ESL major Amanda Rooke ’19 sees respect for other cultures as the key to helping international students learn English.
Getting Involved Globally
Amanda Rooke ’19 is a linguaphile — someone who loves languages. Growing up, she studied Chinese for seven years, becoming fluent enough to hold a conversation with someone in Mandarin. She continued to deepen her appreciation for other cultures at Elms, where she is currently the vice president of the International Club and an ESL tutor in the Center for Student Success.
“Those opportunities to get involved globally made me want to come to Elms,” said the Springfield, MA, local. “Elms is one of the very few colleges in the area that offers classes in Chinese or Japanese, or mission trips to countries in South America.”
Amanda and friends at the 2018 celebration banquet for International Programs and Diversity & Inclusion.
As an education major with a concentration in English as a Second Language (ESL), Amanda spends most of her time learning about linguistics, language assessment techniques, and teaching strategies. Even though ESL teachers are not required to be multilingual, Amanda makes a conscious effort to learn greetings and basic phrases in a variety of languages. This gesture represents an act of kindness and, just as importantly, builds common ground with students, she said.
“Being able to say ‘Hi, how are you?’ or ‘Nice to meet you’ in someone else’s language makes the rest of the year better, because students feel welcomed,” she said.
“My message is: ‘This classroom can be a home for you in this country. You can feel comfortable here,’ ” she added.
Class Preparation at Elms
Academic excellence is one of the most important values at Elms. In the education program, undergraduate students often find themselves in seminars with graduate students. For Amanda, this mix of peers enhanced the quality of her classes.
“Presenting my work to grad students—many of whom are already teachers—is really nerve-wracking,” she said. “But they give you really good constructive criticism. The faculty have high expectations as well, but they help you meet them.”
During a workshop on Japanese calligraphy, Amanda created a pictogram that says “karan koron.” This is an onomatopoeia of the sound “clop clop,” the sound that traditional geta sandals make. Her inspiration was a popular Japanese yokai folktale called Gegege no Kitaro.
Amanda also appreciates the emphasis on discussion and research-based practices. Dissecting articles and talking through different ways to apply educational theories represents a different way of learning than high school students are accustomed to, she said.
“It’s more practical in the education courses,” she explained. “We’re asked, ‘What do you think about this idea? What would you change? How would you use it?’”
Study Abroad in Asia
In addition to her work with International Club, Amanda is completing an Asian studies minor to supplement her major. She’s looking forward to studying abroad in Japan in spring 2019, where she plans on speaking only in Japanese to the best of her ability.
“If you only know one language, and you never try to learn anyone else’s language, you’re missing out on making connections and forming friendships in all these other parts of the world,” she said.
In fall 2019, Amanda will complete her teaching practicum before earning her teaching license. Her commitment to cultural appreciation is a guiding force for her curriculum.
“A major part of being an ESL teacher is accepting other cultures and having a willingness to be on equal footing with everyone in your classroom,” she said. “It has to be a two-way street.”