September 7, 2007

The unexpected

Posted in Literacy Needs, Second language learning, Uncategorized at 11: 56 am by MK

I went to the apartment last night with an array of lesson plans & activities.  I was prepared to teach, and teach well.  And I was ready for one student, or ten.  I thought this was going to be the night we would make some real progress; I was determined.

When I arrived, I quickly realized that just because I have some nice, neat lesson plan packed in my bag, doesn’t mean that the family is sitting there waiting for me to show up.  They are dealing with real, concrete, functional issues of life:  like sending two kids to school for the first time.

Ordinarily the junior-high school both children attend would be a short one-block walk from their apartment.  However, it’s currently being renovated so now the trek to school consists of two city buses and a transfer half-way.  Their case manager O. was there last night trying to get things sorted out.  O. and I ended up driving the children to their new school so they could see what it looked like, and then figuring out the best bus-route for them to take.

I felt for the two kids.  When we pulled up to the school, I really tried to look at it through their eyes:  it was big and looming and scary.  I gave them encouragment and acted excited, but their fear was evident.  Going back to school for any child can be overwhelming, let alone in a new country when you don’t speak the language.  And I know adults (okay, myself included, I’ll admit it) that would be nervous about taking the city bus and negogiating a transfer…how are these kids suppose to feel? 

O. is going to do a dry-run on the bus with them and take them to school herself on Monday (their first day).  I am sure this will help.  The school has also assured her that they have a number of refugee-status children, are familiar and comfortable working with the families, and have the experience to do so.    I am sure the first few weeks will be rocky, but it will get better.  And the children will become sponges, learning the language quickly. 

As I drove home last night, I realized my lesson plans never left my bag, but it felt like I got a lot done.  My concept of “progress” is always changing.



  1. Elizabeth said,

    I also feel for these kids. My son moved across the hall to a new classroom and I know how hard it has been for him even though he is with the same kids in the same building. I can only imagine trying to deal with a new country and a new language.

    I am sure you will encounter these types of nights often. Like you said, progress doesn’t necessarily mean working from the lesson plan.

  2. retepsnave said,

    “My concept of “progress” is always changing.”

    …given your student population, I think your last statement is rather profound.

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