Learning Coach deploying 861 iPads on Saturday. My day job. We had a break?
At one time I was the English Language Learners (ELL) teacher at the middle school where I work. That year provided insight into the lives of these children, who come to Hawaiʻi with dreams of getting a good education and becoming successful in life. Yet they struggle with prejudice and poverty, and shame that leaves them torn between their cultures and a new one. It was a difficult time in my life; and these children brought me back to teaching. Having been given the time to listen to them, and work closely with this small group, I was able to support their studies and advocate for them in their classrooms. Full-time DOE teachers don’t usually have that luxury, with 30 or more in 6 classes, my opportunity was impossible for others teachers. So that year, the biggest challenge was to advocate for the students in their classrooms and suggest accommodations that teachers might try in strategies or assessment.
More recently, I have been one of the teachers with large class loads that included ELLs, and my frustration at not having any support for these students because they are NEPs – non-english proficient was unbelievable. Only the LEPs (limited English proficiency) could have classroom support in the form of a teacher coming in and assisting. In fact, one of my students is Japanese, a NEP, and spent a very lonely year, afraid to make friends because he was appalled by the behavior of our students. Luckily today we have the resources to provide some support. I assigned a computer to him that gave him access to Google Translate, and we spent many hours sitting at Google Translate to try and assure that he understood what was being communicated.
This year I invited him to become one of our student iPad mentors because this would provide a safe group of students with whom he could interact. He is beginning to blossom, is speaking more, and I got two comments today from the counselor and his dad. The counselor called to remark that the student excitedly spoke of how he spent his entire (vacation) week prepping the 861 iPads for rollout this Saturday, and the counselor talked about the marked change in him since entering the school. His dad texted that his son was going through a very difficult time, and that I was a ray of sunshine in his life. Haven’t heard something like that in a while!
The biggest lesson from working with this student is, no matter how much he appears to understand what I’m saying, he probably doesn’t! So the art of clarifying meaning has become extremely important. The first step is to listen carefully, and then to take the time to talk and find different ways of communicating until you are relatively sure the other person understands.
With that in mind, I am excited about this project; I’ve been to Japan a couple of times and loved it. I am sansei, (third generation), and because of the Japanese-American experiences during WWII, I was not allowed to learn the language or culture. So I am intrigued about the differences in thinking and practices between myself and these younger Japanese students.