But What if the Shoes were Dancing? Learning to Dance, Dancing to Learn

Andy Curtis
2002 Language and Literacy: A Canadian Educational e-journal  
From Student-teacher to Teacher-student A long-established feature of many initial language teacher education programs is exposure to target language teaching, as described by language teacher educators like Diane Larsen-Freeman (1983) in the United States and Gary Birch (1992) in Australia. For my early TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) qualifications, our group, all native speakers of English, were required to attend 20, one-hour lessons of beginner's Chinese. As none of us knew
more » ... Chinese, and all of the teaching was in the target language, Chinese, this gave us a chance to experience what our learners might think and feel when we tried to teach them entirely in the language they were trying to learn, English. In a later course, the same was done, but this time with the language of Iceland. We each kept a journal, or learning log, of what we were learning about language teaching and about what it felt like to be language learners completely immersed in a language we (initially) knew nothing about but were trying to learn. Although we did comment on the meaning, structure, and pronunciation of the two languages, and made (frequently incorrect) assumptions about our second languages based on what we (thought) we knew about our first, how much or how well we learned Mandarin Chinese or Icelandic was not the point. Thinking and feeling about language and learning, becoming sympathetic and empathetic reflective teachers through being reflective learners, were some of the main aims (see also Lowe, 1987) . This technique has not only been used for language teachers in training, but experienced language teachers too. Kathi Bailey (Bailey, Curtis & Nunan, 2001, pp. 97-98) describes how she taught a 30-minute language lesson using only Korean to a group of teachers of English in Brazil who had strong -but markedly different -feelings about use of students' first language (L1, in their case, Portuguese) in second language (L2, in their case, English) classrooms. After this brief but unexpected "shock language lesson", Bailey was "amazed" to find that some of the teachers who were originally most adamant about prohibiting the use of students' L1 in their L2 classrooms, were "among those most frustrated and intimidated by the experience of being restricted to the target language" (p. 97). A third variation, and another level of reflectivity, is where experienced language teachers choose to enroll in language learning courses. In Lessons Learned from Being a Student Again, Laura Latulippe (1999) explains that after 25 years as an ESL teacher, she wanted to remind herself of what it felt like to be a language learner again. She admits that the role reversal was more difficult than she thought it would be, partly because of the loss of self-esteem she experienced, which she deals with using many strategies,
doi:10.20360/g23w3h fatcat:3nnankzlhrf3fgu26oulwdj6q4