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What Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Can Teach Us about the ESL Classroom

Mrs. Maisel is a 1950s female comedian. She's got a few lessons for those that stand in a classroom everyday. See details of the show here.

1. You'll have a few bad gigs, but don't give up

As an adult ESL teacher, I get to remake myself every 8 weeks. I'm not the same teacher I was 2 years ago. I'm definitely not the same teacher I was 5 years ago.

Once I got the "brilliant" idea to try and make my students write a rap. It was the wrong level and the wrong class. It was a total flop. That's okay; I've recovered.

I'm sure some teacher has done a rap quite successfully! I'm just not that teacher.

2. Voice your protest when necessary

Mrs. Maisel is constantly asked if she is a singer. She's laughed at for being a female comedian. She gets thrown off a stage for discussing pregnancy because that is "lady stuff."

I've had a few jobs as adjuncts or adjunct-like positions, and I've learned that if something seems off, speak up. Teachers are some of the most dedicated people. They take work home, they stay with students late, and they show up early. However, they should be careful not the be taken advantage of. If you want to stay in this profession very long, you have to find your boundaries. It's a tough lesson, but it comes for all of us.

3. Humor counts

Learning a new language is an arduous task. It wears you out. It wears the students out. Humor has a resotative power in the classroom.

In Second Language Acquisition Theory there is a lot of talk about the affective filter. Essentially, when students are stressed, they are less likely to understand and produce language. This kind of stress and self-consciousness hinders learning. Reducing the affective filter is necessary for promoting learning. In the ESL classroom, this is why it is so important for students to feel comfortable with each other and the teacher. Language is inherently social. It's not a solo sport.

I wouldn't suggest all of Mrs. Maisel's jokes for the classroom, but at least her facial expressions are on target.

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