Sunday, July 19, 2015

A working Shitty first draft of my current teaching philosophy for language

Articulating Your Teaching Philosophy: 
First Draft of Many

Please list ONLY 3 ideas per question.  I know you have more.  The point of this activity is to make you CHOOSE.  E-mail this to me before class on Monday.

1.         In your opinion, what are the three MOST important guiding principles for any teacher—language or otherwise?

            a. A classroom should be tailored to the learner – learner’s needs should come first.

            b. A teacher needs to take what she knows from theory and put it into practice creatively.

            c. Patience and compassion are vital in the role of a teacher, they set the tone of the class.

2.         In your opinion what are the three MOST important guiding principles that you will follow specifically as a second/foreign language teacher?

            a. When I fail to plan, I plan to fail. As a post-method teacher, I cannot simply use template activities. I must think through the how and why of the lesson and what my learners will gain from it.

            b. Every learner is different. When I fail to plan, I fail to take into consideration that all learners are not like me and tend to fall back to my default learning style, which is also my default teaching style. 

            c. As a language teacher, I am also a lifelong learner of a language. Although my learners may see me as an expert, I am far from it and will never stop learning and encouraging my learners to learn outside of class.

3.         In your opinion, what distinguishes a person who has acquired communicative competence in a second/foreign language from one who has not?

            a. A person who has acquired communicative competence feels confident in his or her ability to carry out every day conversational tasks in the L2 60% of the time.

            b. A person who has acquired communicative competence in L2 can interact with service providers and understand what is said and someone can understand them 75% of the time. They usually tend to have a greater quality of life in the country that L2 is spoken, and enjoy themselves more.

            c. Such a person usually has acquired enough vocabulary to be able to be creative with language and communicate the same idea multiple ways in multiple settings.

4.         If someone told you that they wanted to learn a second/foreign language and asked your advice on the best way to do it, what advice would give them and why?

            a. First, take note of your background. If you do not have any knowledge of the language, it will help tremendously to take a class in a formal setting. This will help establish basic guidelines and rules of the grammar of the language.

            b. Second, if you are not doing so already, READ. Vocabulary acquisition is the heart of language. If you do not have the words, you cannot communicate. Simple as that. Once you have picked up basic sentence structure, READ daily in L2 and learn as many words as you can.

            c. Don’t be afraid to speak. Most native speakers of their L1 don’t speak perfectly. Keep this fact in mind as you practice your L2. You will not get better at a language if you don’t use it daily in everyday conversation. SPEAK. Don’t be shy. 

5.         In your opinion, how should language teachers interact with their students and why?

            a. Be prepared daily, but be flexible. Answer students’ questions regularly. Be attentive to breakdowns in comprehension and be prepared to fix them. This requires a teacher to be extremely knowledgeable about comprehensible input at all levels of the process. Learners of a language are extremely scared when they start the process. It is important to calm those fears but also push leaners a little beyond what they can comfortably do so they improve slowly and gain more confidence.

            b. Don’t be so rigid in your beliefs on different culture that you alienate students’ motivation for being in class. Be open to learning about other cultures and languages. This will help your students see that you have experience being a learner as well and make it easier to empathize and to create a compassionate community that is willing to learn from each other. 

            c. Be non-judgmental in your words and chose your words carefully. Just because you may like the way things are done in one country or culture doesn’t mean it’s the correct way. You will have a better chance at creating a cohesive learning community if you ask open-ended questions with no bias attached. Wait and listen (and expect) learners to educate you about what is important to them.

6.         In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of creating a classroom environment conducive to learning and why?

            a. Listen more than you talk. Your learners are there to practice speaking their L2 and take risks with language. They can only do this when you as the teacher are not talking. This requires the teacher to choose her words carefully enough to be understood and then know when to stop talking and let learners practice and play with language.

            b. Remember that you are teaching language over content. When you keep this in mind, it will make it easier to recognize that there is really no one “right” answer to a discussion question and it will make it easier for you not to “jump into” a conversation and dominate the talking time in class. Let your learners make mistakes with language and try to fix it themselves before you jump to correct.

            c. Set guidelines for appropriate discussions and stick to them. Be stricter at the beginning than you would normally be. You can always be nice at the end of class and not get walked over.

7.         For each of the skills/topics listed, what is ONE idea that you find very important to keep in mind when teaching that skill/topic?

            Listening: Many listening activities assess more than listening if they assess listening at all. Listening is one of the hardest skills to assess by itself. Be mindful when selecting listening tasks to assure that 90% of the content is listening and not writing or vocabulary.

            Speaking: Make sure you as the teacher are letting the learner speak more than you. They are, after all, here to practice their L2. You are already fluent in it, and therefore don’t need the practice. 

            Grammar: Differentiate between spoken and written grammar and make sure you are teaching the one that your learner finds most important. Remember that most L1 speakers are not perfect in either. When assessing grammar make sure you only focus on what the learner has already learned. Be selective with what you do in a red pen.

            Writing: Writing is documenting the process of thinking. And it’s difficult. It’s difficult to do in an L1 and doubly difficult to do in an L2. Be compassionate about a learner’s writing and respect the process of thinking while providing ideas along the way. In the words of the great Anne Lamott, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppression…embrace the sh#&%y first draft.” Remember how hard it is to get your own thoughts down on paper before tearing your learner’s thoughts to shreds. 

            Reading: Reading is thinking too. If you are not thinking when you are reading, you are doing it wrong. When I teach reading, I teach learners how to stop every so often, monitor comprehension, and vocalize their thoughts on what they have read so far.

            Vocabulary: Beyond a doubt, this is the most important aspect of learning a language, L1 or otherwise. A learner that does not have words cannot communicate. Reading is the most effective way to build vocabulary. In any language.

            Strategies: Strategies are imbedded in every aspect of learning a language, and a teacher who does not teach strategies has only taught half of the process. Without strategies, learners do not have what they need to learn outside of your classroom.

8.         What is your opinion on each of the following topics?  Write 1-2 sentences, no more.

            Use of L1 in an EFL Class: In absolute beginning classes, some L1 is necessary to clarify vocabulary. After that, it becomes somewhat of a crutch to learning an L2 and should be kept to as little as possible for comprehension.

            Grammar Feedback on Writing Assignments: The teacher should only comment on one or two types of grammatical errors at a time and this should be purposeful so as not to become overwhelming to the learner. The grammatical comments given should follow suit with what was learned during that week in class.

9.         List THREE things you will do to ensure that you continue to grow and improve as a teacher once you are in the field:

            a. Continue to observe and volunteer in as many experienced teacher’s classrooms as possible. I feel like this is the best way to take away good teaching practices and hone my craft.

            b. Reflect daily on my own teaching practice, in writing. The act of journaling is not only therapeutic, but very useful in determining my own thoughts and where I could have improved on the day’s lesson.

            c. Continue to be a lifelong learner of language. Ask questions of students, and research constantly. Never stop learning.

10.       What are questions you still have about teaching that we have not addressed?  List as many questions as you wish, but list at least ONE.

            What does the recent research say about L1 use in an L2 learning environment? I feel like we haven’t really covered a lot of this in class and is a definite interest of mine.

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