(Scene: between classes. Evenshine is pouring herself her second cup of coffee as classes let out and students change rooms. Enter, stage right, Adult English Grad Student- AEGS, who explodes from a room where she just finished teaching a grammar ESL lab, followed by a stuttering Chinese student- SCS).
Stuttering Chinese Student: And…he….tell- he tell me he…not feel good, sick…he not come–
AEGS (without turning- bellowing): SPEAK TO ME IN COMPLETE SENTENCES!!!
(Evenshine’s face drops into a mask of disbelief, as she turns from the coffee maker to leave the room, giving the AEGS a wide berth. She knows this grad student. She’s been warned before…)
SCS: I….he told me- yesterday…he say to me he…not feel good, he sick. Want handout. She- he say he–
AEGS: YOU HAVE TO SPEAK TO ME IN COMPLETE SENTENCES. GET THE WORDS OUT!!! IF HE NEEDS A HANDOUT HE CAN COME TO CLASS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AND GET IT. GOT IT?
(Evenshine scuttles along, trying to reach the door before her shocked face in sympathy with the Chinese student is noticed, as the SCS dashes out through another door, stage left.)
AEGS: WELL? (Turning on Evenshine) WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY???
Evenshine: Excuse me?
AEGS: YOU HEARD ME. HOW WOULD YOU HAVE DEALT WITH…THAT?
(Pause. Should she answer or not? Evenshine recalls similar incidents when the AEGS has spoken harshly to other students, and to Evenshine herself. She remembers how hard it is to learn a second, or third, language. She thinks of the look on the SCS’s face, of desperately trying to make the words work. She looks at the AEGS. Oh, it’s ON.)
Evenshine (taking a deep breath): Well, generally, first, I try and look people in the face when they’re speaking to me. Students deserve no less respect than anyone else. Looking at the student when he’s speaking to you indicates to them, no matter what their first language, that you are interested in what they have to say, and that you are patiently waiting for them to answer your question.
(Pause. AEGS didn’t seem to expect an answer, and now that she has one, is shocked into silence).
Evenshine: I also make it a rule to give non-native speakers longer to answer than I would with native ones. Their English language ability is usually in the process of scaffolding from their L1, so their cognition might be delayed a few seconds longer, and thus the compensation in the form of stuttering. Some students, especially Chinese, are also bound by cultural rules which usually prohibit or restrict their interaction with the teacher, as a form of respect. So I usually give them….
(Silence. The AEGS has turned midspeech and stalked from the room, without another word. Evenshine stands alone, with her cup of coffee, wondering what the *&%# just happened. She later sees the AEGS leaving the Director’s office. Stay tuned to see if Evenshine loses her newly-appointed position….)