This week I interviewed a middle school ESL teacher, a high school ESL teacher, a 12th grade English teacher. All three are close friends and colleagues of mine. The two former ‘interviews’ was more of an informal conversation I led around the lunch table in the English Department Faculty room.
Therefore instead of writing out a transcript, I thought I’d share three takeaways that I learned from each of my friends. I organized these takeaways into 1) something that I agree with, 2) something that surprised me, and 3) something that I will take into my own practice.
Middle School ESL teacher
1) That students are avid users of social media (at home, in class…) but so many of them are NOT responsible users. If we want to promote and recognize their interests in utilizing social media and technology, we need to show them how other students around the globe are using technology in productive ways.
2) That she is NOT a fan of the 1:1 iPad program at her middle school. She admits that she is not very good at integrating apps into the classroom, so thinking of ways to use the iPads is time consuming in an already too-busy schedule.
3) I got a list of all the best restaurants owned by past and present ESL families in my district! Eating at these types of restaurants was exactly what I did at my prior district in order to help myself see the ‘whole’ student that I was teaching. By going to these restaurants, I not only see a large part of that student’s life, their family, their food, and their culture, but I also see the community and street that they live on. That is incredibly important.
High School ESL teacher
1) Since we share many of the same students, I agreed wholeheartedly when this teacher said that her students express an incredible amount of interest and curiosity in the presidential campaign. They constantly ask questions about how politics and campaigns work here, trying to decide how similar or different the practice is to their home country. They also express extreme curiosity and anxiety over certain individuals and have daily questions about the policies that they preach.
2) I was surprised to hear that her group of students does not frequently open up with stories and connections to their home country during whole-group discussions because my group does so constantly. She says that she hears about their interests and cultures during 1:1 conversations, but gets little of that information during whole-group activities.
3) Zaption! It is a free website that allows teachers to upload any video (so we can resource videos that our students are interested in!) and insert questions at various intervals. When students log on, they watch the video. When the teacher-created questions pop up, the video pauses and students respond!
12th grade English teacher
1) Since we are both currently teaching The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, we ended up talking about our students’ interests in mental health. She said that she is not sure if it is that mental health conditions are on the rise, or if it is just less taboo to admit and talk about them, but she has seen it become a much more prevalent issue in her students. I agree that I see the same phenomena; we teach classes of students who all either have or know someone who is struggling with a mental health condition.
2) I was so surprised to hear that she has had huge success using webquests in the classroom! I tried a webquest once this year and could barely feel a pulse in the room. It just goes to show the importance of knowing your learners!
3) I would like to start something similar to “The New and Good” that my friend has used for many many years. At least one day a week, she asks each student to share a “New and Good” so that she may hear a bit about what is going on in the lives of her students.