The Foundations of Function: Educational Philosophy and Psychology
Meet the Social Realities of ESL Instruction
Education into English as a Second Language (ESL) has become very important in this country, as many people are coming in from non-English speaking countries because they feel that America has much more to offer them. These children are eager to learn, but they often struggle because they do not understand the English language well. Even those that can speak English reasonable well sometimes have difficulties because there are many subtleties in the English language that these ESL students do not understand or even realize. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the ESL education that goes on in the Western world, as well as the ESL education that Muslims deal with.
The similarities and differences will be discussed, and Muslims who come to America will also be discussed. It is important to understand how both cultures teach their ESL children and how those from the Muslim culture that come to America do when they are taught in the unfamiliar Western way of teaching where ESL education is concerned. This is an issue, because all cultures teach their children in a different way, and a Muslim student that comes to America has not only the culture shock to deal with, but a different way of teaching as well. This can be very confusing and upsetting for these students. Even students who live in their own culture and must learn English often struggle with the feelings that they have about inadequacy and an inability to keep up with their peers.
It is important to look first at the cultural diversity in America and how this effects ESL education. After this has been examined, the discussion will move to the Muslim students who come to America, and finally to Muslim students in their own country that must learn English as a second language. By following this pattern, it will be easier to see the similarities and the differences that take place in the different cultures, and the special problems that many educators and tutors are facing when trying to teach ESL education to those that do not understand the culture that they find themselves in.
Another important issue of note is that American education has little to do with religious understanding or opinion. Muslim education is centered around religion. Muslims who come to this country often have difficulty with the strangeness of a people that do not plan their lives around their religion and honor their God with everything that they do. This difference is very important, not only for those that are being taught, but for those that are teaching as well. The reason that this is so important for teachers is that they must understand the culture of the students that they teach, and many of them do not. This is not only in America, but is true of other countries as well.
Muslim schools that are found in countries that are traditionally not Islamic also have difficulties because many of the teachers do not understand the importance of religion in the lives of the Islamic people. Teachers that do understand often have difficulties convincing the administration how important these things are, and because of this the Muslim students that are studying in other countries are struggling and feelings as though they are not understood by others.
American Philosophies and ESL Education
There are many different perceptions that are held by educators, and these perceptions are often very different from the perceptions that are held by those that they are trying to teach. There are six levels of adaptation that will be discussed here, as these will help to understand the ways that students and educators must work to meet in the middle so that learning can take place and ESL instruction can be carried out in a way that facilitates the largest amount of learning as quickly as possible. The levels of adaptation will show how these students and educators can move from being basically unaware of each other's culture to being completely versatile in both cultures. Not only will attaining this versatility help many of these students and educators, but even working toward this ideal, even if it is not achieved, will help them to understand more about each other's cultural beliefs and practices.
Intercultural sensitivity is becoming increasingly more important in classrooms today, as there is much ethnic diversity in many of them (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Unfortunately, all indications show that there is still very little awareness across cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This does not only mean that Americans are failing to recognize other cultures, but that other cultures are failing to recognize the American culture in which they find themselves living (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
It is not suggested that these other cultures are supposed to abandon all that they are used to and 'become American,' but only that an understanding of different cultures is important in a country that is such a melting pot of different ideals and beliefs (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Learning about someone else's culture and trying to respect and understand it is not the same thing as becoming part of it, which appears to be the misunderstanding that many people have about recognizing other cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
While this is an important misunderstanding, there are others that belong to both educators and students alike. Until something is done about this, ESL instruction will continue to have difficulties because there will be no cultural understanding about what is needed to help students learn. Many believe that there is a 'new breed of student' and that, while students have become more widely diverse, educators have become less so (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is only making the difficulty larger and causing more unhappiness in the minds of educators and students (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is also upsetting to the parents that feel that their children are either being treated unfairly by their teachers or being forced to conform to a different culture because their teachers do not choose to acknowledge the one that they already have (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
One of the main problems that teachers have when they are trying to teach ESL education to students is that they see them as being basically the same as Americans, although they realize that they have some differences. This is a common misconception, because most people appear to have the same idea. That idea is that, because everyone is human, everyone is basically the same. This is, however, largely untrue. Everyone is different, and those that come from other cultures often have different ways of doing things, different ways of learning things, and different ways of thinking about things (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). These are very significant differences, and educators and students that cannot recognize this struggle to understand why someone cannot change their attitude about something and act differently toward others (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). It is, however, not that simple, and the Western way of teaching ESL is harmed somewhat because of this. It is something that must be adjusted in the future (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
There is an argument as well about whether cultural sensitivity is really that significant, or whether it has been completely overemphasized (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Those that do not understand the subtleties of cultural differences often think that most cultures are very similar or very different - there is no middle ground (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). However, people who spend more time trying to understand other cultures begin to realize that there are more differences that are often subtle, and that the same is true for similarities as well (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). These are very important differences, often times, but they go overlooked because people are not culturally sensitive, and this hurts those that are involved with teaching and learning (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
Since the six stages of cultural awareness that were mentioned above has so much to do with how ESL learners and educators interact, it is important to discuss them here. This will help with an understanding of the Western way of dealing with ESL and why there are still many problems for those that are trying to teach and those that are struggling to learn. Teaching English to those that do not traditionally speak it is difficult, but it is made more so by the misunderstandings and misperceptions that are often involved when different cultures must deal with each other (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000).
The first stage of cultural awareness is ignorance (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). This is when someone from one culture completely fails to understand or comprehend that there is any difference between the cultures (Peregoy & Boyle, 2000). Teachers that assume that their foreign students are just like their American students are often guilty of this. Time will change this, of course, but for a while there is…