Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I am a Teacher. I am a Learner.

When I have a conversation with a States-side friend or family member, I am usually left very encouraged.  Everyone is so uplifting to me.  But I can't help but to often feel that their idea of my life here is sometimes different from reality.  I am living in a place that I love, yes.  I am surrounded by children I love, yes.  I am doing God's work, yes.  But it is not all peachy-perfect.  I love what I do, and I love teaching my students Music and English.  But I am learning just as much as they are.

I am a first year teacher.  I make mistakes.  I have a lot of moments where I stop and think, "The way I am teaching right now is not working, but I don't know how to fix it."  There are moments when I have to finish what I've planned for the day, knowing that it did not work.  There are times when I try to teach a grammar point, and I fail to explain it well.  It is hard to realize that sometimes I am the reason that my students don't understand their work.  I have to stop multiple times in the week to re-evaluate my strategies.  I have to tell myself, "I know that was a flop.  But what can I do next time to make it better?"

I am a teacher.  But I am also a learner.  Yes.  I have tough moments.  But I also have those moments a teacher longs for.  I have moments when a student who is usually quiet and reserved chooses to participate.  I have moments when my community students finally start to understand and enjoy learning English.  I have moments outside of class, when my students come up to me speaking Spanglish.  These moments are what I look forward to each day! 

Let me tell you about some of these moments . . .

English Classes

Students Becoming More Comfortable with English

Many of my students are embarrassed to speak English.  They may understand fluent English, but they are too shy to speak it.  Lately, I have seen wonderful improvements in these students' desire and ability to speak.

1) Eliza is a student from the Home that I had trouble with last year.  She sat in the very back of her 5th grade class and refused to talk or participate.  This year she is like a completely different student!  She volunteers not only to write things on the board, but also to answer questions out loud.  The class did skit presentations last week, and she smiled the whole way through -- something that she would have dreaded last year.  I am very proud of her.

2) Johan is a community student.  He is new this year, and he knew no English when the school year started just 5 weeks ago.  I remember the first couple of class periods.  He sat in the front of the room and said nothing, because he understood nothing (I try speak only English in my classroom).  But something clicked in him during the second week of classes, and he started to love English!  He blurts out answers, and even when they are wrong I don't mind.  I know that he is giving a good effort! 

Johan is on the right.  He drew himself and his classmate, Luis, on his paper and wrote, "Johan is taller than Luis.  Johan is stronger than Luis."  They were both laughing so hard at this.
3) Oliveth is a girl from the children's home that has a lot of deep issues, but she has been getting better.  She and another classmate have been very disrespectful and insubordinate in my class.  But one of the other teachers, Sara, told Oliveth that if she behaved in English class, she could have a marshmallow.  I would have never expected a marshmallow to make such a difference in her behavior!  On Friday, Oliveth walked into the class and immediately started preparing for the presentation she had to give that day.  I helped her a little bit, and she did great during the skit!  I have underestimated the effect of a marshmallow.  Ha!

Oliveth is on the far right.  She laughed her way through her presentation, but I was proud of her and the rest of her group.  These 3 students rarely behave or participate, and they all stepped out of their comfort zones for the presentation.

Skit Presentations

My 5th and 6th grade classes did skit presentations last week, and most of them had a lot of fun!  I know that it can be hard to stand in front of your peers and speak a language that is not your own, but each student pulled through and got a good grade. 

Here are some pics of the skits:

Music Classes

Lower Grades

My bilingual students (K4 - 4th grade) have been learning the song, "Children of the World."  When we had class on Monday, they kept asking me, "Can we do the Children of the World song?"  I had to assure them that we would do that at the end of class.  It was so sweet to hear their little voices singing, and to see their hands raise up and down as they did the sign language that went with the song.  It made my heart happy.   I also brought my guitar to school and sang "This is the day that the Lord has made" in both Spanish and English with them.  My 3rd and 4th grade classes will sing it on Wednesday during the morning assembly. 

Upper Grades

The 7th through 9th graders have enjoyed learning how to play the cup game.  My 9th grade class, especially, has gotten good at it!  I am excited to introduce them to Boomwhackers this week.  Boomwhackers are plastic tubes that are tuned to a scale, so you can play music by hitting them on your leg, your hand, a table, etc.  It is also a great color-coded, visual representation of the musical scale.

All for now!