I’m one of the Ed Fellows at The Learning Community who focuses on English language development (ELD) during the day. I spend my mornings attending classes with a group of 8th graders which includes several students needing ELD support. I’m not there to help with the content, but rather to help develop classroom language and habits they can use to access content on their own long after they have someone supporting them. We work on doing things like asking full questions, articulating what they do and do not know, and noticing and recording new content-specific vocabulary.
One of my students started the year really behind in her math class. Every day was a struggle, and she would often come to me just saying “I don’t understand,” while she collapsed into a chair. That very same student though, just this morning told me that she’s starting to like math. She has quadrupled how hard she works on it, and while she is still not at the top of the class, she did raise her hand to answer a teacher’s question last week. That’s a big step.
This is what has blown me away about the ELD students we support. They are up against an incredible challenges, often working on content that is tough for students who are fluent in English. They are trying to learn the definition of the word “intersect” while simultaneously learning how to find the point at which two lines intersect. Some of these kids blow my mind with the amount of grit they demonstrate in class.
When we started our training in August, we talked about “aha” moments- the moments when everything comes together and somebody sees things through fresh eyes. I’ve seen plenty of “aha” moments during my year here, but I think it’s a misinterpretation of what’s really going on to focus on those “aha” moments. I’ve learned since being here that those “aha” moments can be enticing, but they’re not always what the project of education is all about.
The “aha” moments are the sugar and sweetness of this work and they have all the marketing appeal, but they are not the actual success stories. The success story is the motivation and hard work behind the scenes, day in and day out when the light at the end of the tunnel is around so many corners that it’s tough to believe it actually exists.