So… I have reached the final day of my first semester as ESL teacher (the final teaching day of this semester is tomorrow). I have not written in this blog as much as I would have wanted, but I will resume in this post what I have learned and grown during these three wonderful months.
I am very grateful to God for the opportunity of finding a job as ESL teacher in a special education school. I love working with kids and teens that need extra care and extra love to thrive. They are all amazing students, each one with unique challenges and gifts. These students are very used to be treated as “less capable” than others due their disabilities. I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach them to see themselves according to who they are (not according their disabilities): as thriving human beings with the same dignity than anyone else.
What other lessons, besides ESL, I have been blessed to teach them and to learn from them? Let’s see…
–You are a person, you are an amazing human being: You are not your behavior only. You are a human being, called the best person you can be. You matter as a whole person. You are loved and respected no matter how you behave.
–You have rights: Your human dignity must be always respected. There are some rights called “human rights”. You have them. I have them. We all have them, because we are all human beings. We all must respect every human being just because he or she is a person with dignity.
–We all have our own “learning rhythm” and that is OK: an ordinary teacher has a lesson plan to follow. I can’t work that way: I have students with learning need that require some degree of individualization. Doing lesson plans is part of my job, but the way I apply them is quite flexible. I must embrace the “learning rhythm” of each student and create a symphony with all the voices. One thing I have tried to teach to them is that is OK to have an own learning rhythm and do things in other way.
–You have an amazing capacity to do good: usually when a student has behavior difficulties he or she has very clear all the wrong things he or she is capable of doing. What is not so clear to these students is all the capacity they have to do good. They sometimes surprise themselves when you show them that they did something really good, of when you simply believe in them. They need to know they are capable of doing great things.
–A new beginning is always possible: I have students that are living proof that new beginnings are always possible. I have met students with very difficult pasts, students that have overcome huge obstacles in such young lives and that have demonstrated me each day that new beginnings can be possible if you reach the help you need and choose to work hard.
–A disability or a medical condition doesn’t defines you: this is a VERY important lesson when you are teaching students with any kind of “disability”. We need to learn to focus in each other’s abilities, not disabilities. We are all able to follow our dreams and become the best person we can be. We all have things that we can’t to and we all have things that we can do. We can choose in which one we focus.
–Growth choices help us to become the best person we can be: whatever we do, we must make “growth choices”: choices that help us to become the best person we can be. Every choice is an opportunity to become the person that we are called to be.
–Our growth choices have the power to create a better culture, a better nation and a better world: our growth choices not only help us to become the best person we can be. When we choose to become the best persons we can be, when we make growth choices, we create a culture of growth, a nation that help all to grow as the best person they can be. Our choices have the power to create a better humanity and a better world. When we make a true growth choice, it doesn’t help us to become the best person we can be: it helps everyone to become the best person they can be.
–We must look all persons to the eyes: in a world where we are used to judge people by their physical appearance, we must look everyone to the eyes, not focusing in their physical attributes but in who they are as persons.
–We must dare to test our limits and never limit ourselves: something the fact of having a “disability” makes students limit themselves because they see themselves as “disabled”. On purpose, I have placed them on situations that are at the same time safe and a challenge to their limits, only to let them discover by themselves that they can do something they believed they couldn’t do. This can complicate things sometimes, but it is really worthy, especially when you see the student’s huge smile when he or she discover that he or she can actually do something that he or she thought that he or she couldn’t do. This help them to learn how to engage in the world that is outside of the classroom and the school, becoming citizens that have a healthy independence and know what they are able to do to serve the common good.
What happened with the “growth plans” design? I resumed my “growth plans” design by adding a “growth objective” in the lesson plans. I truly think that it can be possible to create “growth plans” besides the lesson plans, or even make both plans integrated as a “growth plan” instead of making a “lesson plan”, applying what should be taught to the personal formation of the students, but now is not the moment to design a whole “growth plan” to substitute the lesson plans with it. That enterprise would require a research capability that I currently do not have: I first need to observe, then research, and finally apply. For now, using a “growth objective” to help the students to become the best person they can be is the best choice to complete the observation phase.
Before leaving for Christmas break, I am leaving everything prepared for the first lesson plan of January: each student will create a poster with his or her New Year’s growth resolutions, resolutions that help him or her to become the best persons he or she can be. The only thing that is still needed to give this lesson plan is preparing a short message about what is a growth resolution and why they are important, or may be find a prepared short message of other person that talks about that theme (of course, in English, because it is English class 😀). I will work on that during the Christmas break. During the Holidays I will also work in the design of a Pictionary Olympics for the English Week, that is at the end of January. We will have a lot of fun! 🙂 I’m so eager to start the next semester!
My last pending classroom task before ending the semester, besides all the administrative tasks that are due in any semester ending, is putting a huge “Follow Your Dreams” in the wall, so they can all see it when they walk into the English classroom when they come back to the school in January. Here is an image of my “Follow Your Dreams” (I bought it in the online store of Carson Dellosa, but I do not recommend it, their shipping methods are terribly slow. If I need another “Follow Your Dreams” for a wall I will ask my students to make it, specially with glitter, they love glitter!).
I have had this “Follow Your Dreams” since weeks ago, but I have not been able to put it where I want to place it because I need to move first my teacher’s desk, some student’s desks and a book shelf in order of being able to put the “Follow Your Dreams” in the wall I want (the wall that is first seen when you get into the classroom). So, I chose to wait until the end of the semester to do all that movements needed to put the “Follow Your Dreams” in the wall safely and peacefully.
That will be the “growth objective” of the first lesson plan of the year 2019: follow your dreams. Whatever New Year’s growth they may have, they must help them to follow their dreams and to become the best person they can be. For me the phrase “follow your dreams” has a very beautiful meaning: I dream with God’s Love, seen as Jesus Charity, literally every night, so for me “follow your dreams” means following God’s Love, realizing His will in my life, whatever that may lead me and whatever that could mean. In this moment, following that dreams means being the best teacher I can be for my students. However, of course, I have never told that to my students, nor I will, because my dreams do not have to be their dreams: I want them to have their own dreams and to dare to follow those dreams. I want them to learn how to dream dreams that create a better growth community, a better society, a better world… I want then to learn how to dream dreams that are bigger than themselves, dreams that help everyone to grow as the best person they can be, beginning with themselves. We can’t get used to be less of the best we can be. We can’t get used to situations of degradation of any human being or to situations that dehumanize of our society. We are all called to be the change that the world needs to be transformed with fraternity, joy and creativity that gives life. I want them to learn that when they choose to be the best person they can be they change others for good with their growth. ☺️
Please pray for me, so I may serve my students in the best way possible and I may teach them with living lessons to dare to dream big, helping them to learn how to follow their dreams, how to make resolutions to turn those dream into a reality and how to always choose to become the best person they can be.
Merry Christmas to everyone! May you follow your dreams and may they lead you to become the best person you can be. Let’s keep growing!
PD: Here is a picture of the “Follow Your Dreams” placed in the wall of my classroom 🙂