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  • Writer's pictureGeorgia O'Keefe

From ESL Student to Successful Educator: a Conversation with Bilingual Teacher Andrea

"I teach, what's your superpower?" This is a phrase that many of us have heard, or have maybe even seen on teacher-themed decor or a gift one of our students gives us during the holidays. When you hear it so often, it loses its meaning-- but on today's episode, Georgia and Christine are talking to Andrea, who seems to embody the phrase all on her own.Andrea, a bilingual Pre-K teacher, joins the conversation with Christine and Georgia about her history in education and how her personal experiences have shaped her career (as many of us can relate). This episode brings up topics ranging from the ESL classroom, Sunday School, and how to balance it all while being a busy mom.

Christine 0:03

Welcome to Making the Grade an education podcast for current and former teachers to share notes to find success and assess their own happiness in the classroom and beyond. Were your hosts Christine and Georgia.

Georgia 0:16

The problems in education may seem endless, but so are the possibilities. Listen, laughed and leave our episodes empowered to define your own success as an educator and an individual.

Georgia 0:33

Hello fellow educators and welcome to Making the Grade podcast we are your hosts proceed in Georgia and we are so excited that you're tuning in to share your teacher voice. Today we will be talking with our guests Andrea, a bilingual pre K teacher. We're going to chat with her about hidden expectations teachers encounter sharing motherhood and your personal life with your students and the power of asking for help.

Christine 1 0:55

Teachers have you ever thought of yourself as not just a teacher by mom, therapist, mediator, nurse, you name it, you feel like nothing could have prepared you for all of our teaching really entails? No I did. What it really takes every day to not only help your students succeed, but also what it takes to keep track of the mounting to do list. You're not alone. We have a feeling this conversation with Andrea today will leave you feeling validated and inspired as a teacher, mom and an individual.

Georgia 1:30

Thank you so much for being with us today. Andrea.

Andrea 1:33

I am so excited to be here with you guys. I'm very passionate about teaching and motherhood. So definitely looking forward to our conversation today.

Georgia 1:42

Yay. So for those who don't know, I used to teach with Andrea is one of my most favorite people and she's an excellent teacher. A little background on her. She's a mom of two. She's a Sunday school teacher and a pre K teacher. Currently, she's teaching a group of bilingual four and five year olds, she excels at creating classroom environments that promote learning peace, equity, and she also does such an amazing job repairing beautiful and engaging art projects for her young learners. It was such a pleasure to teach alongside Andrea and it's such a joy to see how wonderful she is with her kids, both her students and her own kids at home. So Andrea, before we get into your life as a teacher, and as a mom, we always like to do this fun segment with our guests where we do some this or that questions. Are you ready for that?

Andrea 2:34

I am

Christine 1 2:37

Alright, so as a fellow mom, I wanted to ask you a mom relate in one would you rather do early morning? Wake up morning routine every day? Or would you rather do the bedtime potential night wake up routine every day? That's funny. You probably you might do both. But yeah,

Andrea 3 3:00

that's what I say I actually so I actually do the night routine. I am a night owl so I will 100% Do the night routine. I already do it and I am not a morning person. So

Christine 1 3:12

I feel like I kind of remember that that you actually yeah. Which is interesting being a teacher right because teachers are like synonymous typically with early morning, right? It is

Andrea 3:23

yeah, no. And like Timo also struggles in the morning especially right now he's going through a stage where like separation anxiety is like crazy right now for some reason and like it died down for a little bit and now it's like picking up so the mornings are just terrifying for me like when I wake him up I'm just like Don't cry Don't cry Don't cry. He's tired like you fall straight asleep so night times are much more smoother than like morning routines Believe it or

Christine 1 3:49

not well I'm really glad that you got the nighttime then it's opposite in my house I yeah, I'm I've been a morning person forever I still am and yeah, I love morning routine but yeah, nighttime ended day my boys are like not having a nice trade off. Awesome. All right. I'm curious. I don't know anything about what you like in music would you rather in the car listen to hip hop or country country content.

