At freshman orientation I chose a specialization for my elementary education degree plan: English as a Second Language. 

Here’s what I knew: You don't have to be bilingual because ESL teachers help students whose first language is not English to learn English.

Well, that sounds challenging and interesting. Count me in!

My first, very empty, new classroom.

My first, very empty, new classroom.

Fast forward to the end of my college career. I read countless books, learned lots of theory, wrote many papers, conducted many observations and finally completed my full year of student teaching. I was now a certified EC-6 English as a Second Language teacher. 

Yet, this preparation cannot fully prepare you for the reality of welcoming a new student who knows no English from a foreign country in your classroom in January. 

This happened yesterday. 

I can only imagine what she was thinking in her first 8 hours in our classroom.
- Why are these other kids so friendly?
- Why does my teacher get so excited about the smallest of things?
- Doesn’t she understand that I don’t know English? 
- Why does she keep smiling at me and making funny hand gestures?
- What in the world is that insanely terrifying bell going off at 1pm? [ spoiler alert: it was the perfect day for a fire drill]

Although yesterday was Day 1, I know that by the end of the school year she will be speaking English with her peers in the classroom and playing loudly on the playground. She’ll be telling stories of her home and bringing home A’s on her spelling tests. I know this will happen because I’ve seen it before.

It makes me smile when I think of two other students in our classroom who have had similar experiences. Both of these students have come an incredibly far way learning English, adapting socially, and flourishing academically in such a short period of time. It’s amazing how quickly children begin to grow in new situations. 

As I look forward to the next year of my life, I wonder how I’ll handle the change that comes. How do any of us really handle change? Do we sit quietly and observe our surroundings until we get our bearings? Do we dive in head first? I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. And that, to me, is so beautiful and worth every ounce of the “new.”