As a foreign language students’ professor, my main goal was to guide students to be active language learners. I, myself, was educated in English as my second language and it instilled me how I could approach ELL students last 17 years of higher education in Philadelphia. I understand it is not easy for ELL students to think, write, and speak in other language than their native language and it led me always thought of three beliefs.
The first belief is that ELL students are coming from all different background knowledge of English, but they do have a capability to accept a new input of English language. My students are mostly coming from all over the world and they have all different level of proficiency. For example, some students are good at grammar but they are not fully equipped with articulating their opinions in speaking. Some other students are fluent in speaking but very poor in writing. So I always need to prepare various feed backs and respond them based on their pre-existing knowledge. This can be connected to Stephen Krashen’s input hypothesis. For example, if a learner is at a stage 'i', then acquisition takes place when he/she is exposed to 'Comprehensible Input' that belongs to level 'i + 1'. Since not all of the learners can be at the same level of linguistic competence at the same time, Krashen suggests that natural communicative input is the key to designing a syllabus, ensuring in this way that each learner will receive some 'i + 1' input that is appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence. (1988).
The second belief is that ELL students could build up social relationship and meaningful interaction through communicating with students from other cultures. My classes are intentionally designed for international students and students expose to learn various cultures through English. In this sense, for example, I create many in-class activities including group presentation and pair-works. Through these types of interaction, my students could increase their language input and contribute the productive output of their fellow students. While students are mutually sharing their opinions, they are ultimately led to extending their English language function and they became to learn not only English language but also different cultures.
The last belief is that I can be ELL students’ reflection who began to learn English as second language. I was born and raised in South Korea for 19 years, however, I was exposed to many Asian countries and I educated in the U.S. A from 19 years old. Those mixed combination of educational experience support my teaching skill and how I can response students adequately. Students also may feel relieved to see an Asian professor who were at the same shoe. I do get many responses that some students feel easy to work on Asian professor like me in English class. For instance, most Asian students are introvert that they do not want to talk in class. In other hands, most European students are extrovert that they mostly take a main role to speak out for other students. Considering students’ origins, what I do is that I pair students based on different country and make all students have an equal chance to speak out in class. I also prepare other alternatives of class activities to adapt in a different situation of the class so that all students can feel comfortable to learn and express themselves freely.