My philosophy of teaching English language centers around what I view as a language’s main purpose: to communicate needs and to understand the needs of others. I believe that acquiring English enables minority populations, such as English language learners, to more fully participate in the English-speaking society in which they live.
Within the ESL classroom, my beliefs about language teaching are reflected by a practice of bottom-up, student-centered, task-based instruction. I initially center each topic within my students’ own experiences, then introduce the English vocabulary they can use to communicate about the topic in English in order to complete a real-world task, such as calling information (411) for a telephone number, attending a job interview, or depositing money at a bank. In this way, students are exposed to English within their own realm of experience; they can then acquire English by linking the new language to their first languages in the context of their own experiences and needs.
I strongly believe that adult learners know what they want to learn, why they want to learn, and how they want to learn. As teacher, my aim is to facilitate their learning. In this way, my ESL class enables my students to be autonomous learners. I base my instruction and activities upon what my students need and want, yet still manage their instruction by planning each lesson, and guiding their development by providing both instantaneous and post-task feedback orally and in writing. In addition, providing students with feedback enables them the autonomy to reflect upon their work, make adjustments, and learn from the experience.
Finally, I do not subscribe to the “teacher knows best” philosophy. Ultimately we must meet our students’ needs rather than blindly following the prescribed curriculum, or regarding any failure on the students’ part as purely their own fault. My role as ESL teacher is to guide my students to use the language to fully participate in society rather than merely perfect their production of it.