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DCE Magazine

Instructor Q&A: Marla Yoshida

English as a Second Language (ESL) / Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

Spring 2019

Q. Why do you like teaching international students?

A. When you teach international students, there's so much diversity of cultures, viewpoints, and traditions. It helps me realize how many different ways there are to look at the world. I've taught English in many different settings—in a conversation school in Japan, in vocational English classes for refugees in the U.S., and in more academic settings—and each one requires a different approach and style of teaching. You can't let yourself get into a rut as a teacher, and you have to keep learning and adapting. I think that's what I like best.

Q. What special qualities or qualifications do you bring to the classroom?

A. I have a master's degree in linguistics, and I've been teaching ESL for more than 30 years. In my undergraduate work, I studied six different languages (though I can't say I remember most of what I learned), and that helped me understand and empathize with my students’ experiences in learning a new language. It's not easy! I've tried to keep adding to my knowledge and teaching skills as I go along, especially as new technology and tools become available. I try to be patient and flexible when I'm teaching. Things don't always go as expected, and when a lesson hits a snag, it's best to just stay calm and find a way to make it work.

Q. What do you do to engage with your students and support success in the classroom?

A. Since these are language classes, students need plenty of practice using what they're learning. Speaking a new language is a skill, not just a collection of knowledge, and nobody wants to sit and just listen to the teacher lecture for an hour and a half. So I do what all the teachers in our program do—design lessons with plenty of chances for students to speak, share opinions, and try out new language forms. The teacher is not the focus of the class—the students are. The teacher guides and supports students in learning new words, grammatical structures, and skills, setting up activities to help them practice actively.

Q. Can you tell us about a memorable moment you've had while teaching international students?

A. In the ESL program, we see our students every day, so we get to know them pretty well. Sometimes we have a chance to share big events in their lives. (One of my students just became a father for the first time, for instance.) But I can remember many small moments when a student finally understood a grammar point after a long struggle or had the courage to stand in front of the class and give a presentation. There are so many times when we can really see that the class has come together as a learning family, helping and supporting each other.