One year as a Pre-K teacher, the first day arrived and we had just begun our welcome back routine. We went outside at 10:30am as usual to let the kids get some fresh air, and shake out those adorable wiggles. My co-teachers, and I, had just introduced ourselves to the children, and of course, I told them, “My name is Miss Barb.”
When we were out on the playground, one child came running up to me and said, “Your name isn’t Miss Barb. It’s Miss Barbeque!” Then she ran off, giggling!!
I have to admit I didn’t like this new name at all so I nipped it in the bud as soon as I could. You know the whole “respect your elder thing.”
However, as I got to know her and learn her story the name grew on me. Her previous teachers shared that she, and her family, had just moved here from Korea in January. And that although she only spoke Korean at first, she had learned an incredible amount of English in eight months. She had become an amazing little sponge as she continued to pick up more and more English.
I also recall my co-worker working with her on Monday mornings, and sometimes asking her, “Are you speaking English?” (Silly me I just thought I didn’t understand her due to my hearing loss.) As her suspicion was confirmed she would remind her parents to use as much English with her as they could at home.
One Saturday morning I saw her again at my church when we hosted a fall festival. We enjoyed creating a craft together and it was obvious that her parents didn’t speak much English.
Later I learned that her dad had been coming to our church to learn English as an ESOL student, and I was impressed by his desire to work hard to learn the language. Ahhh … perhaps that was some added incentive for his daughter.
What strikes me about this story is that it illustrates that kids really can learn way more than they think they can, and that we think they can. When the expectations are high, but not too high, children CAN meet them when properly motivated. I think in this case, this little girl was highly motivated herself to interact with her peers and her teachers. And, oh my, did it pay off for her!
This also reminds me of a little boy I worked with this past year who was frustrated with his kindergarten teacher because she pushed him to practice and learn phonics. As the after care teacher I always had a fun book to read to the class, and maybe my influence helped as well. By Spring, his mom brought him to school one morning looking sheepish. She told us he might be tired and cranky because he had been awake late the night before … R-E-A-D-I-N-G!!!!! Hallelujah! This boy who didn’t think he could read was reading voluntarily and for his own pleasure! By the end of the year he was reading Captain Underpants books and thoroughly enjoying the humor.
I realize there are many children who struggle with reading, and this is an exceptional story, but if children can learn all the names of their favorite Superheroes and all the Pokemon, I do think they can be pushed just a little more with academics in school and at home.
You can bet the stories of these two children have stayed with me ever since. They warm my heart but more importantly they inspire me to reach for my goals.
And, yes, my girlfriends still call me Miss Barbeque!