Education is a highly refined form of communication, and reaching its true potential depends on facilitating clear and effective communication in both directions. If a teacher is to succeed in the classroom, the learners must be able to interact meaningfully and easily with their peers as well as with the instructor.
At International School Bangkok (ISB), we place a special focus on speech communication as part of a welcoming and engaging learning environment. We have therefore taken the extra step – uncommon among international schools – to create a special role on our faculty for speech and language development. We believe that by working alongside students over time, many speech and language difficulties or impairments can be overcome, greatly improving their experiences in the classroom, in social situations, and in their lives after graduation.
These efforts, particularly when made early in life, can have an immensely beneficial impact on the lives of students. Their efficacy, however, depends in large part on the quality of the teacher who implements them.
As a Speech and Language Pathologist at ISB, Marianne Poulson helps Middle and High school students from all backgrounds find their way forward in an English-speaking environment. She also supports the intensive learning needs program in the Elementary School. By guiding learners of all ages through the intricacies of the language, and its nuanced pronunciation requirements, Ms. Poulson’s work allows her students to reach their full communicative potential.
A personal approach to language development
With a Bachelor of Science in Speech/Language Pathology, and a Master’s Degree in Communicative Disorders, with a Speech/Language Pathology option, Ms. Poulson’s commitment to speech and language development has long been evident. She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, and is also licensed to practice in the state of California. Before joining ISB, she taught in three elementary schools, as well as a preschool for children with special needs. She has also led a social language and skills program for adults, and for a time had a private practice.
Ms. Poulson joined ISB in 1996, largely because she prefers working as part of an effective team. She feels that both she and her students benefit from the type of caring and supportive environment that ISB provides, where teachers use complementary skills and approaches to bring about student development.
As one of our in-house speech and language specialists, Ms. Poulson works directly with students – either one-on-one or in very small groups – on their own individual education plan (IEP), which focuses on goals developed especially for them. These may include articulation, stuttering, and various types of voice disorders related to oral speech. In terms of language development, Ms. Poulson’s work focuses on listening and reading comprehension, oral and written expression, general vocabulary development, language processing, and social language and skills. For students taking language-intensive classes, subject specific vocabulary and content may also be included in these lessons.
In each of her language classes, Ms. Poulson makes sure that her students are comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. She feels passionately that such a supportive environment is crucial for smooth development, and that teachers must genuinely care for their students in order to develop the rapport necessary to build mutual trust.
This belief closely parallels current educational research into best teaching practices. As John Hattie’s teaching study revealed, “expert teachers have high respect for students. The manner used by the teacher to treat the students, respect them as learners and people, and demonstrate care and commitment for them are attributes of expert teachers. By having such respect, they can recognize possible barriers to learning and can seek ways to overcome these barriers.”
This respect accompanies a belief in their true potential. “Expert teachers aim for more than achievement goals,” Hattie continues. “They also aim to motivate their students to master rather than perform, they enhance students’ self-concept and self-efficacy about learning, they set appropriate challenging tasks, and they aim for both surface and deep outcomes.”
Each of these approaches is central to Ms. Poulson’s own role as a speech pathologist. In turn, her students reward this commitment by consistently showing great stamina and a willingness to work hard to achieve their language goals.
Their motivation inspires Ms. Poulson as well. She goes to great lengths to improve her techniques, often attending seminars and reading research to develop new teaching strategies. She welcomes every opportunity to enhance her approach, always keeping the goal of student development at the front of her mind.
This extraordinary level of commitment, care and respect makes Ms. Poulson a perfect fit within our value-driven community. By using language education to help students succeed in their academic and personal lives, she also promotes socially-intelligent ideals, as well as adaptable behavior and progress. As a bilingual therapist (she is fluent in English and Norwegian), Ms. Poulson also uses her own experiences as a language learner to build a globally-minded approach to linguistic development.
Ms. Poulson also goes to great lengths to stay involved with the wider community. She is a frequent volunteer at her church, and has also worked to help refugee children. She has experience with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as well, and her youngest child has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
Each of these commitments fits perfectly with Ms. Poulson’s wish to help those around her, in both an academic and real-world setting. By giving her ISB students the resources and support they need to master their language skills, Ms. Poulson puts them in the best possible position for success on the road ahead.