The ninetyfirst åsic- To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about!

For two weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity to be among students and teachers at #Pitman Middle School in #New Jersey, #USA. I have been monitoring instruction in many different classes and seen many very good examples of teaching. My main focus has been ESL-teaching and I have seen examples of that both in primary schools and in adult classes of different kinds. Some of the adult students were part of a program for parents and were taught in classes with students from many different countries. They were preparing for a test and if they’d pass the test that would help them qualify for being American citizens. Other adults I met learned language for their own good, so to speak. They had different private reasons for taking the course and were taught in a smaller group within a local college. In every one of these differents setting and with every single teacher I have noticed high quality and a good knowledge both in what an ESL student needs and also teaching and instruction in general. When in class, I can see that many of the teachers have the same idea as I have, i.e to teach through themes or concepts rather than details. Today, since it is Halloween here, I have noticed that younger kids in primary schools here learn about the local legend #The New Jersey Devil. According to the legend he was the thirteenth child of a worn out woman who didn’t want her child. She cursed him and said ”to the devil with him!” and since then he is haunting #the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. The story is told this day since this is his birthday.

All teachers and students seem very into the idea of Halloween, even if not all schools celebrate with costumes and dresses. One of the classrooms I visited today, a classroom where Spanish is the main subject, focused on the differences between Halloween and the Mexican tradition for Dia de las Muertas  (the Day of  the Dead). The American kids get a chance to comment on what is similar or different when they compare these two holidays. The teacher help them along the way and try to get them to precise what they mean. She asks questions like ”How do you mean?”  ”What would you have thought if a loved one came back to life?” The point for the teacher is to explain that the Mexican Holiday is not at all scary or horrific, but rather a nice way of remembering your loved ones who passed away. The teacher then connects to the American people’s connections to the date 9/11 and the kids all get a chance to share the stories their parents have told them about 9/11. The idea is to show the kids that by remembering and talking about sad or scary memories, those memories get a little easier to talk about each time. Then she wraps it all up by saying THAT is what the Mexicans do when they celebrate THEIR holiday. They stick to the nice memories of a person and cherish those memories in a more happy manner, although they are dressed or disguised into skeletons etc. I was very happy to get the chance to see this lovely explanation of what the different festivities are all about. To help students understand and find connections is what teaching’s all about! I have written in Swedish about the importance of this in my tenth åsic and in my seventyeighth åsic. Those of you who read Swedish are of course welcome to read and for my English readers I plan to translate my blogposts gradually when I find time to do so.

Thank You and Farewell #Pitman Middle School

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