I teach 2nd grade, but we have a multi-grade combined literacy block that I teach from 9:30 – 11:00 Monday through Thursday. I have first graders, some of my own second graders and third graders.
It’s winding up the end of the year so we’re doing lots of different projects. I’ve never really been the type of teacher to talk over my students while they’re talking and usually at that age level they end up “shushing” each other if I’ve called for their attention and some still aren’t quite with us.
Anyway, so I think it was Monday, but I sat down to start having a discussion with them and there were a few who were still talking. I was in a pretty good mood, and I like when I can spend some time chit chatting about things other than just class, so we were speaking freely. I asked them what languages they thought in. Most of them answered English, with a few answering differently. I asked them what language they thought in when they were upset or were trying to get something across that they couldn’t express in English. They still were over 50% in agreement that they were thinking in English when upset and trying to express it. They said they would just keep trying in the English they did know until they could get across what they were trying to say.
Then, one of my more insightful and lower level English students said that he couldn’t speak in either Korean or in English when was sad, that it was just too hard in both languages.
Everyone, including myself, started nodding. That’s the language of which the heart speaks, too complex, too hard to translate most of the time. But that doesn’t stop us from learning to try.