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Philosophy of Teaching English to


Speakers of Other Languages

Vanessa Risti

Salem State University


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My philosophy in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) stems from

my early experiences as a general education tutor, along with frequent collaborations and

exchanging of ideas with colleagues from a number of different backgrounds. I also feel that I

can attribute it to learning more about the prominent ELL population that I was working with,

talking to students about their lives outside of school, and reflecting on the goals I had set in

order to support students in all the major subjects taught in their school. From modifying lessons

to providing efficient scaffolding, ensuring that my students are able to have a clear idea of the

task at hand, along with the context behind it, serves as the nucleus of the goals that I establish in

class. This leads in to both the academic and emotional support that I hope to provide as an

educator, providing students with the opportunity to be themselves in a safe and welcoming

environment. The combination of content modification, transparency, and advocacy of the

importance of ones self-worth are the pillars by which my approach to education is sustained.

When creating a lesson to teach to my students, one of the first things I question are the

ways that I can immediately grab the attention of the class. Knowing the students I am working

with, along with their backgrounds, interests, and strengths, can assist in the creation of scaffolds

that I can use when introducing new content. Successful scaffolding invites the student to think

critically about something that they could take for granted, all while exemplifying new content

with something that is recognizable. Such guidance can also be factored into the application of

Vygotskys theory on the zone of proximal development, having students complete tasks and

discussions on their own after I had provided them with the tools to do so. When I scaffold a

lesson, I search for any connections that the content may have with familiar concepts or themes

in order for the students to learn how to apply their skills to a practical, realistic setting.

The relationship between a students first and second languages (L1 and L2) serves as the
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basis on my approach to second language learning. In accordance to Chomskys theory of

universal language, I believe that my students come to class with an inherent ability to form

linguistic structures that can be applied to both their L1 and L2. Having observed students rely

on language transfer before, I now encourage them to use the language skills they had already

acquired to draw meaning from the language being instructed to them. For instance, while

working with a group of newcomers whose first language is Portuguese, I would ask the students

to write new vocabulary words in English as well as their L1. With a word like lunar, for

example, students may find the word lua hidden within its form and the way it sounds,

allowing for a opportunity to memorize the word on the basis of familiarity. Emphasizing on L1

to L2 transfer as a language learning strategy promotes the importance of academic equity within

my classroom, providing students of all linguistic backgrounds the ability to obtain and

comprehend new information. Supporting the use of strategies that are emblematic of universal

language can be indicative of the kind of flexibility and resourcefulness required in TESOL

education.

As a TESOL instructor, I would also like to establish the principle of transparency when

conversing with parents, students, and colleagues alike. This is done as a means to grant

clear, honest communication a prominent presence in the professional relationships shared

between each group. Allowing students in particular to have a clear understanding of my

motives and the language I use demonstrates the ethics that serve as the foundation for my

classroom instruction. In doing so, a sense of trust and reliance can be fostered, one that is

grounded in integrity and dedication to academia and the school community as a whole.

Disclosing to others my thoughts and ideas in a conspicuous manner is important in creating a

welcoming environment for all.


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I also find it imperative that the kind of learning space that I create allows students to

take pride in their cultural identities. Having worked with students who, at the time, had

immigrated to the United States, I have observed how they can place themselves into self-

inflicted isolation. Often, the cause is from being surrounded by individuals who were raised in a

culture separate from theirs, speaking a language that is difficult to understand. The pressure that

comes with trying to meet the expectations of their peers can be great, which is why I facilitate

conversations and design activities with their cultural backgrounds in mind. With my ELL

students, I have, for example, asked some to compare the weather in Brazil to weather in the

United States, and others to talk about what their houses looked like in their home country during

a story about international houses. Inviting students to share their personal experiences in a

trustworthy environment has eventually lead to an increase in self-esteem and confidence when

participating in academic and social activities within the school and elsewhere. TESOL

education is not only about providing the academic and linguistic intervention that students need,

but also acting as a method of emotional support and personal growth.

I believe that the most efficient forms of classroom instruction should take into

consideration student accommodation, personal candor, and widespread acceptance above all

else. Having these serve as the nucleus of my philosophy towards TESOL instruction provides

me with the focus and motivation I need in creating substantial classroom content. Being able to

address the academic, social, and emotional needs of my students reinforces the standards and

expectations that I have placed on myself as an educator. It is then that I will be able to

determine whether or not I have been successful in my efforts. Finding a balance between all

three features is the unifying element to what I consider to be a teaching philosophy that I can

uphold and exemplify.


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