Today, I’m remembering earlier days in my teaching career when I was the sole ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at a small elementary school. Our instructional model at the time allowed me to work with upper grade students for their entire language arts period. We had our own reading workshop and writing workshop.
One particular year, I had an amazing group of new English speakers. One boy was from Japan, one boy from Malaysia, one girl from Croatia, several students from Saudi Arabia, and a brother and sister from South Korea. This diverse group of 5th and 6th graders became a learning community that seemed almost like family to me. I confess I became very attached to them and still wonder about their progress as they are now young adults.
This group of students worked hard and each of them progressed so much. I remember the first writing we did together when one girl simply wrote the word “orange” on her paper. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she lacked language to express more. I felt her frustration and encouraged her with words she couldn’t understand, but hopefully felt. By the end of the year, she was writing stories.
It was a classroom with much laughter. English is such a quirky language that there were often opportunities for the “mis-use” of language that made us laugh. One day, the phone rang in my classroom. I was busy with a student, so I allowed Faisal to answer the phone. It turned out he needed some prompting to know how to handle a call.
Faisal: “Hello? This is Mrs. Miner’s room.” (so far so good)
Caller: “Is Mrs. Miner there?”
Faisal: “Yes” (ok, now what?)
Then Faisal looked at me, unsure how to proceed. I whispered to him, “Say, ‘I’ll get her.'”
Faisal: “She’ll get you.”
The students cracked up and laughter filled the room as an image of Mrs. Miner, monster, came to their view. I quickly stepped across the room and spoke with the school secretary who good-naturedly delivered her message. I’m not sure Faisal ever quite understood why his pronoun switch was so funny, but it still makes me laugh.