Lorie Mattox1Do you know what my favorite part of the first week of a new semester is? I love the lost look my students have the first time they hear me speak. You know, that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look, "I don't hear a word she's saying!" Then they start looking to their neighbor and asking, "What did she say?" or "Can you understand her?" Finally, one brave soul will raise their hand and ask me to slowly repeat what I said. "Hi! My name is Ms. Mattox, and I'm from Texas."

I've started my third year teaching in the Undergraduate Preparatory Program (UPP) at the International University of Grand-Bassam (IUGB) in Ivory Coast, West Africa. IUGB is an American-style, English medium university in a French speaking country. Currently we offer six four-year degrees in several business and STEM fields to 650 students from French and English speaking West African countries. IUGB continues to develop partnerships with US universities who help our students enter the US and achieve their academic goals. Most of our students want to attend university in the US, but only a few will actually go.

Lorie Mattox2Whether you're teaching academic English overseas or in the US, we often face the same problems. When our students leave the classroom, they tend to find other like speakers, and they slip back into their first language. In many ways they never leave their culture despite the opportunities provided. When they relax, that is the language they relax in.

As instructors, we know the more English learners use English, the quicker they will learn it. Sometimes it feels like they just don't get it, or take this opportunity seriously. Sometimes we grow discouraged, because we don't seem to have "clicked" with them. We tend to remember our frustrations more than the good times where we have connected with a few students. But it's those few connections that encourage us and remind us why we decided to become educators.
Lorie Mattox3
I just had one of those moments.It won't seem like much to some, but it was huge for them. The students were taking their final. They were free to go when finished. I noticed they were hanging outside the classroom door, but I didn't think anything of it. After the last student turned in the final, the entire class came back in and sang Christmas carols to me. Did you read, "sang in English?!" I really do love my job!

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