Over more than fifteen years designing and delivering educational experiences, I have developed an approached that can be summed up in three keywords: self-awareness, empathy, resilience.
Learning is changing, not expanding. Learning a new language, or to better adapt into multicultural settings, touches on intimate elements of our identity. A new language is not an ‘added competence’, but a radical transformation: we must develop a new persona that will interact with new people through this new medium, using new concepts, and in a new rhythm. Change is difficult, and students often experience frustration – the comfort of a mother tongue can be very tempting. From the first session, I warn them of the dangers along the road – confirm their motivation, comfort them if they despair, and encourage them at each step to love and enjoy their new multilingual persona.
Learning is weaving new with old. Students are not empty boxes where you can simply pile up items of knowledge. Students come to new knowledge with assumptions and expectations about everything, including other languages, and no teacher knows precisely what’s inside their brain. Therefore, I make sure that I observe, listen and test their existing assumptions and implicit models. This allows me to tailor my teaching to the needs and style of each individual student – and help them weave the new threads I bring into the fabric of their mind.
It’s a long road, so let’s enjoy the journey. Patience and trust are a core virtues for all teachers, and I have consistently cultivated them. Very few students get everything right the first time, so we must repeat, knowing that returning to the same point again and again, or forgetting basics as you progress, is a very normal phenomenon. Not only must a teacher have patience, but we must instil patience in our students: it’s a long road, so let’s enjoy the journey together. More importantly, we must ensure that, when they leave the room, our students are equipped for a life of continuous learning – and eagerly waiting for that journey.