Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stop and Go

My student observer was very surprised at what she saw in my classroom.

"I couldn't help but notice," she said, "that you have the kids all mixed up."

"What do you mean?"

"In the other classes I observed, the students were grouped by language so that they could help one another."

I was very surprised by that. How can anyone help you learn English by speaking to you in a foreign language?

I will never forget the three years I spent in high school not learning Spanish. All I really got was "Como esta usted?" and a little song about the Puerto Rican flag. But when I lived in Mexico I found that people didn't know what the hell I was talking about when I spoke English. I was highly motivated to learn Spanish, and I did.

From time to time people ask me, "How can you teach Chinese people English when you don't know Chinese?" If that were a prerequisite, babies, the best language learners in the world, would be mute the world over.

The observer noticed that my kids chatted with one another in English. That's a goal in my classroom so I was glad of this. Yesterday, her last day, she told me that English would be used exclusively in her classroom as well.

Moments like that are why people teach. It's remarkable, though, that none of her professors found the practice of teaching English in English worthy of mention.
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