Teaching ESL defines who I am and what I am passionate about. Both of these have played a major role in shaping my identity as a Japanese-English bilingual ESL instructor, especially my own experience of learning English. It has proved to me that language grows out of experience, and it becomes a part of you. Through the experience of teaching ESL and EFL for the past six years, I have learned that the relationship I build with the students and my willingness to develop my profession translates into better teaching. In addition, through my own language learning experience, I strongly believe the process of learning is as important as the “final product”.
Formative and summative assessment
As an ESL instructor, I am committed to supporting the students meet the student learning outcomes of the course, which is strongly related to the program learning outcomes and school’s mission. I commit to helping the students meet these outcomes, but also highly value how they progress and what they produce. I utilize formative assessment through careful monitoring of students to identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to reflect on my own teaching. In the writing classes I have taught, students kept a weekly learning journal to reflect on what activities they liked, what was helpful, and what they would have liked to know more about. This learning journal engaged the students to actively review what they learned in class, and helped me to closely monitor the students. I always wrote comments related to the entries they made in the journal, but never graded them on accuracy (i.e. grammar and spelling). Rather, I gave them credit for the effort they put in to reflect on their learning. Similarly, I utilize summative assessment to evaluate how the student learning outcomes are being achieved through end-of-unit tests, writing assignments, or presentations. When I assign students with writing assignment or presentations, I always provide them with detailed rubrics beforehand. I believe this helps students to focus on what is expected, and to be aware of the objectives of the course.
Thank you cards from students
Understanding students in the classroom
As an ESL instructor, I believe it is important to have flexibility to understand students’ learning styles, the knowledge they bring to class, and their language/cultural background. The nature of a language learning environment is that individuals gather from diverse backgrounds with a mutual goal to learn the language. I personally see it as a stimulating environment which brings together the experiences and perspectives from different cultures to enrich the classroom. In order to flexibly collaborate and cater to students’ needs, I always conduct a survey at the beginning of the term to understand what the students may need and to explore incorporating them into the course. In my current listening and speaking course, students mentioned their need and interest in developing listening skills with authentic materials, as well as overcoming their fear of presenting in English in front of others. Thus, I decided to introduce selected TED talks, followed by listening comprehension and discussion question materials I created. Students have also been discussing their observations of how the speakers delivered their speeches, which has raised their awareness regarding effective presentation skills. They have made short five-minute presentations so far and are making gradual progress in their level of confidence.
In addition to understanding students’ expectations and needs, I believe it is important to understand students’ goals. I believe that knowing students’ future goals better shape the lesson that I can provide. For example, for students who are aspiring to matriculate into American universities will need specific skills which are different from students who need English for daily purposes. In the EAP courses at HELP, I have facilitated Reading Circles that facilitate critical thinking and leadership skills, as well as TED talk activities with note-taking exercises. These types of activities help students to smoothly transition into academic university settings with appropriate skills to function in classrooms.
I strongly believe that building a strong and trusting rapport with students, and the rapport built among students are the key points to creating a comfortable, yet challenging classroom. My private tutoring sessions at Catal Inc. and SHINE (Students Helping in Naturalization of Elders) cultivated my desire to build excellent working relationships with students within a supportive learning space. While tutoring one-on-one and small groups for college preparation, I realized the empowerment it can provide the students once trust had been built. Similarly, I noticed keen elder students of Chinese immigrants who came in for tutoring sessions at SHINE gain confidence as I gave individual attention to get to know them. From this experience, I reach out to students during class and office hours to better understand what they need, what their goals are, and how I can help them. I feel that providing a caring yet stimulating environment can support academic success in students. In all of my writing classes, I have held at least two 15-20-minute individualized writing conferences with all of the students outside of class time to raise awareness of individual rhetorical conventions and to tailor feedback for each student. These conferences gave me insight into cross-cultural variations in writing and ways to elicit student voices in their papers. Over the years, I have not only gained confidence in teaching but also built intercultural communication skills to interact effectively with students from various backgrounds.
I strongly believe continuous effort to professional development naturally translates into better teaching, and to be a well-rounded individual. As a professional in language teaching, I strive for excellence and commit to continuous development. Working with other ESL/EFL instructors from various backgrounds has been an inspiring experience, and I have learned much from them. Even the short casual conversations I have in the office with my colleagues is a part of professional development for me. I always incorporate anonymous mid-term and end-of-term evaluations. I do my best to reflect on these because I feel student input is the most valuable feedback for teachers. Through these experiences, I learned to be open to feedback from students and colleagues, but not be reluctant to share my views. I have also been participating in local and international academic conferences, as well as being responsible for the workshop on implementing Extensive Reading in Reading courses at HELP. I find the process of self-reflection to be a strong resource for individual and professional development. These reflections are based on the weekly journal exchanges with the students, annotated lesson plans, and discussions with my colleagues. Most importantly, the strongest drive for me to commit to continuous development is to be a role model for my students. I hope for students to envision that, however many obstacles they may have while learning another language, they can slowly but surely achieve their goals.
My philosophy of teaching develops as I teach every class. However, my core values of loving to teach and the passion to help students achieve their life-long goals do not change. Learning a language has the power to change your inner and outer strength. My enthusiasm to teach translates into commitment towards excellence, and for the students to discover their new strengths through learning a language.