Written by Lorna Seadore, NELA Teacher
It all started with what I thought was a simple lesson about encouragement. How can we use our words to build others up? I asked students to write a note of encouragement to someone in their life. Some chose a sibling, a teacher, etc. One student wanted to write to their mom and dad, so asked if they could have two papers. I happily obliged!
Up until this point, one of my 2nd graders has been a reluctant writer. They often need a lot of encouragement and support during the writing process. We worked on the first sentence to their dad, which was, “I like playing with you.” I left the desk and made my rounds around the classroom assisting other students. When I returned to this student, they had written, “te amo papa”. I have never seen them write in Spanish! I expressed how proud I was of them for writing without help. After helping other students, I returned to their desk again. The student completed three additional sentences to their mom, all in Spanish. I asked if they could explain what they wrote, and it was a sweet note thanking their mom for helping them read and for a good life. I asked the student if they had learned to read and write in Spanish at their previous school. They replied yes, the student’s mother wanted them to learn both. When first grade started last year, they were the only student who still didn’t know how to read and write. Every day was very hard, but mom supported and encouraged them. Now it was their turn to encourage mom by telling her how much she meant to them.
This was a breakthrough moment; one that allowed me to know my student more deeply. Knowing that they are a fantastic writer in Spanish changes my outlook on how to support their growth in English. Their mom has already instilled hope of perseverance and learning. I knew that my student and their mom shared a special and loving relationship but had no idea how much she has done to support and encourage their education. I thought I was teaching my students about the power of encouragement, but instead I learned something about its power from this special child and their mom.