When you begin teaching it becomes blatantly clear, if you already didn't guess this, that each student in your class has their own unique personalities, quirks, and charm. This is one of the many reasons educators continue to be motivated to teach amid the generally long, tiring hours and relatively low pay. Each student is a window into a new life that is emerging in the world.
When I began teaching in Korea, I was worried that these Korean kids would be hard to understand, or that our cultures might clash and many other unfounded concerns of a new teacher trying to grasp at the source of the nerves I was feeling. Would I be able to remember their names? Would I make a cultural mistake and upset the children or parents? Would I be talking to a wall all day because they don't understand me? Etc...
What I found was that these students were kids, just like kids anywhere. They laughed at funny faces, they cried when they fell down, they were curious about the world. When we talk about CLD students getting what they need from school, I believe, we could be talking about any child. A student that is learning a second language is a student learning, just like any other student. There are different approaches to teaching, but when we get down to it, we are teaching to children. Whether they are from a different culture, language, or just a different wavelength, each child needs to be paid attention to and given some effort to best meet their needs for learning. This is where differentiation comes in.
What I have learned in this class is akin to digging deeper into the hole I've been sitting in. Since day one, I have been attempting to meet my students half way. "How will they learn this information or idea?" is a question I have had constantly clanging around in my skull everyday, I just hadn't labeled it yet. Differentiation is the ability to appreciate the differences of each child and adjust the class accordingly to meet the needs of all the students in your class.
I have been trying before, but studying the different methods in this course has given me more of a Rosetta Stone for these methods than I had before. I am able to think about my methods more clearly and understand why they work and how they can be implemented in more depth. For example, I have been trying to teach my kids to think about their learning, but now that I have learned more about the Cognitive Method I can streamline and redesign my lessons to better suit the nature of my class and the kids by better understanding the basis of how the kids learn metacognition. This is still a growing process for me, but I can already see the seedlings beginning to reach for the sky in my lessons. As I internalize these ideas more and utilize them more and more I will become a stronger, more effective teacher. And, I hope, my students will benefit even more.
As I continue to adjust and find my way through the forest, I realize that that initial spark I saw in the eyes of the curious students on my first day is still twinkling in my eyes and leading me forever onward, always being cautious not to extinguish that spark of curiosity in my eye or the eyes of my students.