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Natalie Cole Teaching Philosophy
Philosophy of Teaching English as a Second Language
By Natalie Cole
“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck
Teaching English as a second language is a challenging area of teaching due to the variety of students and goals one can have in the classroom. Teaching English language learners involves many aspects – thus, teachers of English language learners need to be some of the most skilled artists. I place value in sound methods and principles to guide my teaching and develop my teaching philosophy. My philosophy of teaching is that an effective ESL teacher needs the following elements: the understanding of the needs of one’s students, the ability to motivate learners, the characteristic of being supportive, and the knowledge of how to provide learners with the tools necessary for them to become life-long learners.
The understanding of one’s students and their needs is one of the most important components of a good teacher. By conducting a needs assessment, I can know more about my learners and teach to their needs and wants. When I know my students’ purpose for learning, their level, and their abilities, I can better fill my role as an effective ESL teacher by designing my lessons in ways that will benefit my learners. For example, if a majority of my students need English just for survival purposes, I will know to focus on basic English skills that will serve such a purpose rather than focusing on academic language. Even knowing the more narrow needs of individual learners is helpful to assist students.
Although the needs of my learners will vary, I believe the method of Communicative Language Teaching is an effective approach to teaching English language learners, regardless of what level they are at and what level they would like to reach. We now live in a world where the primary purpose of learning a language is for communicative purposes, thus many students need to learn a language for such a purpose. Learners should collaborate in order to create meaning with the language and to help foster communication skills. Students do not benefit from repetitious, monotonous, and rule-driven lessons – rather, students learn through comprehensible input and output. As is true with any skill, the best way to learn is through practice.
The ability to motivate learners is what helps to achieve the above-discussed principles. Learners need to be engaged and motivated in order to learn. Diversifying instruction is important in helping students learn, as well as making students aware of the importance of what they are learning. I strive to instruct and facilitate activities on a variety of levels: whole group, small groups, and individually. I find Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence valuable in lesson planning. Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence theorizes that students learn in different ways, or through different intelligences, such as through physical activity or through listening. By addressing a variety of learning styles, a teacher can ensure students are learning in optimal ways.
One of the spiritual mediums a teacher can use in order to teach is one of support. When learners feel comfortable in the classroom, they are less afraid of making mistakes and more inspired to explore. In order to have a supportive classroom, the teacher needs to be understanding of cultural differences, as well as help all learners to be aware and respectful of those differences. I view culture as not only a significant aspect of the classroom, but also as an instrument to foster learning and bonding among students.
One of the most important traits of a teacher is knowing how to use tools to orchestrate effective teaching. However, the ultimate goal is to teach students how to use strategies and self-direction to improve learning. By teaching students strategies for the four main language skills, such as listening for a main idea or utilizing pre-reading strategies, students are able to become more independent and will continue to learn and improve beyond the class. My philosophy is that language learning occurs throughout a lifetime; therefore, students need to have the tools to become life-long learners.
The ultimate goal of an artist may be to produce a masterpiece, but the ultimate goal of the artist in the field of education is to teach students to become their own artists themselves. When students are motivated and supported, they will have the confidence and abilities needed to learn English in order to meet their needs. Once students have their needs met and possess the tools necessary, they can go out and learn on their own – and continue to master the art of the language.