Andrea 3 4:24

You know what it depends on like the mood the day of like, if I you know, feeling a little hip hop Sure, but for the most part like my go to is country. Yeah, that's so fast like

Christine 4:35


Georgia 4:36

Yeah. And I remember I was at Andrea's wedding and her heard song that she danced with her husband was one of my favorite country songs so

Christine 4:45

yeah yeah.

Andrea 4:50

That my husband to like country so now he like bottles or the dishes like there's some country playing so

Georgia 4:59

you can very Did him. I felt like I kind of did that with my fiance too. Like he was kind of countries, okay. And now he knows that like, it's the go to when I'm driving. That's what I want to listen to all. So

Andrea 5:13

I actually I used to watch the voice all the time with Blake Shelton and he I started listening to country because of him because I loved him. And so I like cities. And then I just started listening to country. So yeah, thanks.

Christine 5:26

I'll listen to it in the car with Georgia, but I don't know anything outside of what's cool so

Georgia 5:39

So let's do a teacher this or that. And fun fact, for the audience right now, Andre is actually recording from her classroom, which I think is pretty special. Her kids had a half day they're not there right now. But it made me think of you technically have extra pep prep time right now because the kids left early. So my question for you is, would you rather have your prep period in the beginning of the day before the kids get there? Or at the end of the day, like, right before they go home? Oh, at

Andrea 6:06

the beginning of the day? Yeah. Because then you kind of know how, you know, at the end of the day, after spending the whole day with um, you're just so tired, you kind of just want to go home and like, alright, yeah, you don't want to prep. So yeah, no, I think at the beginning, I'm like, even though I'm not a morning person, I get to school pretty early, like at 7:20am already here, and the kids don't get here till 815. So I tried to prep as much as I can in the morning. So for sure morning, calm.

Georgia 6:32

Okay, that makes sense. And when we were when we were teaching together, we had our prep at the end of the day, which it worked for us, but like I totally get what you're saying. I think there's pros and cons to both probably. Cool. Well, thanks for answering that was fun. Well, we'd love to hear a little bit about why you became a teacher a little bit on your background and more about what you're doing right now.

Andrea 6:57

Sure, yeah. So. So ya know, when I was when you guys asked me this question, like, oh, you know, tell us why you became a teacher. I went back to the very beginning. So I thought about, like, my experience. So I came to the US when I was five years old. And I remember that. We were really like Lucky don't Buddha's where we were in a classroom of bilingual classes. So we learned a little bit of English over there. But once we arrived here, like it's nothing like how it was over there, like you thought you knew English over there, but you get home, you're like, wait a minute, no, I did not learn as much as I needed to. So I remember like being in like, ESL classes for I want to say first to third grade, and everything I learned about English, I'd go home to my parents and teach them. They came obviously as adults, so they didn't know any English. And so I taught them. vowel sounds. I taught them like how to like diagraphs, like, all these different things that you learn in, you know, learn about the English language. I taught them at home. So I remember like sitting them down in the living room, like pulling out, I don't know, like a whiteboard. And like showing them and like, teacher. Yeah, yeah. And I remember even just like the other day, I had texted Mom, I'm like, Mom, can you like clarify? Like, can you? Did this really happen? Or am I just making this up? No. You sit us down and teach us? Oh, my gosh. So that happened when I was like little. And then when I got to high school, I was in a Scholars Program. So shout out to love you. This callers are the best. They taught us about like, how to go to college, like the whole process. And we used to do these like career tests. Have you guys ever done them? Ever? Yeah, I

Christine 8:49

feel like I've done something like that in the past Crusher. Yeah.

Andrea 8:53

No online since as you see like, how would you be good on your own dog? Like, take this quiz? And so it will kind

Georgia 9:02

of dog would you be? Oh, there you go. Yeah.

Andrea 9:06

It was some of those but like career ones, and they were probably more serious. I'm like the ones you take online. But I remember doing those and I'd always get teaching. So, so that was really cool to see that I'm like, okay, so I see I'm supposed to be a teacher. But I think what like solidified that thought for me was in that program, they asked us to do a family tree. And they were like, go back a couple generations and see what their careers were. So I knew like my dad was a teacher. I already knew that. But then just going back a couple generations. Like I realized I had a bunch of teachers in my family. Yeah. And then my mom to like, I didn't realize it while I was doing the family tree. I was like, Yeah, my dad's teacher and she goes, Yeah, I used to be a teacher too. And I'm like what she was, was a Spanish teacher. So she hated it. She didn't like it. More of an artsy person. So she was like, I would have been an art teacher. But it was interesting to see like, how many teacher roles popped up in my family. So I felt like I had it in me it was in my blood that I didn't know to be a teacher, for sure. That's incredible. I

Christine 10:16

love how, even from the start, like how you were explaining, it kind of started for you with school. So it's like reciprocal, almost you were the student. And then you went home and taught your family and then school asked you later, would you, you know, do this project and and talk to your family about it. And then it brought you back again to your family. And then it just it's, it's really cool. I love that. Yeah, I didn't think of it like that. Yeah, it's just in the end. You know that hopefully, that's the point that we all end up doing that with our students, you can only hope that like they take those things outside of the classroom. But it sounds like you really did. That's really something that I'm really curious to hear your answers on. And like your feedback on is teaching little ones. So we're both moms have two young, amazing children. And it's not easy, obviously. But I feel like you make it look effortless in a way like how you are able to balance being with your family, and then also going in and teaching grade that has kids that are really similar to your children's ages. So I guess how would you speak more to that? Yeah, no, I,

Andrea 11:32

it's so funny. I don't think I hope I don't make it look easy. I know that I do when I like postings on social media, because, right, you only show like the good parts, like you showed up behaving and stuff. But I wish actually that I would share more like raw like real moments of motherhood because it is tough. It is crazy, crazy tough. It's not easy.

Christine 11:54

It's hard to do that though. I do the same. I know exactly what you mean. Because when you're posting you want to share like the happy moments. And I think that often because when I see other people posting, like, Oh, this is a real moment and motherhood like I share those with close friends, but I don't social media. So good.

Georgia 12:10

And I The other thing is to I feel like we generally generally take photos of the good stuff, right? Like you, that's when you're compelled to take a picture even put in your classroom at home, wherever you're like, Oh, this is such a cute photo opportunity. Let me snap a photo. So that's what you have in for sharing purposes. You're not necessarily like it's a crazy, horrible moment. Let me take a quick selfie. You don't really think to do that. Really? So

Andrea 12:37

that's true. Yeah, that's true. But when you see like memes or real reels of bad moments happening, and you relate to them, You know what I mean? Yeah, thank you, because that's the reality of motherhood. Right? I wish I was that creative and had like, because, you know, if you post something bad, I feel like you'd have to explain it like what's happening, you know, the reason why a lot of us don't, but ya know, it's definitely no easy task. Like I motherhood has thrown me a curveball, like, I thought I was gonna be such a good mom, because of all the like strategies and like tools I have at my disposal, like for, you know, for being a teacher, and I thought I'd be able to use those with my kids. No, that is not the case at all, like going home. The last thing I want to do is wear my teacher hat. Like I want to go home and just be. And so, you know, like, sometimes especially too, I remember this one colleague I had when I first started teaching, she said, Andrea, when you go into a classroom, the first thing you want to do is be a teacher, and then you want to be their friend. Because the moment you go in and you become their friend first. It's going to be hard for them to see you as a teacher. And so I feel like that kind of relates to being a mom to like, our kids know us as moms. Right? And so I think now like Tim was at an age where he's so no, he's independent. He's like pushing more boundaries. When I tried to teach him, he's like, yeah, right. No, you're my mom. What do you do? And you don't I mean, like this, like, he doesn't take me seriously. It's so different. Whereas my students, I present myself as a teacher first and then as they get to know me, they start to trust me more. And it's just like a different type of situation. And yeah, and just it's so different. Like in the classroom, there is consistency. There is like routines there is, you know, repetition but at home. It's not like that at home, you know, with Tim especially, I don't know, Christina, I think that with your son, it's different. But like, Tim was completely different than I am like,

Christine 14:56

I'm more similar. I feel that my son is is So he does what he wants. He's not. And I was very much. Pretty much rule follower so early.

