There are severalfactors that define who you are. One of that is experience. When it comes toexperience, there’s the kind where you learn more about yourself.
From myexperience tutoring young children, I view the role of teacher is to have theresponsibility to recognize student’s character, strength, and culture. Anyonecan volunteer in a school, but how that experience impacts and changes you isthe core. As a second-grade student, I couldn’t waituntil it was reading time.
My teacher always had the best book selection. Therewould be picture books in different languages that reflected the diverselanguages in the classroom. I would be the only one in the class who wouldgravitate towards the Vietnamese books. I’ve also had an interest in traveling becauseduring the hot summer days my cousins and Iwould play outside pretending that we were somewhere abroad. I read the novel,Flat Stanley many times in English with my classmates and in Vietnamese with myparents to the point where I could recall all sections of the book. The teacherimmediately realized my strengths and responded by creating a book posterproject reflecting the major events in the story. In doing so, she placed anincredible amount of trust in me to produce quality work.
During morningrecess, I would stay indoors and work on the poster. This is when the teacherwould ask questions and where I felt that she was generally interested in thework that I was doing. Often times, Icame back in during lunch recess to continue working on the project. Thismotivated me to create the best and colorful poster out there! Looking backupon that experience, it helped me build my confidence and character in theclassroom. The teacher could have simply give me a worksheet to write down sentencesabout the book, but she went well beyond that.
I learned that anyone can betaught to reiterate sections of a book, but should not be limited to how itshould be measured. It’s the role of the teacher to foster highlyindividualized learning in response to the student’s strength’s and skills. Wejust have to not limit the student’s ability to learn. Holding suchidentical expectations for all students poses a disadvantage. We must movebeyond the one number and create individualized plans, routines, and rules for studentswho would greatly benefit from, with support, attention, and guidance. DuringWinter quarter of 2017, I took a course called Child Observation andAssessment. The goal was to provide students with knowledge, skills, and attitudesneeded to effectively use observation and assessment in a setting with youngchildren.
An assignment required developing a check list for a group of threeto five students. I learned that the concept of checklists was to offer ayes/no format in relation to the student’s demonstration in a specific criteria.This was one of the most difficult assignment that I had encountered. I had adifficult time actually “checking off” the students.
I would take intoconsideration that many of the students were dual language learners, had anindividualized education program (IEP), or were new to the classroom accordingto the teacher. I didn’t want to note down a student who either didn’tunderstand the instruction in English or wasn’t comfortable with theirsurroundings. My stance towards thechecklist that it’s too narrow. It casts an incomplete picture of the student’sability and character.
It leaves no room for students who might exhibit aparticular behavior in certain setting or during certain parts of the day. Thisexperience helped me realize the importance of individuality. By treating and respecting each student as a unique individual, we’re designing an environment that positivelyinfluences all areas of children’s development. While implementing thechecklist, we should take other factors into consideration. There is not a bestmethod because no two students are alike mentally, physically, and emotionally. Onetime, I saw one of my students at a Hispanic grocery store and her face seemedpuzzled. She was so used to see me in the classroom and seemed that my life onlyexisted inside the classroom. She ran up and began talking to me in Spanish andI got to meet her parents.
Little did I know that it was her families’ grocery store.Her parents were showing me their family tree that dated back many generations. Icommunicated with the parents through the student. During the exchange, wewould talk about how both of our families had to fled to the United States dueto government issues. At times, it gotvery emotional.
I never knew this about the student from being just inside theclassroom. I asked her why she never told me this and she said that she simplydidn’t know how to. That following week we did a unit on family tree and shedidn’t want to participate. Rather than having her just sit and listen to her classmates,I knew that she was creative with her drawings. So, I asked her to draw hertree and prompted her to “tell more about her drawing”. Her smile was as wideas it could be as she shared her family tree through the pictures to her smallgroup. This experience helped view that students bring such a dynamic familyhistory into the classroom where they should feel safe and proud to share itout loud.
As mentioned, teachershave the precious opportunity to recognize the student’s individuality, movebeyond just one number, and appreciate where the students come from. Havingthese opportunities and acting on them is what I value most about becoming ateacher. I don’t think of it as a job. It’s a purpose for living.