May. 29th, 2008 02:00 am
tobu_ishi: (Default)
[personal profile] tobu_ishi
In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn...
-Disney's Tarzan

So, the sixth graders I taught in elementary school this winter have become first years at Uryu Middle. They've been making my professional life a little better, every day I spend with them; they see me as a real teacher, someone to greet and joke with and look up to and ask questions unsolicited, and when I'm leading an activity alone in class, the way Mr. Onodera usually leaves me to do? They're awake, alert, listening, engaged, wondering if next I'll put on a paper pirate hat or start a shouting chant of a grammatical point.

It feels wonderful. And I know Mr. Onodera has been a bit skeptical of my methods, my obsession with activities and personalized simple dialogues and stubbornly deviating from the textbook readings. He's a traditionalist; he believes strongly in the prescribed texts and lessons. But he's been giving me more leeway lately, especially with the first years, and today?

Today, I experienced something very much like a triumph.

Mr. Onodera and I have so far, in class, covered a number of the same things I studied with my sixth graders last winter. I had the idea back in January of running them through a cobbled-together two-month prep course for middle school English, after seeing the way last year's kids struggled with basic grammatical constructs like "THIS IS AN APPLE". We uncovered the bones of a few simple, common sentence structures and looked at the why and how, as well as running through greetings and doing a few quick touches on particles.

In the last few weeks, I've had the satisfaction of watching many my first years display equal or better comprehension on their sentence-order worksheets than the second years. Granted, their work is easier, but they tackle it more capably than I'd even hoped. This is mostly because they're a bunch of crackerjack-bright kids, but the language-teaching system in place here leaves them to fumble so blindly for the guidelines that I think it really helped to spell out a few, early on...

...anyway. They've done quite well so far, but I've not--until now--had any result I could clearly point to and say, "There. This happened because I did my best as a teacher. I have accomplished something."

Today, Mr. Onodera decided to skim over several grammar points, in a push towards constructing sentences outside of the "This is --", "That is --" mold we've been working with until now. Stepping up to the blackboard, he wrote in bold letters,

A vs. AN

Then he turned to the class and asked, rhetorically, "So, what's the difference?"

A ripple of excited whispers ran through the classroom. Audible within it were at least five or six kids piping up in a tangled little chorus, nudging their friends, not quite volunteering. "They're the same...right?" I won't lie; my heart leapt up in my throat with hope. Mr. Onodera had time to register surprise, and then one boy raised his hand. Ryutaro.

"Well," he said, confidently, "they mean the same thing, but A comes before words that begin in a consonant, and AN comes before words that begin with a vowel. It means something like 'one' of something."

Mr. Onodera was flabbergasted, and dawning on a bit of confused pleasure. "Huh...I haven't taught you that yet," he said, looking around at our students, "but you sure know a lot about it, don't you?"

And the chorus swelled. "Ari taught us!" "We studied it last year!" "We learned it from Ari-sensei!"

Four months. It has to have been at least four months since I stood in front of that class, pointing at colored paper cutouts stuck to the board with magnets, rotating them in and out of sentence structures, getting everyone to yell "A APPLE!" and "AN APPLE!" with me to better understand the awkwardness of the former and the way the latter rolls off the tongue. Four months, and now...this.

You know what? I have wonderful, amazing, brilliant kids.

You know what else? I think I'm really teaching them. :D
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


tobu_ishi: (Default)

December 2011

    12 3

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 03:09 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios