A Semester of ESL

I always knew that teaching would creep back into my life more fully once I graduated school, but I can’t say I anticipated teaching ESL, especially high school ESL. Now that the essays are graded and the grades are turned in, I have to admit that I’m sad my Monday afternoons won’t be filled with this group of kids.

Since this was their first year at the school, they all were required to take my class and many of them weren’t all that pleased to be there, but as we talked about my time in Germany, what prepositions to use for dates and times, we began to form an international community where it was safe to ask questions about noise makers (honestly, the noise maker that was in our room for test takers was something none of my 8 students had ever seen) and verb tenses and the definition of words.

When we talked about traditions, my European students were shocked to find out their Chinese classmates didn’t celebrate Christmas, nor did they have a break at this time of year from school. As they discovered this, they also discovered that all of the strange questions and comments they had received as outsiders or foreign exchange students had helped them understand not to assume anything about someone’s culture or experience, but rather to ask questions.

When we talked about what can be considered rude to teachers and not making the basketball team or the cheerleading squad, my hope is that they found a place that was a little less stressful and a little more like home because I remember how it feels to be an outsider and be the foreigner making the mistakes grammatically and culturally.

And maybe one day, they’ll be teaching a similar class in their home countries and offer the same for a class full of students.