My writing coach through the National Blogging Collaborative is a wonderful woman named Lisa Hollenbach, and I think her getting-to-know-you questionaire is a good tool for thinking about personal and professional goals, so I’m posting my responses here.
This year, Wildwood was fortunate enough to be able to hire a Family Liaison. I worked with Greta Holtz when she was a paraeducator at Silver Lake Elementary,* and we are incredibly fortunate to have her at our school. She is available to help us connect with parents and translate conversations and information into Spanish or English.
Sra. Holtz is amazing. Her report with families and the quick connections she’s making dazzle me. But I’m also having a chance to learn directly from her. A week or so ago, I asked if she would speak to me only in Spanish, so I could improve my vocabulary and grammar. She said yes, and not only have I been learning the Spanish language, but I’ve also been reminded what good teachers do.
Good teachers make quick, informal assessments, then adjust their instruction accordingly.
After a day of indulging my desire to speak entirely in Spanish, Sra. Holtz handed me a well-used book and made a rare slip back into English. “This should help you understand the verbs and conjugations better,” she said. So she realized that my vocabulary was OK, but my grammar was atrocious. “This is the best book there is.” I carefully turned the book over. “I’ll take VERY good care of it,” I said, understanding the importance of this book – her only copy.
Good teachers take measured risks when they think they might have a chance to take the next leap.
Sra. Holtz didn’t HAVE to give me the book. She also didn’t ORDER me to read it. But just knowing that I had it and that she thought it’d be appropriate for me gave me confidence that she thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, I just needed to work on my grammar. Imagine how a student might be empowered from your risk.
Good teachers persist, even when they worry students may have lost interest.
I hurriedly said, “Hello!” to Sra. Holtz the morning after open house. “Hola, Senora,” she responded. “Como estas?” Well, I would have looked stupid if I answered her in English, so I reverted back to sophomore year Spanish and said, “Asi asi.” She persisted (we’re both walking in opposite directions down the hall at this point), “Estas desconsada?” “Haha, si, si, Senora!” I won’t be forgetting how to say “tired” any time soon.
Repeating what students say but saying it with correct grammar is powerful, not insulting.
In the past, I hesitated to use the ELL strategy of repeating what students say but correcting their grammar because I worried they’d be irritated that I just repeated everything they said. With Sra. Holtz, I realized I liked when she repeated what I said because it let me know the “right” way to pronounce the words, but it ALSO gave me a little bit of time to think of what I wanted to say next.
I know I’ll continue to learn plenty more from Sra. Holtz, and I’d love to learn more from you too! Leave me a comment or write me an e-mail in Spanish, and I’ll do my best to respond!
* You think teachers are underpaid? Paraeducators, who often work with our most at-risk and challenging students, earn poverty-level wages.