Thoughts on my weekly visits to Belmont High School…

 

A meaningful interaction with a student…

During my first visit to Belmont High School I had the chance to speak with a grade 12 student during his Life Science class. I asked if he had any plans after high school and he told me he wanted to go to a school in the United States to play soccer. He told me he did not know what he wanted to do academically but of his desire to leave Victoria and continue in sports. I thought of myself at his age and how I too had a yearning to leave my hometown despite having little direction. This interaction reinforced how as teachers, our job will be to instil confidence in our students and to encourage them to take chances.

Connections and Reflections

I observed a grade 12 English language course and had the chance to proof read some of the student’s assignments. One student stood out in particular as I was especially impressed with his writing. The student’s first language was Arabic and he had recently moved from Egypt. While his assignment had some grammatical errors, the message and feelings were still communicated well. He told me he had learned English at school in Egypt yet had little time to practice and felt he was still behind his peers in Victoria. As I edited his work, we talked about the difficulties of learning a new language and how often it is impossible to find perfect translations for phrases. He was a very warm person and was happy to answer my questions. He told me about how different the Arabic alphabet is from ours and that he preferred school in Canada, that he hoped he could graduate this year, and that he was hoping to go to the University of Victoria.

As far as content and practice, I realized while editing his work that helping him improve his English was not about picking apart the semantics but about giving a few general corrections and discussing why he chose certain words. We had a conversation about what he was trying to communicate which I believe was more effective and more enjoyable for both of us. I am grateful he was willing to share with me and this interaction reinforced my profound respect for ESL students, as well as students who are navigating a foreign culture on top of school.

For myself, this interaction connected with the “Communication” Core Competency. The learning was elevated for both myself and the student through our conversation and discussion. I do not believe the same level of learning could have been reached if it was not for our verbal and interactive sharing of ideas. By each of us making the effort to describe the intended feelings behind the words used in the story we were able to better understand each other and assess the short story at a deeper level. Through communication we were able to better understand the story and start to build a relationship.

After speaking with Mr. Feser, he explained that as a teacher it is important to only assign this type of work when you are able to invest time and energy into each student. He emphasized the importance of honouring the student’s pride in their own work.