It happened rapidly. And it was confusing. First came the loud buzzing of fifteen cell phones vibrating at once. I was about to admonish my students (yet again) for not turning off their phones, when I noticed that mine was also glowing. An Amber Alert was about to take my class on an unexpected tangent :
“What does this mean?” “How do they have my phone number?” “Am I in trouble?” “This means someone STOLE a CHILD?!?” A panic very quickly descended upon the room. Needless to say, I did not finish my lesson on the present perfect tense that day.
College ESL is, as one would expect, mainly a class filled with grammar and vocabulary. Yet is also about helping students to navigate the uncertain waters of a different and often unfamiliar cultural landscape.
If you have a student whose first language is not English in your classroom, I would urge you to be mindful of the fact that learning a new language is only one part of the challenge they face as college students. And It turns out even a cell phone can be a source confusion and learning.