Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Teaching Jouney

I have been very blessed on my career as a teacher. It all started with a very understanding supervisor for my student teaching. It took him only moments in my classroom placement to see that I would not be given much independence in that classroom. He was very encouraging. Told me to do my best. He never put me down or graded me down. He gave me confidence that I could be a teacher.

Before I became a full time teacher, I was a substitute and ESL tutor. I worked alongside with older more experienced tutors and teachers. They valued my experiences from around the world. They appreciated my comments about English Language Learners and showed great interest when I told of my own experiences of learning English.

I became the ESL teacher and coordinator for that district. The ESL tutors that had been there before never gave me anything else except encouragement. I worked with classroom teachers. That was not always easy as many of them had never had an English Language Learner in their classroom before. We built capacity. We asked administrators to place our ELLs in those classrooms with teachers willing to work with them and the tutors. I had a wonderful administrator at the central office who was my immediate supervisor and a great supporter of what we did. My office was at the back of a elementary library next to the most amazing librarian. Kathy became my mentor--not because she was assigned to me, but because that is who Kathy is.

Few years later I moved to my current school. I am still an English Second Language teacher. I work with wonderful children who come mostly from the Middle East. No, I don't speak Arabic, but I have learned so many Arabic words that I can (sometimes) convince my students that I really do understand what they are saying. I also have many Somali and Urdu/Pashto speaking students. I can read Somali with some success (because many letters have similar sounds as in Finnish), Urdu/Pasto, however, is still beyond me. In the last couple of months, I have also been learning Spanish as I have a new Spanish speaking student in my high school ESL class. Thank goodness many of the Spanish sounds are similar to Finnish sounds also.

Besides my wonderful students (and the few that also challenge me), I work with some amazing teachers. No, not everyone keeps their door open or lingers to chat with me, but our teachers are committed to the students that we have. I have had a chance to work together with both younger and older teachers. I have made long lasting friends among the teachers at my school. I have had a chance to advocate for the ELLs, present at workshops and PDs, watch my ELLs graduate and get into good universities, attend weddings and bridal showers. I have signed sympathy cards for many parents of fellow teachers who have passed away, I have had pre-student teachers and student teachers in my classroom. I have welcomed many new teachers and said goodbye to at least as many.

"Ms, do you really like it at this school?"

One of my 10th graders posted that question to me not so long ago. I did not have to think very long:

"Yes, I love my students. This is where I am supposed to be right now."


15 comments:

  1. Your teaching journey sounds like it's been blessed!

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    1. Holly, I really feel it has been!

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  2. When people do not understand the role you play, your job is difficult. What a difference you make in the teacher's day and the students'. Isn't it wonderful to be able to say "This is where I'm supposed to be."?

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    1. It takes much of the stress away!

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  3. Being able to say, "this is where I am supposed to be right now" is a gift to your students and to you. What a wonderful journey you've had!

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    1. I have to remember to look at it as a gift!

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  4. I am just so impressed with anyone who can speak another language fluently, and your language experience is amazing! Just curious as to why you have so many students who speak different languages? Is it your location? We are expecting many hispanic speaking students in the near future so I probably need to brush up on my spanish! I loved reading about your journey.

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    1. Leigh Anne, I teach in a city with a major university. Southeast MI is also the place where many people from the Middle East come. Let's practice our Spanish together!

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  5. I truly enjoyed reading your journey! Thanks for sharing. It is encouraging to read about all of the small steps that led you to where you are right now and to remember that each step is important!

    I think it is just amazing that you have intentionally learned some of the languages of your students. How affirming that must be to them! I think it often means so much to students when others make an effort to learn even just bits of their home language. You definitely have given your students big gifts!

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    1. Thank you Laura! To me learning languages is fun!

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  6. As a recently retired central office administrator of ELA and ESL, I followed your journey with careful attention. Your love for your ESL students is evident, as is your dedication to your profession. ESL students and their families are a very special part of the learning community.

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    1. Thank you Carol! I love my ESL students and their families!

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  7. P.S. Congrats on winning the "comment challenge"! :)

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    1. It was my pleasure Laura to read and comment! This was my free weekend!

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  8. Jaana - What a great journey. You have really been fortunate to have had so many positive and supportive situations as part of work. Thank you for your heart for ELL's.

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