Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thankful for Progress

In the last couple of weeks I have heard some great comments from my ESL students. Here are a few of them:

Y. your writing is really becoming much better.
"Ms. Y. has great ideas; she just needs help with spelling."

If I have 36 eggs, will I have 3 or 4 dozen eggs?
"I don't know."
Do you know what dozen means?
Have you ever bought eggs with....
"Ms. I know! 12!"
How did you figure it out?
"When we go shopping, my mom always makes me count the eggs."

Parent involvement without them even realizing that they are helping their children with math!

(From an apology letter:)
Ms. I apolize. I will stop fouling around in class.

Here are a few items from my students' blog comments of gratitude:

chicken pizza
people that care
being a human
I have great classmates
chocolate cake
people who trust me
the new experience of America
my nail polish

L. do you need help today?
"No. I know what to do."

This is exactly what I want to hear!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude and Spiritual Journey Thursdays

Thank you Holly for the constant encouragement
you bring to our journeys!

The weeks and months this fall have been busy. Sometimes too busy to focus on writing. But every week the tweets that start arriving on Thursdays--sometimes even earlier in the week--are both a reminder and encouragement. 

Despite this fall turning to be busier than I expected, here some wonderful things to be grateful for:

1. Only 25 more days until my daughter comes home!

2. The teachers that I had had a difficult time working with, have turned out to be the ones that are easy to work with this year! What more proof do I need that miracles do happen?

3. So many changes have been happening this fall in many areas of my life. Our church has gone through a major change. After much uncertainty, the final decision has now been made. I am so grateful for our church board who have faithfully searched God through all these difficulties without any blame game. There is still much healing that needs to happen, but I believe that we are on the road to something great that God has in store for us.

The Year of the Lord’s Favor: Psalm 61 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

4.  This fall there have been many times when my strength just has not been enough. I have had no other way except to cry out to God. He has always answered!! And through these times, I have grown closer to God. Can I say that I am grateful that He has made me go through these difficult times in order to focus more on God? I am not sure I can say exactly that, but I am grateful to walk closer to God!

5. I am grateful for new friends! Through the changes in our church, one worry has been losing friends that I have known for many years. Amazingly, God has brought me closer to new people! Are we close friends yet? No, but having new people in our lives is always refreshing!

6. I am so grateful for our parent English class at school. We meet once a week after school. I have had a chance to meet new parents and get to know other parents better. One parent tried to tell me that she is too old to learn English and go to college, (she is in her early 30s) but after talking about different possibilities, the seeds for a further education are now planted in her heart!

7. I am so grateful for you who are reading my long post today! You are my companion on this spiritual journey. Thank you for taking the time to walk with me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

From PD to Action

Last Tuesday we had a professional development day at school. I was given the task of talking about SIOP and WIDA.

I had seen a picture on twitter that showed English language proficiency levels on a poster. I decided to modify that idea and use the WIDA proficiency levels that my teachers are familiar with on my poster.

But first, I posted the WIDA levels around the room, and asked teachers to stand in front of the level they feel the most comfortable teaching. Seeing the teachers around the room was very telling. When the majority of secondary ELA teachers are standing in front of the proficient sign (=reaching), I can understand their frustration with lower level students. Or when only two teachers were standing in front of the Entering sign (the lowest level), it showed that even teachers who have years of experience teaching ELLs in their classrooms, finding ways to help the newcomers is not easy.

Then we moved into looking at tasks in the classroom; based on science, math, social studies and ELA common core standards. We looked at where those tasks would fall in the continuum. What tasks English Language Learners would be able to do at what levels of proficiency.

The table discussion where very interesting. Here are a few snippets of conversation:

  • if this task had a word bank,  lower level students could also do it
  • does this mean it needs multiple paragraphs-like 5-or would just three also work?
  • could the students use a dictionary while doing this assignment?
  • do they just have to do the math or do they have to explain how or why they did it in certain way?
  • what grade level are we talking about? Writing a paragraph in third grade is very different than writing it on ninth grade. What level should we give this task?
  • If I added visual could lower level students be able to do this task?
  • "describe the characters"--how do we know what vocabulary they need to use? Are the names of the characters enough or do they need to use more academic language like protagonist and antagonist?
Teachers were talking. Conversations were happening. Everyone was thinking. Isn't this what good teachers do? They are trying to find ways for everyone to participate in the lesson.

I also had a chance to give a lesson in Finnish! I did it to demonstrate to the teachers what a student might feel like who has no idea what the teacher is saying. It was interesting. And also a bit challenging for me as I don't usually talk in Finnish much less teach in Finnish. (Good thing nobody understood my mistakes .)

Learning was still happening the following day. I went to pick up a group of elementary students, and their teacher showed how he had materials ready for me--including the visuals. I had had at least one teacher who had heard my message on how to teach ELLs. Job well done?

(In case you are not familiar with either, SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and WIDA stands for World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment.) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Strength Comes from the Lord and His Community

It has been a busy couple of weeks! Professional development to plan and prepare for, work issues popping up here and there, students not realizing (or not caring) that high school credit is not given if you fail a class, church issues are looming, student journals reveal deeper concerns that have to be dealt with, two day workshop to attend, and many other minor things that have kept me busy.

One day I really was having a hard time. I felt depressed. I was considering a day off from work, but them remembered that a volunteer was coming on that day; not choice, of to work I went.  That morning I decided to send a text to Gina who had promised to pray for me or my students . She had told me a few weeks ago to just send her a text if prayer was needed. So the request was sent. This is what I got in return:

God's favor may he be exalted over your trial.
God's love, peace and presence is with you.
God's angels are dispatched to you and working in the
hearts and minds of all who deal with you.
Let all who see you see through the eye's of God!
The enemy is bound, the favor and peace of God is loosed.
Praises to the one who covers you and seats you
in heavenly places above the power of the enemy! Amen.

That morning on my way to school, I blasted my car radio again. My favorite warfare song came on: "Break Every Chain" by Tasha Cobbs. I was breaking every chain in the name of Jesus as I was driving to school. I felt the power of Jesus. And then came the prayer from Gina. I felt that I can do what I need to do--what I believe God has called to me to do. I felt that God's community had responded. I could not have had the strength to face that day with a smile on my face without God's people, without knowing that the Lord is my strength! He will sustain me!

As I was writing this blog entry, I wanted to leave a clip of the song "Break Every Chain." Something happened while I was listening to a different version of the song. In the clip below, around 11:06 the preacher starts talking about the "chain breaker." If you are having a hard time today, take a moment and listen to his words. They just might be the words that you need to hear today. I heard my chains falling that day! There is SUCH power in the name of Jesus!

My hope and prayer is that you will experience His power in your life today!

Thank you Holly for creating this community that gives strength to each other, and pushes us to walk closer with Jesus. Read some more blogs by going to Holly's website here.