Growing because students are more likely to thrive

Growing up, Vietnamese was the only language
that I knew. At Kindergarten, the teacher greeted me by saying “good morning.”
I would just smile and walk away. I felt so different from my classmates and
teacher to the point where my grades were slipping and I lacked motivation
to do my school work. I was put on autopilot. 

            “Jennifer,
did you do yesterday’s homework?” my teacher asked.  I
didn’t bother looking up as I shook my head, “No”. I felt so different from
everyone because I couldn’t comprehend anything being taught. Eventually,
my parents were called in for a conference. During the conference, my
teacher and the school’s English Language Learner (ELL) teacher enrolled me in an
after-school homework group. I was placed with students who spoke the same
language as me. The group members helped me feel safe and comfortable talking
in Vietnamese while learning English. Soon, my teacher and classmates referred
me by my Vietnamese name which is “Nhu”.  Finally, I was no longer
feeling lost; the confusion of the languages that once pulled me into a spiral
of darkness was no longer there. I realized I had a special skill of speaking
two different languages. My grades and participation in both languages were in
sync. Even my classmates were asking me how to say words in Vietnamese.  This experience helped
me learned that recognizing a student’s differences provides a positive
foundation for effective learning. This prepares me for teaching in an
urban school because students are
more likely to thrive in an environment where it’s instructed in a language
that they’re proficient in. This allows students to make suggestions, ask
questions, answer questions and create and communicate new knowledge with
enthusiasm.

From January to June 2017, I was a tutor in a
dual language (Spanish/English) first grade classroom. Students are always
asking questions about the meaning of a specific term.   I believe that developing a level of
proficiency in another language opens doors to other ways of thinking about the
world and the possibility of relationships with people in other communities.

This experience helped me learn that the field of education is such a universal
language. There shouldn’t be any limitations between the languages that you can
speak; rather it should be recognized as a unique skill. This helps prepare
me to teach
in an urban school because I am able to recognize and accept the different
languages spoken. This allows me to adjust the course materials into languages
reflected in the classroom through translated books, letter’s, and directions.

            A common misconception was that bilingualism is a rare phenomenon. From
my elementary and tutoring experience, I learned that being bilingual means
you’re not the minority.  Many of the
students that I work with already speak another language other than Spanish and
English. Today, the number of people in the United States who are bilingual
keeps growing and it must be reflected in our classroom communities.