Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just the beginning, and we are moving on full force!!

Today is the three week anniversary of this school year. So much has happened in these short weeks. Oh, and let's not forget the two weeks that we had professional development BEFORE students arrived. So, it is actually the five week anniversary today. Many new ideas, programs, plans and, of course, students have entered my classroom and my school. Here are just a few:

  • WIDA English Language Development Standards: MI adopted these new standards and their assessments. It has been a race to learn all that I have to know in order to teach classroom teachers and others working with ELL students. New test to administer to new students, and learning how to score it and how to enter it to the new state website that has been a bit behind in releasing its new features.
  • New Teachers: Some have never worked with ELLs before or are entering a new subject or grade level. When you work in a school where 40-50% of the students are ELL, you cannot wait until the second or third year of teaching to learn how to teach and assist ELLs; you have to do it right now.
  • SIOP--Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol: This SIOP model helps teachers plan and deliver lessons that are accessible for ELLs. I needed to give some quick overviews on SIOP for our new teachers. Writing your content and language objectives for every class is not easy if you have never had to do that before.
  • Interrupted Education Students: How many students do you have in your classroom that come from overseas? How many of those have missed one to four years of schooling? How do you start with a ninth grader who speaks no English, cannot multiply or divide in math, does not understand anything even in art or PE class? How do I equip teachers to work with these students? I am not even talking about how these students have to take our state assessment in a few weeks even though they speak no English. It is going to be an interesting year.
  • My helpers: I am blessed to have parapro or part-time ELL tutor working with me this year. She is so competent that I do not have to wonder what she is doing. She knows what it takes to work with the students, and how to push them to the next level. She is detail oriented--meaning that she pushes me to be more focused on details as well. I also have a student teacher this fall. How did I get so lucky?? My student teacher already has her teaching certificate, and is now adding ESL endorsement to her certificate. Again, she is very competent. when give a task, she will run with it. I already feel that I am much further than I was last year at this time. I could not have asked for better helpers!!! P.S. I have TWO adults who volunteer their time to read with middle and high school ELLs!!!
  • My past, present and future students: What a surprise i had a week ago when one of my old (and very favorite) students showed up as a pre-student teacher in my school! He totally made my day! Then I look at my present students and wonder, how many of them will become teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, etc? How can I make sure that I give them the education that they need to follow their dreams? How can I make sure that their English proficiency improves? Like many of you, this means hours spent on making picture cards, laminating, searching or creating to make just the right teaching tools to assist my students.
  • Rosetta Stone: I love that my district has purchased licenses for our ELLs. This year I am the one who organizes the registering of students from seven different schools. I am told it should only take extra time at the beginning of the year, but then there is also the monitoring that students are actually doing what they need to be doing. 
I am already thinking what reflections I will have at the ten week and twenty week anniversary this year. I am wondering what new things I will learn, what new resources I will find that prove to be essential in helping my students toward their proficiency in English, and how I will learn to balance my time with school and other obligations and personal aspirations this year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life Changing Experiences

Do you remember the last life changing experience of your life?

I am thinking back in my life; thinking about the events that have both changed and shaped me.

  • My dad retired; theoretically he could now drive me to school every morning
  • I was ten when we moved from a house to a condo
  • 4th & 5th grade meetings some of my oldest and dearest friends
  • Confirmation camp at 15
  • Language school in Cambridge, England
  • High school graduation
  • Joining YWAM
  • Leaving for Asia
  • Learning Chinese
  • Encounter with my future husband
  • First trip to the USA--meeting the future in-laws
  • Wedding
  • School in Hawaii
  • Pregnancy announcement
  • Husband's cancer diagnosis
  • Move to America from Asia
  • Husband's death
  • Birth of my daughter
So many other events after that are all connected to my daughter. Tomorrow will be another big life changing event (in both of our lives): my daughter is leaving for England. She will no longer come back to do laundry, pop in for some mother-daughter time, or give me hug and a kiss at church on Sundays. Two lives are changing. It will be both sad and exciting. 
Tomorrow,  I will drive her to the airport, give her one last hug and a kiss, and tell her that I will always love her. Then I will drive home. Start my life as a true empty nester. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From Janitor to College Student

I was working late on a Friday afternoon. Trying to get ready for the next week. I was keeping an eye on the clock (gym time coming) while looking through materials that I will need next week and the week after that. One of the other teachers was also working on her lesson plans as I saw her coming to pick up papers from the printer. I was focused. I was determined to get more work done.

Then Victor popped in. I was going to just quickly say hello, and get right back to my work. Victor had something else in his mind. He was sharing how his daughter is looking forward to kindergarten that will start in a few days (if you are reading this on a Tuesday, kindergarten started yesterday). He shared how his daughter is learning to write her name correctly; how her letters are starting to resemble real letters, not just random shapes. Victor was also talking about how he had bought a book to help him study for his GED.

By now I have realized that I can finish my work at another time. It is important to talk with Victor. He is an important person.

Victor shared what he wants to do in the future, and how he wants to improve his English in order to help his daughter with her homework. Victor also expressed his need to learn how to write in English. He wants to get into welding. He shared how he was only able to complete middle school back home. Victor has dreams.

By now I am thinking all the ways that Victor has helped me at school: He has vacuumed around the chairs when I forgot to stack them; he has helped me move furniture, clean this and that, get paper towels; he has waited to clean so that I can finish tutoring. In other words, Victor has shown me compassion, care and friendship many times over. Maybe it is now time for me to think how I could help Victor on his way to become fluent in English and get his diploma. He might not be my official student, but a student regardless. He is my coworker,and he is my friend.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In Memory of Naimo

Hi, Ms! Are you new here?

That was my first meeting with Naimo ten years ago.
Naimo always walked to class with a smile unless something had happened that Naimo felt strongly about. Naimo did not know fear - except maybe spiders.
Even when school work was difficult, Naimo was never willing to give up.
She worried about her family; always wondering what she could do to help her sister, cousin or brother. Family was everything to Naimo.

Naimo was born in Somalia. She had seen more in the first few years of her life than most of us see during our entire lives. Yet she had developed an amazing ability to feel compassion for others. When we were studying together, and someone had a difficult time understanding, Naimo was always willing to help and explain the solution again and again. Was Naimo always right? No, but she was willing. Was Naimo always the perfect student? No, but she was so enthusiastic about so many things that it is hard for me to remember the negatives.

The day that Naimo graduated was a day full of joy! I don't think that Naimo believed that she would really graduate. I still remember Naimo's smile and the sounds that her family made when her name was announced. I was so proud of Naimo!

After graduation Naimo moved away. I had not seen Naimo for a few years. Through other students I heard that she had married, was helping newly arrived immigrants, and expecting a baby. Then a call came this summer; Naimo had been in a car accident. She did not survive. I was not sure what to think. It was unbelievable. Naimo had just had her baby a few months prior. Now her baby was left without a mother.

What can I say? My life is richer because I was privileged to teach and get to know Naimo. I will never forget Naimo's smile or her laugh. Perhaps these words from a poem "I'm Free" can speak more than I can.

Don't grieve for me for now I'm free,
I'm following the path God laid for me.
I took his hand when I heard him call,
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone will stay that way,
I found that peace at close of day.
-author unknown-

Complete poem can be found here.