It is a reward unlike any monetary bonus or plaque. I can’t speak for other educators, but I live for the moment when there is that small, fleeting glimmer that there has been a connection between students and teacher.
At this time in the school year, I am still sorting out student learning styles and personalities. Still trying to figure out how to engage some students or get out of the way of others.
I noticed one of my more quiet second language learners, one who hardly engages in eye contact, trying to avoid any engagement with me for several days. As part of interactive read-aloud, we had been working on verbal stems for acceptable (and polite! Politician take note!) discourse – “I agree with ____ because…..”, “I disagree with ____ because….”, “In addition to what ____ said, I think….”). This activity may sound stilted to you, but for my students who don’t really speak in sentences – second language or not – it is a critical building block for oral language, socially acceptable expression of opinions, and written language.
So yesterday, as we “discussed” the plot of Kevin Henkes Julius, Baby of the World, I put my new friend on the spot. At first she did what many second language learners do – she shook her head no, she averted her eyes, and she locked her lips down. Those of you who know me, will know that wasn’t going to fly.
So gently, I fed her the stem…. and after 2 or 3 cajoling nudges, out came the most wonderful contribution to our discussion! And with that, a small glimmer of a smile previously hidden from me. The moment was so brief that I wasn’t sure I had caught it. But for this one student, it seemed to convey, a new confidence and a connection to not only me, but to the safety of our classroom group.
And that is exactly why I love teaching!