Thursday, March 10, 2011

Use Passion and Stories to Persuade! - The First Day of Teaching

I'm in the midst of preparing my presentation for the International Reading Association and for the ESL in-service of the Pittsburgh Public School next month, and coincidentally came across this article, "Use Passion and Stories to Persuade!" eloquently written by Maureen Murray for the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Speaker's Association.

My topic? Teacher Collaboration between ESL and General Education Teachers.
Method of Delivery? A powerpoint presentation and handouts.
The story?
Ah, the story.

I believe my writing for this blogsite is all part of my life story. And it is the power of this particular story that I am going to share with you, dear readers, that will have the power to serve me on both professional and personal levels.

I took Ms. Murray's advice and decided to go ahead and describe the story in detail, that will be the avenue for touching peoples' hearts during these two presentations, which is what every good presentation should do.


Beginning my first day teaching a third grade class of twenty one learners of English as a foreign language, (EFL) I follow the homeroom teacher to the last classroom down the hall.

I had just been employed to teach at a small school in a small development town of mainly Morrocan Jews known as "Beit-Shean" in the North of Israel.

I tightly hold my papers organized in a zip compressed file highlighting the important things I would need to do in that first lesson. The students watch me as I unclip the names board.

The homeroom teacher exits the room leaving me with twenty one students reported to be now in their second year of learning English. Parents have already expressed a great deal of worry and concern afraid that their children will have to close a two year learning gap of sounds and letters as they only acquired basic sound decoding basis in Israel.

I planned lessons that focus specifically on introducing and reviewing not only phonetic sound families but vocabulary development.

The children look at me like I come from Planet "Tutti-Fruiti," and I hope that I won't come across as an American who usually speaks Hebrew like a cow chewing her cud.

But then I think, "Hey, I'm supposed to teach English, not Hebrew. What am I thinking?"

Osher, a student in front, asks in Hebrew, "Are you our new teacher?"
I nod.
"Perhaps you'll stay. The other teacher left because we are the idiots. The stupid ones."

I look at the door and for a few seconds, I hope the homeroom teacher will come back and ask, "Is everything OK?"

But she doesn't come back and I'm now on my own after a few years of teacher college. I will very quickly learn that nothing had prepared me to take control of this cultural classroom.

For the rest of the year, I spend every lesson alone with the children. Nobody opens the door. Nobody knows what goes on beyond the walls. Nobody knows how much English the students had retained and acquired. The parents are relieved because FINALLY, their students have an EFL teacher. (English as a foreign language)


More to come.

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