Hearing Students’ Voices, No Matter the Language

Working with 成人s through the office of community engagement helped shape this aspiring elementary school teacher’s approach in the classroom.

By: 梅根·基塔  Thursday, June 7, 2018 03:09 PM

Cat 病房 ’18 (center) with Eveily Freeman (left) and Beth Halpern (right) of the office of community engagement. Photo courtesy of Cat 病房.

Cat 病房 ’18 spent almost as much time in local elementary schools as she did on campus as she pursued an 英语 degree and completed the pre-kindergarten through grade 4 教育 程序. In addition to her semester of student-teaching at Muhlenberg Elementary, just blocks away, she spent several semesters working with Roosevelt Elementary in the southeastern section of Allentown. As a student employee of and volunteer with the office of community engagement (OCE), she participated in the America Reads tutoring 程序 at Roosevelt starting in her first year, and she worked with Muhlenberg Community Dance Center (MCDC) to launch a dance 程序 there during the spring semester of her junior year.

So, when Beth Halpern and Eveily Freeman, director and associate director of the OCE, approached 病房 before her final semester and asked her to co-coordinate an 成人 英语 Language Learners (ELL) 程序, it was solidly outside 病房’s comfort zone.

“It was a total learning and growing experience,” she says. “I liked to think I was receptive to feedback, but younger students tend to be less vocal. The 成人s were unafraid to give their opinions, which helped me realize how important it is to make sure students’ voices are heard in the classroom regardless of age.”

Though 病房 had some experience working with ELL children, the in-school environment tended to be more controlled and predictable than the weekly meetups she’d be organizing for 成人s.

“The students who have stuck with ELL have really grown to recognize the lived experience of people,” Halpern says. “Sometimes your kids get sick and you can’t come. Sometimes you lose your housing so you’re unable to stay in this particular space. Sometimes you have to work. It allows the students to really be present, to think, ‘How can we work together in this moment?’”

病房, who describes herself as “a really organized person,” came up with lesson plans for each week at the start of the semester—plans that needed to evolve or, 有时, be scrapped entirely depending on the students’ goals.

“Talking to the students helped shape how the class went: I wanted to create a classroom culture that promoted collaboration and community,沃德说:“. 例如, she’d planned to have each Muhlenberg student work with one ELL student each week, but when the ELL students asked for a conversation circle, 病房 held a session that way. After that, sessions were split into one-on-one work and group-conversation work.

This collaborative model reflects 病房’s talents as an educator: “She makes people feel valued,” Halpern says. “She can make them see the power within themselves that already exists and help them build on those strengths.”

病房 is moving on to the University of Pennsylvania to pursue her M.S.Ed. in Teaching 英语 to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a path she decided on after taking her cluster courses (ELL and geography) with Freeman and Mark Emerick, lecturer in 教育. But she credits her time co-coordinating the 成人 ELL 程序 with helping her find a “love for language in the classroom.”

“We did our best to create that equitable environment, making whatever language the 成人s were bringing to the table as valuable as the 英语 we were bringing to the table,沃德说:“, adding that the student she worked with most helped her learn a lot of Spanish. “It’s about letting the students know they have something to offer the teacher, who’s thought of as this all-knowing figure, which is so not true. We’re all learning.”