Theory Connection #3
My next theory connection is about something that happened during one of my service learning visits that I felt related to both Rodriguez and August, so I did a connection piece to both!
“Without question, it would have pleased me to hear my teachers address me in Spanish when I entered the classroom. I would have felt much less afraid. I would have trusted them and responded with ease” (Rodriguez, p.34)
Explanation: Rodriguez didn’t have a classroom that suited him and his abilities. As an ESL student, he had no way to use Spanish and English in an appropriate and successful way – which is a huge aspect in teaching multilingual children. He was forced to use only English which made him uncomfortable and as he says in the quote afraid. One simple thing his teachers could have done to make him feel more comfortable was just simply greet him in Spanish.
Explanation: In August’s “Safe Spaces” she stresses the importance of a safe classroom where everyone can feel comfortable and can be themselves without being judged. She says that teachers are the ones who can create safe classrooms – they set the tone for the students. If they create an environment that is safe and inclusive, the students will most likely be more open and inviting to people of different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs.
Every time I go to my service-learning classroom at Charlotte Woods Elementary School, I get the chance to work with ESL students. During one of my visits, there was a boy who was trying to get through a math problem, but his language got in the way. The head teacher asked him a question in English and he tried so desperately to answer but could not because he really had no clue she was asking. As he was struggling and quickly turning red, some of his classmates who can speak some English began laughing at him. They looked down at this student because he was Spanish and didn’t understand how to answer the teachers question in English. While I was standing there watching this encounter, I grew increasingly more frustrated. I was so upset that these students who spoke the same language as that child felt like they had reason to laugh at him just because they knew a little more English than he did. The last thing that I want to see is a student feel embarrassed because of his culture. Because the teacher wasn’t doing anything to diffuse the situation, I stepped in and I told the student he was doing great and told the other students that instead of making him feel bad, they could help him through interpreting. The kids wound up feeling really bad about laughing at the boy, and were then eager to interpret and help the boy through the problem. After the question was interpreted, the boy was able to answer the question successfully.
Going back to my quotes, this student in my service learning class began to feel the way that Rodriguez felt – uncomfortable and afraid to speak. As an educator, I know it is my job, as August points out, to create a classroom that is safe. In that moment I could tell the child did not feel safe, so because the teacher wasn’t doing anything, I felt as if it was my duty to step in. It is sad to see students feel afraid to speak because of their language and a teacher not doing anything about it to be proactive. I’ve been in this classroom for a total of 19 hours now and not once have I seen the teacher speak Spanish, I also have never seen any posters or material around the room that connected with the culturally diverse students. There’s nothing in her classroom that promotes cultural diversity. The one thing she does is let students interpret for other students which I definitely think helps in creating a safe space atmosphere but it doesn’t really go beyond that. The quote that I chose by Rodriguez explains his feelings about being an ESL student in school and could probably explain the feelings of most ESL students in this classroom. I think that by the teacher doing that one simple thing (greeting the students in Spanish) it would help in creating the safe space that August argues every classroom should have and the space that Rodriguez lacked. August says that educators are in the perfect position to create an environment where everyone is welcome, and comfortable. Just by simply greeting the students in their own language could make a world a difference. The students will feel more comfortable and will feel like they can relate to her more. They wont feel as pressured or ashamed when they don’t understand some of the things she is saying.
This video is a video on strategies for teaching ESL students in a manner that promotes academic success and a safe learning environment