of Working with Students
A student-centered, cooperative teaching style is the most effective way to instruct ESL
students. It gives the student a feeling of self-worth and purpose because the teacher is including them in the learning process. This approach not only shows students that they are a valuable resource in the classroom but also it gives them the message that they can learn and fully participate regardless of their learning style and educational background. Ultimately, a cooperative learning system shows both the instructor and the student the way to becoming whole people by acknowledging their emotional, physical and spiritual needs as well as their various forms of intelligences and learning styles.
A good example of the cooperative technique being used successfully was when I had my ESL students do a group activity called “inside/outside circles”. This process was especially effective because it involved students directly exchanging information and knowledge. The activity was also ideal for ESL learners because it provided exchange, cooperation and peripheral learning. This is a perfect example of a teaching method that fosters a student-centered environment. For vocational learning especially, the cooperative system empowers the student by acknowledging their emotional, physical and spiritual needs. It also accommodates their various forms of intelligence and learning styles.
Here are some details on four pertinent situations relating to ESL course development:
1.For the International Language
school of Chisinau, Moldova, I developed a course for Business English
. The course included original materials using idiomatic English for government officials, role-playing situations and reading
relevant scripts from business journals.
I created a curriculum for the healthcare program at Even Start Program regarding childcare health and safety. My course included medical vocabulary
and realia related to emergency situations for lower beginning ESL levels. We made lesson plans with pictures from magazines catalogs, maps, samples and other props.
I taught Business English to Japanese
businessmen at Dominican University and I developed a curriculum around the “dot-com” industry. This required teaching the specific jargon they would need for workplace purposes.
At the Berkeley University Adult Division ESL summer school, I designed the course to relate French
college bound students. One ideal activity for students to get acquainted was called “conversation charts”. This lesson plan was ideal for ESL students because it provided conversational and written English as well as cooperative and peripheral learning.
My Commitment to Multiculturalism
I lived outside the U.S. for more than 10 years in three countries. I worked and socialized in Spanish
, Italian, and Romanian
. International living was an exciting adventure and a life-changing experience for me. I feel very fortunate to have experienced so many interesting and diverse cultures. These experiences have not only expanded my view of the world but also taught me to appreciate how challenging it is for people to learn new languages.
In Colombia and Italy, I was a working musician, as principal oboist of the Bogota Philharmonic for two years, and as a freelancer in Italy for three years. I was not a tourist, and this gave me wonderful real-life experiences of living in these countries. Colombia was safe then, relatively speaking, and life was there to enjoy: food, music
, coffee, nightlife, beaches, mountains, rainforest. Italy was sublime. To play in a Verdi opera in Italy is amazing – the audience knows every tune, singing
along, clapping and shouting throughout the performance. I understood the music totally differently.
My most recent international experience living in Moldova was very, very illuminating, one that very few Americans have. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in the world, and it seemed to me especially miserable and desperate. I will never forget getting medical care for a persistent ear inflammation – the lack of instruments, buying expired medicine that was stolen from relief agencies, bribing the hospital just to get care. But positive memories are also vivid: my 4-year daughter having her birthday party with two Turkish
girls, one German
boy, and one Italian boy; visiting a typical small village - no running water, no electricity, cows, pigs, all around, muddy dirt roads, but happy peasants insisting to share homemade wine, cheese, pickles, and bread (better than the best of Marin, by the way). I loved my side trips to Prague, Budapest and Istanbul, giving me a sense of the history
of the region, and sadly some of the background of the wars in the Balkans.
While in Moldova, I was in demand as a native English speaker, and this is what inspired my second career as an ESL teacher. Right now I am in the U.S. as my children have some time in U.S. schools, until I go abroad again, this time with new skills to help people learn English, and on the side, to play a little music for fun.