October 19, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Development, Teaching | Comments Off on Newcomers.

My class features two particularly outgoing students.  Having spent less than a month on this side of the Atlantic and just completed their first week in my class, they are newcomers to the country and to the class.  They sit next to each other everyday and seem to be quickly becoming friends.  Enforcing “English only” is never a problem with them; they hail from separate continents and different languages.

Creating a welcoming atmosphere is crucial for students, especially newcomers.  At first, this task was difficult because these two students had little in common with the rest of class.

But a game of Pictionary with basic nouns made it easy.  When students were only able to communicate through drawing pictures, hilarity ensued.  There was a mixture of serious commentary and good-natured laughter at each other’s work.  Then there was the word: “teacher”.  They relished in the opportunity to poke fun at me.  I knew it was me –the exaggerated glasses and beards were dead give-aways.  As they stole glances from each other’s work, they became increasingly daring.  The glasses were getting bolder, the beard more ridiculous.  Eventually, each group made a point to write my name in big letters next to their drawing, pointing at my name and shouting “Teacher! Look!”   At this point, some students were gasping with laughter.  Those who were previously bantered for artistic skill were then lauded for producing the most amusing images of their teacher.

Creating a good relationship with the rest of the class is the key to easy learning.  On that day, the lesson was a breeze because they were entertained.  If a student is feeling good, they will pay more attention and be more willing to speak.  For newcomers, comfort matters most.  As a team, the two aforementioned students have become some of the more outgoing personalities of the class.

This is not to say that it’s smooth sailing from here on.  Culture shock can be a trying process that creates euphoria at one point and encumbering anxiety the next.   As the differences between one’s home culture and the new culture sometimes crystallize at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and homesick.  I’ve learned, however, that humor provides a good cure.

– Matt Arnold, Americorps Instructor


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