Traveling to another country can be exciting, memorable and life-changing, but it can also be difficult if you have to move there as a child to go to school. Imagine your family has moved to China and you are now placed in a Chinese language school. If you do not speak, read or write Chinese, you will undoubtedly feel powerless. This is one of the reasons why Rashid Moore, Ph.D., program professor in the Abraham S. Fischler School of Education, believes Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) is so important for teacher candidates and teachers to understand.
Moore primarily teaches TESOL courses to undergraduate students at NSU and graduate teachers, who are updating their credentials, in Jamaica, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ecuador and other countries.
“It’s frustrating for ESOL children who are literate in their own home language to find that they are confused and powerless in a school using a new, unfamiliar language. In the field of TESOL, we’re really talking about empowering these ESOL students and getting them to integrate as successfully as possible in as short of a time as possible,” he said.
As passionate as he is about the field, TESOL education wasn’t Moore’s original trajectory. He planned a career as a bureaucrat in the Foreign Service in order to “see the world.”
However, in a linguistics class in graduate school, he met his soon-to-be wife from Malaysia who influenced him to consider TESOL as a profession. He realized that he could still travel the world teaching and use his skills from his speech competition and drama club days in high school, rather than just pushing papers around as a faceless bureaucrat in an embassy. He decided to take a few classes with her and eventually received his master’s degree in TESOL, which was one of the best decisions of his life.
“I try to convey to my students to just be excited about what they’re doing and to be passionate about it. Throw yourself into it and enjoy it. If that’s not your field, choose another one. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I changed my field midstream. I credit my wife for bringing me into an exciting profession,” he said.
Because of his job, Moore travels three to four times a year and he loves it. He said he’s eager to be in another country, experience other ways of thinking, try new food, see new sights and hear new music.
One of the reasons Moore loves traveling is because he knows he’ll never stop learning. On the day of his graduation party, after he received his doctorate from Indiana University, one of his most difficult professors, who he admired, asked him a question.
“She said, ‘So tell us, Dr. Moore… what do you know?’ I thought about it for five seconds and said, ‘I now know that I don’t know much of anything.’ Without a moment’s hesitation she said, ‘Good answer.’ The point was even though you have a doctorate and are supposed to be at the top of your field, you’re a constant learner. When you think you know it all, that’s the time you should realize you don’t know much of anything,” he said.
Moore is constantly learning new things, which is the reason why he brought his bass guitar and amp to this interview. He said decades ago he tried to learn to play it, but gave up. There was no YouTube, Guitar Hero or Internet. But, two years ago when his 13-year-old son got an electric guitar, he convinced his father to try his hand at the bass again. He started off playing a few notes and eventually an entire song. Now, he can play more than 40 songs — Muse, Nirvana, even a Linkin Park song.
“It’s a great feeling to play along with the band,” he said.
His rekindled “bromance” with the bass guitar also helped bring him one of his most cherished memories. As part of a year-long videoconference project with his Chilean colleague Isabel Fraile at a high school in Santiago, Chile, Moore performed in a “jam session” with a group of those high school students while he was still in Florida.
“I was in the guitar room at my house and they were at their high school in the class of my Chilean colleague, Ms. Isabel Fraile. Over the Internet, we got together and performed a Nirvana song together. I’m so proud of it. I played bass while the Chilean students played guitar and sang. We rocked together even though we were 4,000 miles apart,” he said.
Moore also thinks the bass guitar is a metaphor for his teaching. Bassists in a band provide the rhythm. They play a supporting instrument in the background, facilitating while the guitarists and the lead singer shine up front.
“In many ways it’s a nice metaphor for what I do. If I, along the way, can get someone excited about picking up an instrument, that would be pretty cool, too” he said.
Moore may have found that person — me. Excitement flowed from him as he talked about playing bass. He made me realize that maybe I can play an instrument and so can you. It’s never too late to learn something new.