Leaning in to learn and to understand
I'm learner at heart. Exploring and seeking understanding are for me a never-ending journey And that's why conferring with students might be the most powerful moments in my teaching day. It's in those short minutes with a child, that I get to do one of my favorites things: lean in and listen. I don't know where to take the child next, if I don't listen. I don't what she or he may need to move forward if I don't understand where she/he is at right now. And for me all this magic, happens right at conferring: the time you get to lean in to learn and understand.
Maybe one of the most challenging things about conferring is when an English language learner is still in that pre functional phase. That is, they have recently arrived and their vocabulary hasn't grown YET. Their words might include a shy, "hi" "how are you?" "I'm fine. thank you". Oh boy. I feel you my friends. Sweat running on my back while I am thinking, "how, how on earth will I understand this child? How will this child understand my words?" But here's is what it comes down to and I still remind myself of this every time: a smile is an universal language. That is one expression any person can understand regarding where they are from. And as cheesy as that may sound, it's true. What matters the most to this newcomer is that we just pulled our chair next to her/him, acknowledge their presence in our classroom and smile gently at them. The next words that come out of our mouths may sound like that episode of Charlie Brown. Blah. Blah. Blah. But to this child, that's not what she/he hears. What this learner sees is someone that cares about them. Someone that notices them. Someone that acknowledges them.
I'll eventually share my non-negotiable teaching practices when working with English language learners but conferring is definitely in the list.
Let's pull that chair next to them. Lean in. Listen. Smile. And repeat.