Do we have an Impact on Students?

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Learning a language is tough. Period. And if English is your first language, count yourself lucky. Because truth be told, English has to be one of the more difficult languages to retain, especially if you had to learn as an adult. I know a thing or two about that (minus the adult part).  When my family made the move to Canada, I couldn’t speak a word of English.  In fact, I struggled to learn even at the young age of 8.  Based on my interview, the school felt I didn’t need an ESL teacher and decided to throw me in the lion’s den, unaided and helpless (or at least that’s how I felt at the time).

My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Eadie, challenged me mentally in more ways than I can describe. She never took it easy on me since I understood nothing of the language. Instead, she thankfully treated me like the rest, and if I didn’t understand, well I’d better read up! I welcomed the challenge, although I was quite frustrated at times.  But with the help of both my homeroom teacher and my English teacher, Mrs. Harley, who had me write in a journal every day at the beginning of class, I learned that making mistakes was the only way I was going to learn. I needed to fail a few times before I was able to see the light. Such an invaluable lesson I’d learned: you’re going to fall before you can stand, and that’s OK!

I still have the journal today, and every time I read it, I’m thankful for having had 2 amazing teachers who believed in me and didn’t give up on me when I felt I wanted to do just that.

A teacher can greatly impact a student’s learning.  If he or she is motivated to teach, so will students be to learn. Why are you teaching? Why ESL? I personally find it rewarding and humbling when I help others succeed. The truth is, a teacher has the ability to literally change lives, especially an ESL teacher.  The key to succeed in this industry is motivation. You have to love what you’re doing and be in it for the right reason: to help those who need to learn do so successfully and give them the freedom – if you will – to live comfortably and be armed with the necessary tools to prosper in a predominantly English speaking society.  An ESL teacher isn’t there just to teach English, he or she is there to teach his or her students about life – real experiences.  Only then will a teacher truly impact the life of a student.

So, why are YOU teaching?  Why are you teaching ESL?


5 thoughts on “Do we have an Impact on Students?”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Today, I did a reading in class with my adult learners. I had taken a short reading called “There Are No Vans” by Tony Robbins, wrote some vocabulary questions, tone, audience, idiom use, etc. Then I pushed the desks against the walls and had the group sit in a circle, after they had done the reading. And I said nothing. They kind of looked at me. I nodded. Then, without any prompting from me, began one of the deepest, most meaningful conversations I’ve ever seen my learners engage in.

    Every one of the learners has something to say. I scrapped my lesson plan, and let the conversation flow. They talked about the need to reach out to others less fortunate, about how important it is for them to give back, to connect with the community. They were all eager to speak, and politely took their turns. They used expressions of agreement, or polite disagreement.

    This was one of those unplanned teaching moments where I truly learned from the men and women in my class. To be honest, it was a little humbling. I have chosen this career because of moments like this. It wasn’t the idiom work or grammar that they did that created the discussion, it was the message.

    You can teach effective listening practices, polite agreement, turn taking all you want; when you see the learners demonstrate that they get it…. That’s worth the price of admission.

  2. Thanks so much for leaving your comment Jen! It truly is such a humbling and rewarding career to be in and be a part of. When you’re in it for the right reasons, it makes all the late nights prepping, and the countless times trying to explain something and make it understood, so very worth it. You know, I find that often times we are the ones being taught by our learners. Thank you for being such an inspiration to not only your students, but to the rest of your colleagues. Keep up the wonderful work!

  3. On Monday, October sixth, I used the opportunity to correct pronunciation of certain sounds such as ordinals final ‘th’ sound. Most of my literacy / level ones were having trouble so I emphasized ‘just letting it spray’. I popped open my umbrella for the poor guy in the front row who was in direct line of fire. Everyone laughed, Monday morning warm-up was a hit AND they can all say ‘sixth’

    1. Donna I absolutely love that! What a great way to engage your learners in the class – way to be creative and funny at the same time 🙂 They learned how to pronounce a challenging word because of your passion to help others succeed. Way to go! Thanks so much for sharing with the rest of us 🙂

  4. Hello Laila,

    My name is Qiuying Wu and I am a student in the Masters of Teaching program at University of Toronto. I’m currently looking for potential participants to interview for a research paper on supporting ELL students. I’m contacting you because I noticed you blogged on the experience learning and teaching English as a second language, and I thought you may have some expertise in this area. The purpose of my study is to explore how a small sample of elementary teachers support ELL students’ English proficiency and academic learning across subject areas. Would you be willing to participate in a short (30 minute) interview? I am especially looking for participants who meet the following criteria:

    1. Teachers who have worked with a mixed population of ELL and English speaking students in a homeroom where English is the language of instruction for more than 5 years. 
    2. Teachers who have had experience working within the range of Grades 3-6. 
    3. Teachers who have demonstrated leadership or expertise in the improvement of overall academic achievement of ELL students. 

    If you are interested in this research and meet any of the above criteria, please contact me by responding to More detailed information about the interview will be sent to you later. Additionally, if you think of anyone else who meets my participant criteria, I would appreciate your recommendation very much. Thank you for your consideration!

    Qiuying Wu

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