Did I Hide, or Order Dessert? Empathy and Online Teaching

Today teacher Kelly shares with us her own experience of language and shows us how a little empathy and attention can go a long way in making a great Qkids teacher.  

I had been to many pyramids in Mexico. The pyramids in Monte Albán (Mexico) were breathtaking. I walked those incredible Mayan ruins until my legs felt like they were going collapse under me. When it was time to go, I was famished. About 10 minutes after we arrived at a restaurant, I felt my heart starting to pound faster. I kept skimming the menu, decoding unsuccessfully. Where were the things I was used to seeing? Where were the tortas, sopas, and taquitos?  The other exchange students knew what they wanted to order. Their menus were already back on the table.  

I've always been picky. I don't love beans or many sauces. I found something, I thought I could eat, but what was "quesillo"?  My inner struggle began. I pondered, was it like "queso" (cheese)?  I am not a fan of brie and some other "moldy" cheeses. Ugh... Maybe I should just say I wanted it without whatever that was. How did I suddenly forget how to do that? Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the waiter approach. My heart sank. Please, oh please don't start on my side of the table taking orders. 

Then, it happened.  He approached me first. I shot a look of what I can assume was dread and he returned a gentle smile. He stepped to the side and started with the person next to me and then went counterclockwise away from me. I tried to look at my dictionary discreetly at waist height. I was so embarrassed (this was 2001 folks, smartphones didn't exist), "quesillo" wasn't in the dictionary. I heard the waiter exchanging banter with Miyo (a girl from Japan) and Karen (a girl from Switzerland). It sounded like they were speaking a mile a minute. I used the time to practice what I was going to say over and over in my head.

Ok. I did it, I went for it. I asked what “Quesillo” was. It WAS a cheese! He explained it was Oaxaca cheese. I was in the province of Oaxaca, so it must be a local cheese. He proceeded to tell me it was white and soft. Ooooh, I am not an adventure taker. He must have seen the look of panic flash across my face. He said, he would place the other orders and be right back. He returned but went to the adjacent table with their order. He asked them something and then brought one of their plates back to show me! I now knew exactly what “quesillo” looked like. I ordered it as is! He then proceeded to return the sizzling food to its rightful table.  

What does any of this have to do with teaching online for Qkids?  

I often have kids in a class of different ability levels. When this happens, I remember the anxiety I felt as a young adult when I didn't know what to expect and couldn't find the right words. The waiter was kind and patient. He gave me the time that I needed to gather my thoughts, took the time to explain things and went the extra mile to show a confused exchange student what something was.  

If he did the same thing for everyone at that table, the experience would not have been as successful. We all had the same menu, but different interactions with the waiter. He took orders, was chatty with people who seemed to be able to communicate easily and gave me the extra help I needed as a novice Spanish speaker. An ESL class at Qkids is like the menu. The students and I (the teacher) will all be looking at the same thing, a class. As a Qkids teacher, I can interact and engage with each student in the class differently.  I acknowledge and accept that I will have varying levels of ability in every class.

From the first moment that the waiter saw my dread, he showed me compassion.  He set up an environment that made me feel comfortable. When it was time for dessert, did I hide in the bathroom? No!  I ordered my dessert, knowing that it would be OK. As a Qkids teacher, I try from the very start of class to show that I am there to celebrate and welcome all levels in each class.  I want the kids that are nervous and unsure, to feel that it’s a safe place to try.

Here is an example of what that might look like:

Me: “What do you see?”  
Student A: “MOMO.” 
Me: Yah Student A, MOMO! We can see Momo!”
Student B: “I see a monarch butterfly fluttering near Koby in the garden,” 
Me: Great sentence Student B!”.

I will ask many yes or no questions and multiple-choice questions. I will give facial clues and gestures to encourage the correct answers. I want easy wins for the kiddos and I want to build their confidence. My goal is to have fostered an environment of participation from the very beginning.  If the waiter wasn't as patient or didn't set me up for success, I may never have devoured that rich, mouthwatering Mexican molten lava cake for dessert. Qkids has the best platform out there. Their classes are fun and often funny. There are so many games! I want the kiddos to embrace the lesson! An exchange might look like this:
  • Student A: What's this? It's a red brick wall. 
  • Me: Nice Job Student A!
  • Student BIt’s a …(the student’s shaking their head) After a few seconds go by I might give a choice.
  • Me: Hmmm, is it a house or a car?  
  • Student B: It’s a house.
  • Me: Well done Student B!
  • Student C: Roos!                                                                                                       
  • Me! Great jobIt’s a rooF.
  • Student C: It’s a roos.
  • Me: roof  
  • Student Croos                                                                                                                  
  • Me: roofffff 
  • Student C: roof
  • Me: You got it! That's a hard one, let's have everybody try. Everybody, copy the teacher: It's a roof.

Doing this achieves two things. Firstly, the student who had several corrections is hearing that it might be hard for everyone. Secondly, nobody is waiting for a very long time without getting to speak. Then, I would move on to Student D. Everyone may need something a little different from us, and that's OK. I try to challenge each student to do their best. I desire to be the champion of each student's progress and celebrate all successes - even if they are vastly different. I was the least fluent among my exchange student group for the 4 months when I was in Mexico. I sympathize with the students that struggle a little more than their peers. How will your life experience shape the way you teach?

For those of you aren't teaching with Qkids yet:

1) copy this code: RTPTIJ
3) paste my referral code (I am vested in helping candidates who want to apply, succeed. When my referrals are hired, I receive a bonus.)

Applicants can join my Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KellyESL/
(I private message all new members, so I can begin the process of helping them through the application process.)

Email me here: thecollectivekelly2@gmail.com (Use the word “blog” in the subject line.)

Happy teaching! 
Teacher Kelly


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