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One of the things that I sometimes struggle with in teaching, and in other areas of my life, is patience. I teach beginning level English classes with a fair number of literacy level students, meaning I have some students that can read and write in their own language but struggle with the Roman alphabet, and some students that are not fully literate in their native language. It can take a long time for these students to master what to me seems like a simple task: writing their name or saying the letters of the alphabet, for examples. Sometimes I am just in awe of how long it can take. I find myself thinking “How can they not get it? It is so easy!” But it is not easy.
I am taking an online course in how to teach literacy level learners. A quote from an article we had to read really stood out to me: “Literacy-level learners may be beginning learners, but they are not beginning thinkers.” This quote really struck a chord with me. I think a lot of people in our society take language for granted. Many people, when they come across someone who is unable to answer a question or express themselves, write them off as unintelligent. I think they fail to recognize how challenging it is to learn and use a language, and they therefore lack compassion when someone struggles with speaking.
It feels better to fully master a task than it does to tangentially cover a great number of items. It’s the age old adage of quality over quantity – and obtaining that quality can require a great investment of time. Learning a new language is an extremely difficult task, as I know from first-hand experience, and our students deserve our patience and compassion as they attempt to learn our language. I think that patience can sometimes be the most important thing when it comes to teaching, and it is important to keep this in mind.