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“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” -Albus Dumbledore in HP7

I have just finished online training to be able to serve as a TELPAS (Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System) rater for my students this year. The purpose of this is to evaluate students identified as ‘limited English proficient’ with regard to their progress in the English language under four domains: listening, reading, speaking and writing.

At first, all this truly meant to me was that I had to give up an additional seven hours of my life to sit through online training. It also meant rearranging my lesson plans to fit in time to collect writing samples. *Ugh*

Passing the training required what is called calibration: I watched video samples of students speaking, and read writing samples. I then assigned each the rating I would give them based on a rubric. This quick process opened my eyes.

Looking through the samples, many of my own students came to mind. These listening skills, this speech, this writing – it’s just like my students’!

Of course it is. I’ve always known that English is newly the second language for many of my students; but, I realized after calibration that this is a fact I had lost to the depths of my mind. Somewhere along the way, through all the writing assignments and reading lessons and district tests, I forgot.

I forgot the reason why my students sometimes repeat the same line in a paper five times. I forgot that the reason some of them take a long time to answer what, to me, is a simple question is not because they have no idea or don’t feel like participating. Rather, it may very well be that they don’t have the right words to express themselves.

And for me – someone for whom words and speech and expression by pen are often the primary source of joy – there is nothing more horrible than being cut off from fluid communication.

Now of course not all of my students fall under this category; but now that my memory has been refreshed I vow to: have more patience, speak more slowly and use more visuals and gestures while still maintaining rigor in my classroom.

I am lucky that this week I will begin working with a group of our limited English proficiency students during our structured recess time, to help them develop their conversational skills!

Everyone has a voice and I often remind my students of the importance of being able to express themselves in this world. Now I can recommit to doing my part in ensuring they are always heard, and free from the limitations of language.

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