how they feel and take in the lesson. This of course will relate to the soon-to-be teacher’s future benefit of becoming as valuable a teacher as possible. In relation to this, I will further refer to my SIT course and focus on the learner.
Referring to my language learning first as a supposed language student, I can fairly say that it wasn’t a breeze. You have to write words down, memorize, ask your peers, organize information, play an active part and downright do more, which is hard if you really want to be a successful and competent language learner. I had a few times when I wasn’t really involved and missed a few points, but at those times the auditory experience was enough, I enjoyed sitting back. On the flip side to this experience, I had many times when I sailed through everything because I put the work in and got the benefit out. I suppose that for a language learner it is hard to be attentive all the time and at times the students would just prefer to be looking at the class happening and not playing an active part.
With reference to the ‘Learners Are Individuals’ handout that I have read, it alludes to this point that there are many different styles of learning, you can not have a class of 20 students all with exactly the same way of learning. I empathize with this as I sometimes hear my peers speak and they have a lot more to say or they explain a point better than the way you thought. My reaction to this is that we are all the class together and it should be a shared experience and that everyone should benefit from everyone although there are some students more salient.
Everyone in the class I have found is a vital part of having the successful ambiance that will bring successful lessons. I found that my peers were very helpful, funny at times, and really people who wanted to learn. This made for a worthwhile lesson. The people, my fellow peers, on the course are from a diversity of backgrounds. It is funny really there are people on the course who every morning say they have done the homework and others that say they are going to leave it for another day. Some people just do their writing in note form and those that write full essays. I think this shows that people have their own way of processing information and dealing with set projects to do. I am sure everyone will hand his or her work in on time but not everyone follows the same learning path to the end.
What I have learned from the perspective of a student is that it is hard and materials have to be explained and modeled properly. Students have got to be kept amused and clear instruction has to be given. Now that I am further into the course and having been shown constructional ways of making and doing lesson plans I have noticed the techniques you, the teacher, are using to get the students to reach their goals. An example would be (the instructor) Fran’s class on ‘problems and advice’. The step-by-step process using PPU (presentation / practice / use) allowed the students to learn about giving advice. It basically followed a course of Fran explaining first then some manipulated practice and then the students using their learned language on advice. I think this method helps all individual members of the group who are all of a different aptitude. We worked as a group with Fran making sure everybody had a chance and I felt as though the group moved along nicely if I were that ESL student the class would have instilled that knowledge of giving advice because of the systematic way of keeping the students attentive with varying teaching techniques.
To conclude the focus on learning and In relation to bringing this learning experience to my teaching. I think it gives me a broader perspective to look at the fact that there are many facets to a learning classroom experience and what you take from it is to try and apply these to your classroom. What you are left with a feeling that you can emphasize with the students’ needs and thus you be able to bring that something that will help the students to achieve.
Referring to my first language learning experience as a supposed language student, I had a few times when I was not really involved and missed a few points, but why did I miss these few points? Maybe it was because I am that type of learner who does not get into a lesson straight away. Suddenly your SIT trainer says, ‘right let’s learn German’ and you are like, ‘okay, if you want’. The same as when your teacher could say let’s learn ‘modals’ and you like ‘we learned that last week’. The point is, it is still valid and a learning experience.
There were some people and me especially at that time where the visual experience of watching other people was enough, I was not ready to join in. I did not know at the time if this was a mistake or not. I must admit I found it a little boring to start. I think that some learners could find this experience a little embarrassing, suddenly speaking this new language. Maybe I did find it weird, so I enjoyed just sitting back and seeing others do the talking which some proudly did.
On the flip side, to this experience, I had many times when I sailed through everything because I did the work that the SIT trainer told me to do. I said the sentence she asked and I wrote things down. I think by this time I had got over the first language hurdle and maybe felt a bit at ease, also I got some of the questions right that boosted my confidence and thus I got the benefit out of the lesson which made me happier. I suppose for a language learner it is hard to be attentive all the time and at times the students would just prefer to be looking at the class happening and not playing an active part. Motivation is hard at times.
With reference to the ‘Learners Are Individuals’ handout I have read, It alludes to this point that there are many different styles of learning. You can not have a class of 20 students all with exactly the same way of learning. Some students know grammar better, some are more confident in speaking, some want to write all the facts and some just in the class to have fun. I empathize with some of these points as I sometimes hear my peers talk about, and they have a lot more to say or they explain a point better than the way you thought. My reaction to this is that we are all the class together, and it should be a shared experience. If you have this shared experience I think it will make for a better atmosphere, general variety of ideas, and the class feeling that they all worked as a group. I think that everyone should benefit from everyone although there are some students more salient. Hopefully, they do not take over.
I think this learning experience gives me a broader perspective to look at the fact that there are many elements to a learning classroom experience and what I take from being a learner is to try and apply what I have learned as a student to the classroom. I think what I have done will influence my teaching by realizing that students find learning difficult as much as I did. I will find in the class some students are better than others where I will have to help the weaker students and not let the others go too far ahead. For example, I found the German language learning experience enjoyable because I was working with other students and listening to them say the words. I actually found it funny at times. This I think it is great that you can have a group of people working together learning from each other. Group work is definitely a plus. My final point is not to give them too much information; I found from my German class that it should be taken stage by stage. I think if you provide sufficient information and do not baffle the students with too much, the lesson will go better. What you are left with is a feeling that you can empathize with the students’ needs and thus you will be able to bring that extra dimension that will help the students to achieve.
An example would be SIT trainer’s class on ‘problems and advice’. The step-by-step process using PPU (presentation/practice/use) allowed the students to learn about giving advice. The SIT trainer gave a real experience to start with, she explained that her clothes were old and she did not have enough money to buy new ones. She acted this out and it made you really feel for her. It made for some good advice from the students. As a learner, you were already getting into the lesson. This method was very easily done and the students had a lot of advice for her. She did the same for her tax problem where she did not have enough money to pay the tax man. The advice given was attached with modals. Now, we had to distinguish between serious and not serious which led to looking at the modals. This was a good introduction to the start of the class and I think the process got everybody thinking. These were real problems that I think everybody had had before, so her method was a good way of presenting the subject. I think, as a learner if the lesson relates to something the class knows it will work. She also had cards with problems on them for us to judge if they were serious or not serious. I guess this was a more practice situation. The SIT trainer was trying to see if we knew serious and not serious. This was another way to clarify what we were learning about. As a student, I felt I was much clearer with the subject. I think this method of clarification helps all individual members of the group who are all of the different aptitudes. We worked as a group with the SIT trainer making sure everybody had a chance and I felt as though the group moved along nicely. We had pair work trying to match problems with advice on the worksheet. In pairs was a great way to get the students together. I like the pair work as a learner because we can help each other. Finally, we had a chance to do group work and speak to all the students. This varied structure and interesting parts made for a better class. I think if I were that ESL student the class would have instilled that knowledge of giving advice because of the systematic way of keeping the students attentive with varying teaching techniques.