On Neighbors


As we approach graduation day (I won’t call it “moving up,” by the way. Let’s honor these children – this is one of the biggest accomplishments of their lives thus far), my students and their peers are practicing five songs.

I am the only teacher in my cluster of four who has both the knowledge (having done this last year) and gusto (being willing to sing in front of kids) to teach the songs to our students. So, today and yesterday, my students and I welcomed in our next-door neighbors so we could learn collaboratively.

It’s always an experience when these two classes join forces. I enjoy a tremendous rapport with the teacher next-door to me. We share similar educational values, concerns, and perspectives of fairness. So, we work very well together.

Her class is an amazing hodgepodge of new immigrants from a variety of countries. Early in the year, I would avoid walking in there, knowing I’d have trouble understanding them and they’d have similar troubles with me. We had a turning point, though, when they eagerly started telling me about some of the incredible things they were learning (read: American Sign Language) and wouldn’t allow me to go to lunch without them teaching me how to spell my name.

I was so taken by their excitement and willingness to share that I dropped all pretense and instantly anointed the class my favorite in the building (other than my own!) Since then, I’ve loved going in there. I call the room the United Nations because of all the languagues spoken. As the year has progressed, each student has grown immeasurably in their command of the English language and their confidence. With many of them, we’re to the point now where I no longer feel I have to slow…down…my…speech for their benefit. We can talk comfortably.

I’m so excited that our neighbors are going to be in the spotlight at graduation. Our assistant principal asked them to sing the official graduation song in sign language, and they’re going to. The last two days, my class and I were treated to watching them sign as we sang. It’s just incredible to see.

Today, as they were signing the song, I glanced up from the lyrics and noticed a handful of my students trying to do the same. Trying for the first time, they were a step behind, of course, but they were so intrigued that they spontaneously sought to sign along without frustration. I tapped my colleague and said, “Look! My kids are trying to sign it!” We were both tickled pink.

Being next door to this special group, I have witnessed their wonderful transformations from a unique perspective (the outsider who is a little bit on the inside). My kids have made their own strides, no doubt, and, in reflecting lately on some of the changes they’ve made in themselves from the start of the year, I’ve truly been surprised and happy. Our neighbors, though, have done their own sensational things, and being next to them has provided me unexpected, vicarious treats and thrills.

So, come graduation day, I’ll surely be cheering my students on nice and loud. But, make no mistake about it. I’ll keep some of that pride for my second favorite class, and I’ll be beaming right there with them as they receive recognition for all their outstanding achievements.

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2 responses to “On Neighbors

  1. It means so much to have a teacher like you notice students like mine and to pay them special tribute like this is something I will enjoy looking back on and reading in the future whenever they dance around on my last nerves 😉 thank you

  2. Pingback: Deaf Interpreter

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