Friday, August 06, 2010

Good Things Happen

A few months ago, a young teacher asked me for some help with her classroom.  She was a subject teacher who happened to be teaching ESL kids, but her classes were out of control.  What was wrong?

I went in and watched her class.  Five minutes in, a group of kids from one country walked in like they owned the place.  She sent them out and made them get a pass.  The kids were delighted.  More time to walk the halls.  More time to hang with their buds.  I told the teacher not to do that anymore.  I told her to call the homes of every one of those kids any time they arrived late, and to begin that very day. 

I also noticed that one kid was the ringleader of this little group.  I told the young teacher to move this kid's seat away from the group.  There was a group of kids from another country who spoke a different language, so I told her to move the kid there, into another country for all intents and purposes.   "But she doesn't speak that language," the young teacher objected.

One of the things you learn when you teach ESL is that you often need to separate kids who speak the same language.  Why would kids from China speak English if they could just hang around with other kids from China all the time?  Things like that may not occur to teachers who don't have experience.  And despite having been there for months, no one had bothered to tell this young woman anything of the sort.

She took my advice, along with several other suggestions, and her class began to run much more smoothly.  I know because:

1. I went back and watched it again, and

2.  We had a mutual student who was more than happy to informally spy for me.

In any case, this was remarkable, as it was pretty far into the year, and newbies who fall that far don't tend to bounce back by that point.  I was happy, and impressed that she acted so decisively and immediately.  What's better than teaching someone something practical and seeing it implemented precisely and perfectly, with tangible results?

Alas, Chancellor Joel Klein enacted budget cuts, so as to save millions of dollars for the likes of the execrable Tim Daly, and the young teacher was excessed.   This is tough, because non-tenured ATR teachers are more or less wearing targets on their back, fired for cause or even for no cause.

But last week this young teacher went for an interview.  She was asked what she would do if faced with kids from multiple language groups, and how she would deal with keeping them focused and on task.  She had a ready answer for them--an anecdote of just how she dealt with a similar situation.  And guess what?

She got the job.
blog comments powered by Disqus