Nacho Benvenuty, Inconsolable

Amira is a 10 years old child. She is from Yemen and she is Muslim. Amira has a  hijab and she wears traditional Muslim clothes. In the classroom, Amira is very polite and she likes to stay on her own. Before eating, she prays in her language and she says that her friends make jokes with her. She gets angry very quickly when it comes to her family’s traditions. She lives in a big family, with 4 brothers and 3 sisters. her parents do not speak English and she translates them when her teacher wants to speak with them. Amira does not have a lot of friends and she is not open to talking with her teacher or even her parents.  She is an excellent student in Math but has difficulties in ELA class, because of her language barrier. she is open to learning and she never gives up, she does extra work to get good grades. During lunchtime, she stays alone and she likes to draw, and she loves to sing. 

Amira is the kind of child that does not react to comments, she stays silent all during the class. When it comes to math she is the only one that raises her hand to give an answer. her voice is very polite and it is hard sometimes to hear what she is saying. She sweats a lot and touches her fingers when she talks. One thing that Amira brings into the classroom is the cultural respect for each of the other students. She knows a lot about tradition and culture and she does not pretend that everyone to be the same as her.  She respects other students’ religions more than others do for her and she brings a gift for her peer’s holidays. 

English is her second language and this experience creates difficulties for her to achieve good grades and understand work in literacy. Her parents do not speak English and she needs to ask for help so she can be able to do her assignment.  Describing a student is not easy, as a teacher we need to investigate and observe all the components revisit in the descriptive child protocol. Based on that, as teachers, we need to collaborate with each other and see the best way for our students to achieve learning success. 

Credit for Featured Image: Photo by Nacho Benvenuty on Flickr “Inconsolable” Taken on December 28, 2007 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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August 20, 2021 1:12 am

Dear Laura:

I really loved the way that you introduced Amira with the title one of our children. It really shows how much you care about your students and that you’re very supportive as well. I really liked the paragraph where you broke down her family history and household arrangement. By mentioning that she comes from a large family that aren’t native English speakers, it explains the challenges that Amira has to face in the classroom daily. By the way you identified the triggers that make her angry, it shows that you took the time to learn about the student and also build a connection with them as well. In order to help students move forward, you have to know exactly where they’re coming from. The one thing I liked the most that you mentioned was the cultural respect that Amira brings to the classroom for her other classmates. I would like to thank you for writing about this topic because it was very touching to learn about Amira. I’m looking forward to reading what you write about next because I would certainly like to know more about how other students bring cultural respect to the classroom similar to the way Amira did.

August 18, 2021 8:12 pm

Dear Laura:
I was really touched by your description of Amira in your post “Amira, One of Our Students” because you painted a very compelling picture of a sensitive child. I am sad that Amira seems to give so much more respect for others than she receives from her peers. Reading your review I felt that Amira had someone who could understand and be an ally for her.

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “She is an excellent student in Math but has difficulties in ELA class, because of her language barrier.” I think this is interesting because it shows how Math can be an equalizer for some students for whom language is a barrier. I am wondering how long she has been in the US and what her exposure to English has been like. I am also curious if her difficulties with English are primarily receptive or expressive. I’m wondering if there is some way to use her love of drawing as a bridge to literacy activities. For example, might it be possible to look for what she understands in a reading by asking her to draw the story or a sequence of events? Similarly, might she be able to draw initial ideas for her writing so that someone might help her with the vocabulary. I am also wondering if there are any English-speaking Arab or Muslim students in the school who could be a helpful peer for her.
Another sentence that moved me was: “One thing that Amira brings into the classroom is the cultural respect for each of the other students..” This stood out for me because it shows an attitude that we would like to foster in all our students. I am wondering if there is a way to bring attention to this and use it to create classroom discussions about different cultures and traditions.

Have you seen this video of a teacher using a flags activity to explore the cultural backgrounds and diversity in her classroom? I thought you might be interested because it could be adapted for an older class to help foster more inclusion.
Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because I am curious about Amira and how she will progress through school.

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