“Sometimes, I wonder how beneficial our friendly conversation is. We always finish the class work that we need to, but, every so often, the topics of learning prompt unexpected and sometimes rambling conversation--a discussion about home life, the analysis of a meme found online, or the sharing of miscellaneous recipes.
Because I don’t often see my learners outside of our bi-weekly classes, it’s hard for me to gauge how their conversational skills have improved in settings such as work and school--do our conversations about life provide them with the vocabulary and learning opportunities needed to help them external to class?
One week, as I was meandering up the staircase to my classroom, this question was answered for me in the form of one of Cesar E. Chavez’s elementary teacher. She introduced herself to me, apologizing for the fact that she had not done so before. She asked about my schedule, about the concepts that I was teaching, and asked if I was enjoying my job.
As our conversation was winding down and I began to resume my journey to my classroom, I heard the teacher say, ‘Can I just share one more thing? I just wanted to let you know that I’ve seen such big improvements in the conversation skills of your learners. When they come to help with parent events, I’m able to ask them how their days are, and hear about how they and their children are doing. It’s been so good to get to know more about them while having conversation with them in English, and I just wanted to say thank you.’
My heart was made so full by this admission--not because it revealed to me what I had accomplished, but because it revealed to me the accomplishments of my learners. To know that the content they had learned in class was relevant, and that the conversations we had had were helpful to them, gave me peace of mind. When instructing in the classroom, one of my main goals is to prepare learners with content that is not only relevant to them, but empowers them and gives them pride in their ability to communicate. To know that such empowerment is occurring among my learners to the extent that they are confident in using their skills outside of class gives me great joy.”