Some days you are lucky enough not even to have words to express the pride you feel in being a teacher and everything that entails. Today was one of those days.
I lobbied pretty hard this year to get my bilingual students integrated with a monolingual class this year. Luckily one of the teachers on my team who is far more wise and experienced than I amazingly and graciously opened her arms to our classroom and has been collaborating with me to make these kids feel included ever since.
We chose the subject area of social studies because we felt that it would leave lots of opportunities for collaborative projects and give the students with more background knowledge a chance to impart what they know. For the past month my children have been joining with their buddies to research and create a PowerPoint based on one of the original thirteen colonies. Throughout these meetings I have had the brief opportunity here and there to look around and see just how amazingly accepting this particular group of fifth graders have really been. Everywhere you looked you could find small people huddled together over a book or computer asking and sharing and TRULY working together.
Today was the culminating activity where my fantastic co-teacher popped popcorn, I brought the 100% juice, and our kids sat back to watch the final presentations. It takes all of my students (and all students in general) a certain amount of courage to stand up in front of a room of 40 people. But when I lost it (and I mean really lost it with tears and everything) was after my newcomer stood up after having lived only 3 months in the United States and delivered a presentation IN English under the encouragement of his partner. We clapped for the group but then I called out my students name and the students clapped again wildly while cheering their support at the amazingly brave accomplishment. Another of my students followed a few presentations later. He was new at the end of last year and has been in the United States for only 8 months. Even more, he spent his entire young life in an abusive family situation and has spent months in my class learning basic appropriate responses and classroom behavior. He stood up in front of everyone, struggled through every single word in English, and did not give up or get defeated once. My entire class stood up after his presentation in support of the difficulty that we had all just watched him face.