Hope & Joy: Setting the Stage

Posted: January 6, 2020

Every time I visit Ana Maria’s classroom I’m greeted with laughter, singing, smiles and Spanish. Learning another language can be challenging, and the approach students take can make all the difference.  I asked Ana Maria about how she tries to help students work through some of the frustrations.

When I started my career, I was still working on my English.  We all have cultural baggage and we need to adapt in new environments.  A story that I always share with my students really demonstrates this and helps with their mindset.  Students will often say this doesn’t make any sense in Spanish.  I try to give them an example of how language sometimes doesn’t make sense.  

I was asked to cover an English class very early in my career.  I was always a little nervous to cover other classes because English is not my first language and I was still learning a lot.  I started the class and of course we had an emergency drill. We did the drill and came back.  Everything went alright.  Afterwards I met up with the teacher and she said to me “I heard that the alarm went off during class.”  I was puzzled and told her “No, it went on.”  It really went on, blaring in the classroom.  We continued back and forth a bit and then we started to make a connection.  Wait a minute, radios turn on, TVs are on, but the alarm went off?   It didn’t make any sense to me.  We laughed about it, but I was really embarrassed.   I went and bought a book of verbal English phrases thinking I was going to memorize them all, but there are just so many.  Things sometimes don’t make sense.  There is a beauty to language that comes through experience and context.  I share this story with my students to be vulnerable and let them know how important it is to be patient and hang in there.  I remind them to redirect mistakes with kindness and be humble as a learner.   I still have students come back to me and remind me of that story.  I think it made a difference for them. 

Sharing our own learning experiences with our students can be a great way to empower them as learners.  It provides them with examples of perseverance and normalizes the struggle that often happens when we’re engaged in learning.

Framework Links:

2.3 Organizing students for cognitively complex tasks

Interview Sample Questions – Plot

  • What practices have you found to be especially helpful to develop perseverance in learning?
  • How do you share your own experiences as a learner with others?