Using Your Past To Relate To Students

I found two news stories, the links to which I’d set aside for a rainy day, on how a teacher’s past experiences can help them relate to students. The first concerned teachers who were immigrants (and English language learners) themselves being able to relate to their immigrant students, even if the students hailed from a different country.

The other story concerns a teacher who had served in the military in Iraq and ended up teaching an young Iraqi ESL student back in the US . Yikes. But they ended up making a positive connection after an understandably shaky start.

While I certainly have no particular connection to the US military – except for, well, being from the US – EFL has put me in a position to meet and interact with students from countries which don’t always have the happiest political relationship with my country. (Granted, that encompasses quite a few countries, but I’m thinking of the more extreme cases.) I’m sure I’m not the only teacher and that others would agree that mostly things go okay; I have wondered if there is proper etiquette…acknowledge it somehow? Gloss over it?. I’ve generally not done much aside from treating the student the same as everyone else, if trying to be sensitive to the conversation turning to a topic which I assume would make them uncomfortable. Fortunately I’ve found that people tend to be more than just walking nationalities if you give them the chance to be.