Methodology encourages students to practice language skills and life principles
Once an ELL student herself, Cynthia Valdez knows how vital it is to build positive relationships between students and teachers. When she began her position as a kindergarten bilingual teacher, she had the desire to develop the same supportive learning environment she had experienced as a student.
In the summer of 2008, Cynthia began Great Expectations training. The program gave her the tools to ensure every student receives the affirmation and support they need to be confident in the classroom.
“Great Expectations encompasses everything that a great teacher should do,” said Cynthia. “The training provides a specific guide to create an inviting atmosphere where students are never judged by who they are or how they learn.”
The Great Expectations mandate at Roth Elementary School has made Cynthia’s ELL students comfortable with learning and growing from mistakes.
“You Should” and “You Can”
The Great Expectations training focuses on goals and possibilities, rather than limitations. This is one of the reasons that Great Expectations works so well in Cynthia’s classroom.
“Rules often use negative language such as ‘don’t,’ but the Eight Expectations tell students they should and they can,” said Cynthia. “This is incredibly important in a bilingual classroom.”
The first of the Eight Expectations for Living states, “We will value one another as unique and special individuals.” This expectation is especially applicable to Cynthia’s classroom as her ELL students realize differences in learning from their monolingual peers. Cynthia regularly reminds her students they have equal opportunities to learn and should value their unique backgrounds.
“My students know that I’m there to guide their transition from language to language,” said Cynthia. “Maintaining positive attitudes in the classroom makes a powerful difference in how they approach learning.”
Building language skills is a top priority in Cynthia’s classroom. In addition to giving students the tools to build self-confidence, Great Expectations sets standards that help students practice language.
“One of the 17 Great Expectations practices is to speak in complete sentences and address each other by name,” said Cynthia. “This requirement really helps my students improve their language and conversation skills.”
The combination of character development and academic rigor leads to success in Cynthia’s bilingual classroom.
“I know what it’s like to be fearful of saying the wrong word when translating from Spanish to English as well as from English to Spanish,” said Cynthia. “Because of Great Expectations, my classroom is a safe zone where students aren’t afraid to express themselves, even if they don’t know exactly what to say.”