I started out my student teaching experience at Ellis Elementary in a 5th grade classroom. I chose to complete my student teaching in Denver because of the diversity that the experience would provide me. I asked Bonita for placements with extreme amounts of diversity.
Being in an urban area, linguistic diversity is incredibly prevalent, and Ellis is abundant with it. I had one student, Abdu, for the purposes of this blog that emigrated from Libya a month before the end of the school year last year. Abdu came to the United States speaking no English. At the start of this school year Abdu spoke limited conversational English. I found myself trying to teach a young boy who spoke no academic English with extremely limited support in the classroom. Even with my special education background, I had no idea how to begin differentiation with Abdu. I asked my mentor teacher and she told me to just forget about him, that there was nothing we could do to support him. That struck a chord with me. I went back to my apartment the night after she told me that all fired up to figure out a way to reach Abdu.
I told my fellow student teachers about Abdu and my struggles with reaching him. Wes, a high school Spanish student teacher, gave me extremely helpful advice. He told me the key to successful immersion is pictures and overuse of specific vocabulary. I went to school the next day and tried Wes’ technique. It worked. Instead of spending 20 minutes getting him to understand the question, “Where do you want to travel?” it only took me 5 minutes to ask him what the temperature in Turkey (the place he wanted to travel to) was. I did this by describing clothing you would wear in cold versus warm temperatures.
I left that student teaching placement before I got the chance to figure out how to provide ongoing differentiation for Abdu while teaching the rest of my students full-time. I’m still curious as to how and I intend to have those conversations at my upcoming placements.
This urban teaching experience has proven difficult, but I’m appreciative for the opportunity to be here and to challenge myself professionally.