A few days ago, a new student arrived in my EAL class in Peru ( EAL- English as an additional language.). The new student speaks Korean and Japanese, and has studied a bit of English; all of the classes, though, are taught in English, except the Spanish class. So, picture yourself in that situation: You are new to an English speaking school in a Spanish speaking country; you are about 12 years old; you speak two languages that have little to do with where you are now. Difficult, to say the least.
To begin the class, I asked students to introduce themselves to the new student. My students are very welcoming so this was easy for them. They clearly tried to make connections with him as they mentioned music, games, and other cultural ideas that he might be interested in. Then, one of the newer students introduced himself saying something like, “I am also new here, not quite as new as you, and I found it easy to make friends here. I hope you also are able to make friends. I will be your friend.”
I will be your friend.
Imagine the world if this is how everyone received new people, immigrants, refugees, the stranger, the unknown. It could happen.
I will be your friend. This gives me hope.
Sitting down for the reading-of challenged my sense of balance. The wobbly table in front of me offered no support for my arthritic hands. And I feared that any movement of the table would knock over the seven wax candles that flickered atop. The high-backed wicker chair where I was to rest seemed to be held together with strings and rags. Still, I sat. Slowly. Carefully.
Marcia entered cat-like, brushed her flowing robes aside and sat in front of me on a stool that I had not seen. Her long white hair covered her eyes, but with her back to the candles I couldn’t have seen them anyway.
Without saying a word she reached forward and took my cold hands in hers. They were warm. The room was warm. The room lit up, transformed, no, I was in a big city, on a busy corner. Was this New York? I looked down at my hands and they were young again. The pain was gone. I looked up at the kiosk and newspapers held a date years into the future.
I reached my right hand up to inspect a magazine from the kiosk. A stab of agony. I was cold. As suddenly as I had left the room, I returned to the age and the pain and the darkness and the flickering candles.
Slowly she whispered, “I have read-of you. You have seen.”
As she rather floated out of the room the candles extinguished. I slowly stood, in the dark, but I had seen a light.
Do your students say what they want to write before they write it? Whether it is a short exit ticket, the resolution of the conflict in a narrative, a lab report, or something else, there is a lot of power in oral rehearsal at every age.
An easy way to do an oral rehearsal with your students is to do a think-pair-share. You may have heard of this strategy where students take a moment to think about the answer to your question, and then turn to a partner who is near them to share the answer. To complete the cycle, have students write what they shared.
Another way to set up oral rehearsal is for students to have writing partners. Before writing, partners can share what they will write about based on the instructions for the day. After they write, they can share their writing and get some feedback from the partner. I like to set up partners for the length of the unit so that students can build that friendship that good writing partners need.
Yes, all of this takes modeling and practice.
This week I did a small experiment with two of my students who are learning English. I asked them first to write about a movie and I gave them five minutes to write. Then, I had each one tell us about a book that they liked. Here is a picture of their answers. I added a word count to each text.
Sure there is lots to work on with their English, but look at the difference in language production! Oral rehearsal is definitely worth the effort.
“You’ll know it when you see it,” was obscenity defined.
If you have to ask the lawyers then integrity’s declined.
Unequal almost everything shows justice isn’t blind.
Clearly there’s some clarity distinctly undefined.
Today is Election Day in the United States. Please vote. And when you vote, please consider your beliefs, your values. When I vote, I tend to think about the greater good. I think about the people who have not had the luck, the blessings that I have had. I consider the Catholic Church’s preferential option for the poor, the impoverished. Who would create conditions and policies that would favor them?
I also think about welcoming the stranger, the migrant, and the children. Which candidate will create conditions at home and abroad where all feel welcome and safe? No one wants to be forced to leave home, but sometimes it is necessary for reasons of health and safety. Who will be welcoming while helping to create a world where migrating is a choice, not a matter of life or death?
I think about education. When quality education is available for all, possibilities emerge, futures are possible. Education never stops; we never stop learning. Which candidate will create conditions so that life-long learners have the opportunity to think critically? I want people to think deeply and from various perspectives. I want people to see the world in shades of grey while avoiding dualistic thinking. We weave the tapestry of the world with many colored threads. That beauty is diminished with either/or thinking.I think about the future. When we care for the world, the air, the water, we will preserve the world for future generations. No one wants to breathe dirty air nor drink contaminated water. Which candidate will promote healthy development so that the future is better for all? We know that some resources are non renewable. How are we preparing now for a future without those resources? Which candidates will help us create a better world for the future?
The world I long for, I try to help create everyday, sometimes with more success than others. In addition to the above, I think about rights and responsibilities, the dignity of work, health care, peace, and solidarity with the most vulnerable. My vote can help create that world. I will do my part.
Please do your part and vote your values, hopefully for an inclusive world built on solidarity, love, and hope for all.
The last time I watched a baseball game was… never. The last time I went to a Major League Baseball game was in 1986- a road trip to Wrigley Field in Chicago with Chris, Pete, Baz and Jim. Tonight I am glued to the TV here in Lima watching the Cubs take game 7 of the World Series.
This has nothing to do with baseball. This is all about being connected. After a challenging few months, energy flows strong and I am reconnecting. Reconnecting with culture and language, life and spirit, hope and future. And part of that, oddly enough, is baseball.
Part of being bilingual and bicultural is occasionally missing the other language and culture. If I were in Minnesota I would not be watching the game. I would wait until morning and find someone like Mr. Sports, Mr. Action, Mr. Jim Ed Poole who “knows all and tells only some.” Someone who would let me know who won. That’s all. But that is not tonight.
Tonight I root for language and culture. I root for connectedness and feeling at home wherever you are. I root for hope and life and spirit.
Is it unfair to learn?
As I teach my classes, four sections of the same grade level content, I become a better teacher- I notice the mistakes that the previous class made; I understand their misunderstandings; I see the gaps in my teaching. I learn. That being said, class #4 receives all of my learning from the previous three classes and produces higher quality work. They may even receive, on average, higher grades (I will check to see if this last item is true).
Is this unfair for class #1? Is it unfair that the teaching they receive, because they receive it first, will always be a little less complete and polished? Is this like asking if it is unfair for the first child in a family to have to train the parents?
Now, I return to weave the threads of learning for that first class, perhaps with colors not as bright but beautiful nonetheless.
Follow up the video by reading the book: The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
También puedes leer el libro en español: El héroe de las mil caras.