Wednesday, June 29, 2016

From an EFL teacher to an ESL/EAL teacher: the experience

I still remember the day when I read the chapter of an applied linguistics book about the difference between teaching EFL and ESL during my bachelor's degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Brazil in the 90s.

I was really curious to see a teacher teaching basic English to people from different countries and different languages in the same classroom. How could she/he communicate if there was no lingua franca?

I thought this could be a real challenge because whenever I needed to explain something more complex to my level 1 or 2 students in Brazil, I used our native language and everything was fine.
But how could a teacher do that without using the students' native language?

So, after many years, I could experience this challenge.

As my husband was admitted to a PhD program in Winnipeg, we moved here in 2014.

After I got my Canadian certification to teach English as a Second language, I started looking for jobs and soon I got a position to teach ESL/EAL to adult immigrants in a college. I also started studying the Canadian Language Benchmarks and I loved reading this document!

I started teaching Canadian Language Benchmark 3 and I got so happy I could finally experience teaching English to people from different countries! I was so anxious, happy, curious, and excited at the same time! Even though I have been teaching English for more than 20 years, it seemed to me I had almost no experience at all.

Would my students understand me? Would they like my classes? What if they could not understand my accent? What if they wanted a native speaker as a teacher? What if? What if... I also felt anxious to speak English with my coworkers. Would they accept me as a teacher like them? Anyway, I faced my fears and started working.

I also love the fact that the teachers create their own materials! Yes, it is time consuming, but we can personalize the classes in order to meet our students' needs.

What about my students?

I could not believe my eyes when I faced people from various countries from Asia, Africa, and South America in the same class. Even though we were from different places, it seemed we did share the same culture: the culture of peace and understanding.

Did I teach? Maybe, but in fact, I believe my students taught me. I learned I don't need to speak their native languages in order to communicate with them.

I just added love and Paulo Freire's ideas to my everyday classes to help them learn. I also tried to create a community so we could help and support each other.

I also loved to work with my coworkers! We did great projects together: secret pen pals and field trips. I learned a lot from them! From Canadian history and culture to idioms and local expressions, eh?

I feel that my job is really meaningful here and I enjoy every minute of it!

I can`t wait to meet them again in September!



Fantasma said...

Hi, professor,
This is Valéria from Letras Inglês at Ufpa.
Your experience is really interesting. I tried to imagine myself in that position and it seems quite scary but fascinating at the same time.
I've been working at ISF for a year now and we have to produce our own marerials as well. It's really time consuming, but for me it is more satisfying and meaningful than using a textbook.
Good Luck on all your future endeavors!

Cintia Costa said...

Thanks for your comment, Valéria!
It is great that you are already teaching English and creating your own materials!