This story comes from my time teaching at Bloor and Bay, 5th floor, N.E tower – Language Connections International. I was teaching new immigrants to Canada part of the day, foreign students the other half. Small classrooms with one wall all windows facing busy Bloor street, downtown Toronto.
I was teaching a usual class, reviewing how to open a bank account and role playing this. All of a sudden there was incredible screaming and shreeking, squealing. I turned around and saw two of my students jumping up and down and pounding on the windows. The noise was deafening, the teacher in the next classroom came busting into ours. All the other students were looking at these two women, two classmates, jumping up and down and screaming.
What was it? They had seen small, tiny, tiny flakes of snow coming down. They were Brazilian and this was the first time they’d ever seen snow!
Suffice to say, the rest of the lesson was a bust. We brainstormed words about snow and talked about the first time we did “X”. A great teachable moment and I just went with it for the next 40 minutes.
But this experience really stayed with me. I’m sure there are a lot of take aways for a teacher but for me what hit home was that each student was so unique, bringing so much of their own lives and experiences to the classroom. It is incumbent and even mandatory for teachers to harness this and even more, try to be sensitive and aware of this as part of the language teaching dynamic. There are no “students” only this student, that student, this student, that student ……. Even in a class where all the students are from the same culture, we still have individuality and students who will bring their differences into the classroom …..