Teach English in Heqiao Zhen - Huai'an Shi

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After having taught English for three years in Thailand I can definitively say that it is extremely important for young English learners’ parents to attempt to learn English as well. As teachers, our time with our students is very valuable however it is also very limited as compared to the amount of time they spend outside of our classrooms. Parents play a very important role in fostering and nurturing the use of non-native language skills outside the classroom and it is paramount that they both embrace and encourage the use of said non-native language on a daily basis with their children. It is vital that parents understand the importance of spoken English and that they adequately prepare their children for school and communicate regularly with their teachers. Further, it is essential that parents do their best to model the usage of the English language with their children at home and in public and also set aside regular reading and study time to reinforce the skills taught in the classroom. Successful ESL students’ parents should always attempt to engage their children in the practice of learning a non-native language and can do so by educating themselves on a variety of educational techniques and applications to fortify the knowledge and skills that are acquired at school. Finally, parents of ESL learners should not worry unnecessarily about their own pronunciation and diction as it pertains to the use of the English language; the acts of willingness and trying to model the usage of the language are far more impactful than perfect execution. The following summative task will outline these topics and concepts in brief, along with a personal narrative from my experience while teaching English in Thailand, as well as provide an overview of how parents can positively impact their childrens’ appreciation and use of the English language in their day to day lives. As an ESL teacher in Thailand I was privileged to be able work with students varying in age from 3 years through highschool and university. I spent the majority of my time however with young learners in kindergarten and primary. One of my students, Amp, was 8 years old when I began teaching a weekend afternoon class for her and her parents. Amp’s mother is a certified English teacher in Thailand and she runs a tutoring center during the weekday evenings and on weekends. I taught children in her classroom on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and was also tasked with tutoring Amp privately in the evenings during the week. Although Amp’s mother is a qualified English teacher in Thailand I was very surprised to discover that she rarely spoke English with her students and with her daughter. She taught her English lessons on paper and on the board with great proficiency though she rarely spoke English because she was very apprehensive about her pronunciation and verbal sentence construction. Unfortunately her apprehension was passed on to Amp, as she was initially very shy and reluctant to speak with me in English. With time this changed though and Amp quickly became a little motor-mouth in English and her understanding and usage of the language blossomed very quickly. The same however could not be said for the other students that I taught alongside Amp and her mother. After more than 2 years of teaching the same group of children on the weekends their willingness and comfort level with spoken English barely changed at all. I always did my best to encourage Amp’s mother to speak with me and her daughter in English. Although she did make some effort over the years I began to realize that modelling apprehension of the English language invariably transferred over to the rest of the young children that I taught for Amp’s mother. While Amp and I could carry on continuously with easy dialogue I could barely get any of the other children to engage in even the simplest of conversations with me. This experience truly demonstrated for me that parents must understand the importance of spoken English and must also do everything they can to demonstrate this for their children. During my time in Thailand I learned that children are very adept at picking up on parental attitudes as it pertains to language acquisition. If children realize that the adults in their lives don’t think that learning English is important, they will be much less likely to approach the subject with a positive attitude. As for my student Amp, she was and is fortunate enough to attend classes at an international school and as such she is exposed to far more English than most of her local peers that I worked with at her classroom on the weekends. The fact that she had greater exposure to English from other adults in her life, myself included, helped her language skills to blossom incredibly. Aside from using the English language, there are other ways that parents of ESL learners can help prepare their children to be successful non-native language learners. It is very important that parents set aside a dedicated time and place for homework, that they provide necessary resources like pencils, pens, paper, and dictionaries, and that they are willing to do their best to answer questions about homework when possible. Further, it is essential for parents to demonstrate their interest in how their childrens’ school day went and to listen to any and all concerns. Additional mainstays to ensuring successful learners that parents can incorporate on a daily basis are things like ensuring that children eat a healthy breakfast before school and that they get a good night’s sleep. Parents must also do their very best to communicate with their childrens’ ESL teachers whenever possible. Although this can be potentially intimidating for parents, especially if they are not comfortable with their own English skills, teachers are invaluable partners in helping children reach their full potential. In addition to reporting on a student's overall progress, teachers may be able to suggest the best methods for practicing English at home and point parents to helpful resources. Parents who are unable to speak to a teacher in English should investigate whether the district or a community program offers translators or ask a fluent friend or family member for assistance. Parents can also incorporate regular practice time in English, by learning little and often, to help their children and themselves further develop proficiency in English. Doing so can bolster students’ confidence and self-esteem and better prepare them to take their language acquisition skills farther in the classroom with their peers and their ESL teachers. A great way to do this is to have parents focus on their child’s interests and create opportunities for English dialogue that will engage and motivate young learners. Praise and encouragement can also be used by parents when their children tackle and overcome challenging aspects of their studies, especially as it pertains to the regular use of the English language. Above all though, parents should do their best not to worry about their own errors in pronunciation. Though their children will likely hear differences between teacher and parent, accents and pronunciation are also influenced by other variables like peer groups, television, actors in film, etc. and students will naturally learn and adapt to correct pronunciation over time.