Like most ESL teachers, I feel like I have a pretty good idea about what my students are thinking during my lessons. However, during four hours of being a second language student, I discovered that I had some significant gaps in my understanding of what my students were actually experiencing. Sitting in a student’s seat was an enlightening experience for me.
To give my colleagues and me a chance to become L2 students, a fellow-teacher, Susan, who was fluent in Farsi, offered to give us four hours of instruction in it. Eight of us (all experienced ESL teachers) met for two hours on consecutive days. During the lessons, she incorporated both teacher-fronted and pair exercises and used a variety of techniques, just as many of us do in our ESL lessons.
We did not start with greetings and opening lines of a conversation, but instead, jumped right into learning some nouns, verbs and prepositions and a few basic sentence structures that could be practiced using in a variety of activities.
Although I only teach advanced-level academic ESL these days, these beginning-level Farsi language lesson transformed how I look at my students in the higher levels.