the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Monday, November 29, 2010

I can't really get mad at you, I'm the same kind of student

About four weeks ago, I got a new tutoring student. She's very
self-motivated and definitely seeks perfection. The first two weeks she
brought me pages of notes, asking me what is correct and incorrect.
She's also a hard worker, she works full-time and goes to school
part-time so that some of the only free time she has is when our lesson
is scheduled.

Last week we talked about details about how she wants to study
pronunciation and writing. So this week I came prepared with
pronunciation and writing activities. These activities will take some
time. They go step by step through both pronunciation practice and the
writing process.

But she quickly vetoed both! She claimed the first pronunciation
exercise was too easy (of course I'm not going to start her off on
something overly difficult). She said "everyone knows that!" But from
my other students, I know they don't. How can I be sure unless we try?
She then self-selected a more difficult pronunciation exercise for herself.

With writing, the same thing. We were going through a reading,
identifying topic sentences and details when she stopped the activity
and told me "everyone knows that!" and that she wanted to write now
(which was actually the next step). She had been raising her voice the
whole time, so I raised my voice as well and explained to her that I do
not know her exact ability and wanted to be sure she was prepared for
the task.

I think she thought I was actually mad at her because she immediately
apologized. And I've never raised my voice with her before, although
she tends to raise her voice at me at least once a lesson.

But I can hardly be angry at her. She's the same kind of student I am.
If I'm spending time learning something, I want to be SURE it is
actually effective and worth studying! Conversely, I'm very glad that
she's tells me her opinion so often, and I told her so. I just wish
she'd be a little more patient sometimes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My poster presentation at the CATESOL Orange County

I'm a few weeks late on this, but here's my reflection on my poster presentation, "Debunking the Myth of the Shy Japanese/Asian Student".

My experience presenting a poster was actually much more positive than I had imagined it being. Through the poster I felt that I could actually share something worthwhile with real teachers, I found it much more useful than regular homework, and I found that I learned even more presenting the material to people. I also learned some obvious things like remembering to print my email address on the top of the handout or at least have some sort of contact card.
My poster was called “Debunking the Myth of the Shy Japanese/Asian Student”. I felt that my material pertained not only to Asian students, but to any students dealing with divisive shyness. While doing my student teaching and helping out at ELSP, I heard many times about how teachers were having trouble dealing with “shy” Asian students. As someone with experience in Asia, I felt this was an area where I could offer my expertise. However, I didn’t want to talk purely from my own experience either so I also researched about six sources on the topic as well. My presentation focused on how the Asian values of modesty, respecting authority, collectivity and saving face effect student behavior. The presentation also recommended some activities that are good for all classes that reduce the negative effects of these values.

However, as much as I tried, I still found the explanation of how these values come out in the classroom very difficult. I was surprised how many people I met had had similar experiences and were actually quite knowledgeable themselves. It was refreshing to meet other teachers who knew Asian students beyond the stereotypes and had developed activities or ways of talking that drew students out as well! I have the email addresses of some of these people, but I still need to contact and follow up with them. It was also great to meet so many teachers from different schools and situations. I also wish we had had more of a chance to meet the CS Fullerton students, but perhaps that couldn’t be helped. Although most people who came by only had a passive interest and really only wanted to talk for maybe three minutes and get a handout, I was surprised at how many people who came by were very supportive and helped me to develop my ideas further. For that I am very grateful.

For the chance to develop alongside the professional community, and the offer something to them as well, I feel privileged. Unlike regular homework, it was great to see many people actually use this information. On a side note, I did have one new Taiwanese student from CSUF come and try to tell me that actually the stereotype was true, and she was a perfect example. However, she took my email address and facebook-friended me! Then we exchanged maybe three or four short emails about the subject. It appears she is not so shy either – in certain situations. I guess everyone grows step-by-step.