Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My smile for the day

at Two Writing Teachers!
I grinned as I passed her in the hallway this morning: bright scarf spiraling around her neck out of the depths of a huge fleece. What does she think of Ohio? She's probably wondering if she's moved to the North Pole!  Wisps of wavy hair framing a placid half-smile, she clutched her stack of books books and calmly navigated the sea of students. Oh good, looks like she knows where she's going!

In just over a week, that's a pretty significant accomplishment. She's learned to navigate the lunch line and open her locker. In addition to all the usual cultural and linguistic challenges my new students face, her schooling in El Salvador was interrupted. Other than a month and a half in Texas when she first entered the U.S., she hadn't been in school since 6th grade... and she's 16! Our school must seem like a new planet to her!   

Once nervous about even approaching the computers, she can now log herself in and open the Internet browser.  With just a little wrestling with the mouse, she can scroll down my webpage and click on the correct button to access our district's Rosetta Stone practice site.

Last week, she was so shy around adults that I could barely get two words out of her, even in Spanish. Although she smiled and chatted with several of my sweet Spanish-speaking girls who took her under their wing, she'd hunch over and avoid eye contact whenever I tried to check in with her. What if she didn't like me? Did she think my Spanish was bad? To my relief, one of my colleagues mentioned that it had been nearly impossible for him to get any information from her when she enrolled, and pointed out that a soft blush filled her cheeks whenever any adult spoke to her.

Yesterday, she looked up at me when I came over to her seat, and I finally got to see her slow, sweet smile creep across her face for me. She's started to ask me a few tentative questions in Spanish, and she's not quite so hesitant to admit she needs help. This afternoon, as she ran out the door with her friends, she even exclaimed "Bye Mr... Mrs. Mitchell!" with twinkling eyes.

After school, the Spanish teacher across the hallway stuck her head into my classroom.
"I just wanted you to know that you're E.'s favorite teacher!"
"I am?"
"That's what she told me during her speaking assessment. There's your smile for the day!"


  1. I bet you are still smiling! What a breakthrough for both of you.

  2. There is something special about you! Of course you'd be her favorite!
    I just found out that I am getting a Spanish speaking high school student in a few days (or tomorrow). Any tips? (I haven't had a secondary Spanish speaker in over 10 years!)

    1. aw, thanks Jaana! That's so funny to me -- Spanish-speakers are my biggest group! We can tweet and email about your new student. :-)

  3. What a strange new world she has stepped into, but you are the shining light for this girl. So much progress in such a short amount of time.

  4. And your smile for tomorrow and the day after as well. You do make a difference in your students lives, and you made a difference in E's life. Now I am smiling too. :)

  5. I just cannot imagine what she is thinking/going through. How brave she is, Jen. And now she's learning she can count on you, and that's a huge step. Only a week-sounds miraculous to me. Terrific smile for you!


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