Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's Starting to Happen . . .

A little over two months ago, I wrote about a new student from the DR who came to me speaking no English. She had a rough start, but quickly started feeling more comfortable in class. She has been trying so hard to follow along, copy from her neighbors, and come to me to give her more instruction when she doesn't understand.

Just two weeks ago we had parent-teacher conferences and her dad, who speaks perfect English told me that he was concerned her English wasn't progressing as quickly as he'd hoped (or as quickly as her older brother). He said he had to think about it, but her classroom teacher had suggested she may benefit from being held over a year. (Newcomers can't be held over in the first two years without the parent's request). I tried to assure him that her eagerness to learn along with the great support she is getting at home will go a long way towards helping her progress in her English and other subjects. I told him how hard she has been working and even gave anecdotes about "Willy" and his younger brother who had a similar situation and in two years have sprinted forward to the top of their classes. He seemed slightly reassured.

And all the sudden last week, it started happening. The first thing that I noticed was when she raised her hand to participate in class she said more than her usual irrelevant "boy" or "girl." Then I started noticing she was really able to understand me without translation from the other kids and could ask for help in sentences. When we learned new vocabulary related to "transportation" she mastered the words just as quickly, if not quicker, than the other students. Today, she came up to me to tell me something that another kid in the class needed help with (and that kid *speaks* English). Literally two weeks ago she could not have done any of these things. I was just telling her dad that children learning English often go through a "silent period" where they are not saying much, but taking it all in, and before you know it they are speaking up a storm. I literally saw her turn that corner this week. This is why I love teaching ESL, for these kids. They make it all worthwhile.

1 comment:

bronxteach said...

Congratulations! That kind of breakthrough must feel incredible. As a 4th grade gen ed I feel like the changes I make/witness are much more subtle, but I'm trying to keep my eyes open for them so I can feel I've made some sort of difference this year.