Wherever there is a war, atrocity or disaster happened in a particular country, we know that we would be getting a few students from that region in a year or two. Canada is quite well known for taking in refugees. Years ago, we had the children from Somalia. Then we had children from the Balkan region when the war was raging in Europe. Not too long ago, we had a surge of Afghan children. Now we are getting students from the Middle East. I have a student who just came from Iraq five months ago. All these refugee children have one thing in common; they do not speak a word of English when they arrive.
The little Iraqi boy I have is a very bright little boy. He landed in Canada with his family and registered at our school in June. It is amazing to see how much English he has picked up over the last few months. Whenever I am teaching in class, I could tell from his sparkling big eyes that his mind is trying to process all this information in a completely different language. He laughs at my jokes and shows so much enthusiasm to participate in class. So far, he seems to be able to follow the class’ momentum quite well.
One quarter of my class is ESL students and another quarter is children with special needs. The rest of the students are within a range from being average to tremendously smart. To teach a class like this, it takes a lot of thinking and planning ahead. Quite often I find myself being “a comedian” or I have to resort to use “physical drama” like a clown in order to teach a new concept to the class. I turned the lesson on “photosynthesis” into an action drama. The lesson on “pollination” was done without getting too much into the technical birds and the bees. My students seem to take the words such as “eggs” and “ovary” quite normal like a scientist without any woo or ahhh. (Hehehe….My drama professor would be very impressed with how I have applied everything I learned from her class.)
In September, the little boy and his mother came to our Curriculum Night for the first open house. The mother tried using her limited English to tell me that the boy really enjoys being in my class and he thinks that I am very funny. (Hahaha…. I AM very funny! Tell that to my sister. Maybe I should just forget about teaching and get into acting or stand-up comedy instead.) I was so pleased after I talked to his mother. At least I know he is grasping some of my instruction in class.
The other day, I was reading a book titled The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland. It is a lovely book that I read every year whenever I get to teach the part how some plants grow from seeds and the seeds can stay dormant for years. When I was reading the part that the main character and her family had to flee Vietnam and escaped from the war to come to a new country, I could see my little student from Iraq with tears swelled up in his eyes. I had to stop reading for a few seconds to pretend to cough and then secretly wiped away my tears. The boy UNDERSTOOD my story reading very well and he was able to relate his personal experience to the story.
I tell you…. I love my job because I get to be in touch with these pure and innocent minds all day long. (OK, some of them may have a little mean streak occasionally, but most of them are very sweet.) Sometimes, I do believe that we teachers can make a difference, and it does not matter how small it is. Education matters!
Post Note: My youngest sister once confessed to us that she was so “scared” of me when we were growing up because I always looked very serious. OK, I admit that we can not change our appearance, but come on, I DO have a good sense of humour! Right, Sis? Friends? Relatives? Anybody? (I need someone to come to my defense.)
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My Corner for Education

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