If you have new Americans (that’s our lingo for ELL students here in Burlington) in your classroom, you likely have preconceived notions of where they came from or what they know.
So, let me tell you a story about my preconceived notions.
I had a student who came in high school. I really thought this student had never been to school. Perhaps she had to stay home and take care of siblings. It just really didn’t seem like she had ever held a pencil or knew what to do with a book.
Later I did a home visit. I asked about many things, such as early childhood development questions, what age she began to walk and talk, whether the parent had any concerns… We also asked about prior education.
Her mother had none.
So that then makes wheels turn and I start believing that my suppositions are true; my student had no schooling, like her mother. She received little academic support at home.
But then we asked the questions about school.
She had attended school for six years before coming to the United States. And all that time, she had English class.
My jaw literally dropped. Sadly.
Because what that visit did was to show me that I have one notion of education. Despite years of learning about English language learners and how we had to know our students and understand their backgrounds, I realized I had had this student in my classroom for more than a year, and based on her performance, I had made up my mind that she had no ideas about school.
But she does have ideas about school.
Just not a school that looks like any I have attended or any that have employed me.
I prided myself in keeping an open mind. And here, I found that I had shut mine. Based on preconceived notions, and jumping to conclusions.
So what did school really look like where she came from? This had me bothered. So now, I’m going to ask. All sorts of people:
What was school like for you?
And I’m going to try to find resources online that show me where my students come from.
The better I can educate myself, the more I can try to educate them.
And that’s what I live for.