Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Magical Powers of Little People

I officially started volunteering again today, at a Catholic elementary school across town. As it turns out, the teacher I was slotted to start working with was away at an in-service, so I ended up being bounced to other classes that needed some extra help.

I was lucky enough to be bounced into helping one very unhappy international student, who understood more English than he could speak. As such, he found it immensely frustrating trying to communicate with me when he understood my question, because I could tell he was searching his very limited English vocabulary for the right words to express how he felt, but could never quite find it. In the end, I spoke with the school admin and requested that he get at least a dictionary in his own language, so that he could look up the corresponding English words and be able to express himself. We actually considered the idea of getting him a handheld electronic dictionary that would translate his native tongue into English, but unfortunately this device is only available in his home country, many continents away. Luckily, the school located an old laptop that I think they will try to lend him so that he can at least translate from English to his own language (and perhaps the other way around too!).

Anyway, I was glad to have helped him and look forward to "quizzing" him next Thursday when I see him again. He is supposed to read a story and look up all of the unfamiliar words using an online translator at home, and I will be asking him comprehension and reflection questions when I see him next week.

Next, I was assigned into a Grade 1-2 split class. I was given a group of Grade 2s along with an aide, and sent off to guide them as they completed worksheets on bar graphs and pictographs. Of course, since I have been well-instructed in the art of relevance and social constructivist theory, I tried to introduce their tasks using a relevant real-life problem (e.g., How many people are in the classroom? How many boys and how many girls? How can we show this on a bar graph or pictograph? Are there more boys or girls in this room?). Then I had to help them do their dummy-run worksheet. =S

Anyway, I got to spend a good 45 minutes with these little peopl
e, and boy was I in my element! I loved their energy and their crazy answers and their big goofy smiles, and I was energized by working with them and watching them "get" the concepts I was reviewing with them. It was, in a word, fabulous.

More than anything, this morning's volunteer experience reinforced for me my calling to be a teacher. I love these eager little learners and their innocence and their silliness and their funny comments and their overactive imaginations. They inspire me and they make me laugh and they make me love going to school.

I can't wait to get into the classroom again, and even more, I cannot wait to finally have a class (and classroom) to call my own. I am ready to be back in my element and to tap into the magical powers of these little people, once more.


vien said...

That's awesome Mrs. L! Your enthusiasm and genuine passion alone already makes you a great teacher. :)

I'm glad that there are still teachers like you out there.

I'll be sure to remind you if jadedness ever tries to invade. ;)

See ya!

Natalie said...

That sounds so nice. I think there is a website called babelfish that does translations. My sister has been working with ESL high school students and has found it very rewarding.

Mrs. Loquacious said...

Yeah, unfortunately Babelfish can't do the translation from his language to English on the student logins at the school; the kids get limited Net access (presumably to limit their use of off-limits applications like MSN and MySpace, etc) and the limits extend to the adding of this particular language to their computers. =S

The kid does use BabelFish to go from English to his language though!

Ridley Thunder said...

Good for you MRs L. I'm glad you're getting the hang of things

Wynn said...

Sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day... I used to tutor reading at my childrens elementary, but I got VERY frustrated with the "whole language" concept that encouraged children to just guess at a word to find what would logically fit in there and then continue on reading when what they needed was some good sound Phonics! ok, I'll get off my soap box... I just snuck some phonics in there when no one was looking, and they started catching on! I also loved going with the art teacher and about 45 students to the Cleveland Museum of Art. WOW!... especially if you have a group of four very bored hyperactive boys! After coming up with commentary on WHY the asian statues were standing in THOSE poses (give me back my twinkies!), or why the south american chiuaua statue looked more like a stuffed pig (run fluffy!)and almost setting off the alarm system around the horse in full battle armor (woa, guys... don't touch)... and being frowned at by a guard or two (honestly we were wispering...)It was one of the most memorable days I've had with students... my son still talks about it(4 years later). But to be totally honest... 6th grade and up is my happy spot!

Mrs. Loquacious said...

Vien - I will, God-willing, never become a jaded teacher. The VP I was working with has been teaching for many years and she told me that she *still* gets excited to come to school each morning. That's gonna be me, darn it! =D

And whole language is as flawed as the big phonics movement that preceded it. The best approach to anything incorporates a little bit of both extremes, IMHO.