Students, teachers find common language

On the first day of school at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School, students and teachers worked together to find a common language.

In Mrs. Norton’s French I class, students filed into the classroom to find index cards numbered “un,” “deux,” “troix,” and so on up to 10. A note on the board directed students to sort themselves alphabetically by first name, and seat themselves in order.

Pairs of students worked together to figure out who was who, with some jumping in to take the lead, and others hanging back to watch and see what would happen. When the students were seated, Mrs. Norton greeted them with a cheerful “Bonjour, mes amis!” and began to see how effectively the students had managed to organize themselves.

“It was hard because we don’t all know each other,” one student pointed out. “We’re not all in the same grade.”

“What could you have done differently?” the teacher asked, and her students chorused back, “Ask each other!”

“You’re going to find that this class is very different from other classes you might be taking,” Mrs. Norton explained to her students. “We do a lot of talking, and working together, because the best way to learn a new language is to practice it.”

And practice it they did. By the end of that period, each student had selected a new, French name, and learned how to introduce themselves in French — the first of many conversations still to come.

Next door, Mrs. Hernandez was walking her freshmen through “las reglas de la clase,” or the rules of the class — mostly in English, but with a little bit of Espanol thrown in.

“If you have a question, levante tus manos,” or raise your hands, Mrs. Hernandez urged. She reminded her students to show respect, demonstrate honesty, and come prepared — with no “chicle,” or chewing gum.

After filling out index cards with their contact information, the students went on to complete “Getting To Know You” surveys, where they answered questions about hobbies, interests and learning styles. The surveys, which students will complete in most classes, help teachers tailor their lessons to students’ needs and expectations.

The survey also asks students if they have access to the Internet at home so that teachers know if Google Classroom and other online tools will be available to students outside of the classroom.

After the survey, students filled out a “KWL” chart, reporting on what they “K”now, what they “W”ant to know, and what they have “L”earned.

While both students and teachers may at times find the repetition of these processes to be wearying, Mrs. Hernandez kept her students engaged, asking them what good movies they had seen over the winter, what sports they played and what they were looking forward to about her class.

And by the end of the day, students and teachers alike will be on their way toward finding a common language to carry them through the school year.