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Acquiring a second language is a lifelong process that requires great effort and dedication. Many students come to my Chinese class expecting it to either be a stepping-stone to better career opportunity or a channel to feed their curiosity towards "exotic "Chinese culture and history. With this in mind, I have three main objectives for my teaching: 1.) to facilitate the development of general sense and appreciation for Chinese language and culture, 2) to provide fundamental knowledge and tools inherent to Chinese learning process, 3) to foster critical thinking, self-learning awareness and the capability to apply what they learn to practical scenarios. I actualize these objectives by creating an engaging, student-centered learning environment in which I place myself as a facilitator for my students' learning process. My overarching goal is to imbue students with persistent enthusiasm and appreciation towards Chinese language, and ultimately, inspire them to become lifelong Chinese learners and speakers.
Being a Chinese language instructor, I try to integrate my knowledge gained as a researcher in linguistics and second language acquisition field, my passion as a devoted Asian language learner and my identity as a native Chinese speaker into my class. During my three years' teaching, I firmly believe and always adhere to the following principles.
First, I always strive to create a student-centered language learning environment, which is reflected in various aspects of my teaching. One aspect lies in that I always design and revise my class to accommodate what students truly want. For most students, the ultimate goal of learning a language is to be able to effectively communicate in that language. Therefore, I include many interactive activities which address common situations in daily life to hone students' ability to apply their learning to practical scenarios. For instance, when teaching a lesson about dinning, I ask my students to participate in a role-play activity that simulates a common scenario in a Chinese restaurant. Students are paired up into groups of two and assume the role of customers or waiters. Then, customer will ask waiter/waitress about recommendation on dishes using a menu from an authentic Chinese restaurant. Moreover, I encourage students to engage in conversation with native Chinese speaker by creating a language partner program, in which students are required to talk with his/her native Chinese partner frequently. In my class, I place myself in a role not only as a teacher that provides necessary knowledge, but as a facilitator that guides students to discover the beauty of the language. Through introduction of these communicative activities, I aim to create a language learning environment that is driven by its very purpose, that is, to achieve effective Chinese communication in practice.
A student-centered learning environment is also indicated by the fact that teacher should always respect each student and attend to each student's specific needs. As the affective filter is a very important factor in foreign language learning, it is important for me to be patient with students who make mistakes. I constantly remind my students that making mistakes is an inevitable part of progress in language learning and a good opportunity to learn. I also pay special attention to students who fall behind by making sure they have all the help they need to catch up.
Second, I make every effort to keep students interested and motivated. As an experienced language learner myself, I find that the most effective driven force to truly mastering a language is genuine interest in that language. Therefore, I try to motivate my students by keeping the class dynamic, entertaining and informative. On one hand, I introduce various interactive activities that simulate interesting scenarios in daily life, in which students are encouraged to move around and form groups at will. Such activities make the class more vibrant and stimulate students' desire to improve their learning. On the other hand, I also include some relevant Chinese folklores, history and pop culture in each lecture that students find most interesting. For example, I explain the Chinese tradition of assigning a specific "birth animal" to each year when teaching the Chinese terms for date and time. I find fun facts like this make students more attentive and greatly prolong retention period. I think strong motivation and interest will not only improve students' performance in class, but also allow them to benefit from the Chinese learning experience even beyond the classroom environment.
Third, I believe that teachers and students must be part of the constantly changing technological landscape. Technology permeates every aspect of life, which I find can be a very powerful tool in language learning. I use a variety of multimedia tools in class to facilitate teaching, such as slides, movie clips and audio excerpt. I also add useful online resources, including online courses, news and articles to my repertoire, which provide a good source for my students to engage in self-learning activity, which is indispensable to language learning process. Additionally, I take advantage of the platform the university provides to collect students' homework online, which ensures timely assessment.
Being a language teacher is a challenging yet extremely rewarding task, as a teacher can have profound impact to a student life. I feel ever so delighted and accomplished whenever my students show their aptitude in Chinese language or genuine interest towards Chinese culture. After the past three years being a Chinese language instructor, there is not a single doubt left in my mind that my life will be devoted to this noble goal, that is, to inspire students to become lifelong learners of Chinese language.