Andrea 15:10

Yeah, yeah, I see some similarities sometimes. But for the most part, I would say that Tim was nothing like I am like, he is just, he's just like wild child. He's creative. He pushes boundaries he explores, I'm like, you know, etc. Where I'm more like, I have boundaries, I'm safe and my boundaries, I am happy. And so with him, I've had to learn to like to like that side of me to be like, Okay, no, like, today, we won't do our nighttime routine, like you kind of you took a nap earlier. So I can't you know what I mean? Like, you have to just sort of go with the flow and, and be okay with it. Even though it's so hard

Georgia 15:51

to do. It's hard for all of us being so plan oriented, like, when I am not a mom, but I was a teacher. And, you know, you gotta like you said, like, you might have an idea what you're gonna do, but at the end of the day, the kids also teach us and helping us be more flexible too, I think.

Andrea 16:13

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Like, even just, like you said, like we plan in the classroom. Even though things don't go as planned in the classroom, it sort of still stays the same, like, you know, you made your own Weekly curriculum. So you kind of do follow the same plan. It's not like that at home, like at home. It's just like, you know, so I think that the classroom for me at this point in my life has become some sort of safe zone where I'm like, Okay, I know what's gonna happen in the classroom. I know the activities. I know how my children are going to be throughout the day. But when I get home, I'm like, I don't know how Tim was gonna react. I don't know how he woke up today. Like, I don't know, if he's gonna be happy to see me. I don't know if he's gonna ignore me. No, it's

Christine 16:56

just, it's just a different thing every day. Yeah. Christina, I don't know if you feel like that, to know that. That makes perfect sense. I love how you were talking about how you're both different and how he teaches you. I think children are our best teachers, and they show us what we need in that way. And, you know, maybe it's that piece of her life where you come home, and he's like, you're not the teacher to me, mom. And I see that with, with my son too. Like he. He pushes limits and boundaries with us and what you were saying about being a teacher, you walk in as a teacher, you establish those routines early on the expression, like you got to be mean until Christmas, to get them to like you and follow your directions. Like I don't believe that necessarily. But you're you're right. 100% There's, there's something to be said about the structures that you expect in a classroom. Because he never does any of those things at school, like my son like he's an angel at school and then not like he's like this wild child. He can get wild with me. But he Yeah, I would never hear from doing those things in the classroom. So I love how you use. I love how you said that how it's it's separate in a way and looking at it in that way.

Andrea 18:08

Yeah, Timo doesn't go to school yet. So I'm hoping that that happens with me too, that when he enters school, they're like, Oh, he's he's lovely. Like, like you describe it.

Christine 1 18:18

You know, that will happen, though. Like that. Whenever you would have parent teacher conferences with your your kids. And you're like, yeah, they do this at school. And they're like, really, because at home, they run them up and at school, they sit down and they hold their pencil and write and you're like, yeah, do great. Like, I didn't know they could do that.

Andrea 18:40

Yeah, for sure.

Georgia 18:43

I feel like that was always the case with parent teacher conferences. It was always the opposite of whatever I told the parents, they were like, This is a different child that you're talking about. I'm so confused. Andrea, I remember when you and I would teach together. You were always it was always so important to you to kind of share your personal life with the students. And, you know, not every teacher likes doing that like sharing their personal life with their students. And I'm not in the class with you anymore. But I'm wondering if you still do like to bring that, you know, sharing your home life with your kids. And why do you think that it's important that that you share kind of who you are as a person with them outside of school? Yeah, no,

Andrea 19:27

that's a good question. Yeah, I think it's funny that you asked me if I'm still doing that I am, but not as much as I'd like to. Because I feel like now as a lead teacher, you're sort of you have so many other things that you have to do. Whereas when I was a para, it was more, you know, like, I had more freedom to speak about, you know, whatever it is, I wanted to share with that. But no, I do think it's important for students to know that their teacher is human to you know, she's not just this role that she plays in the classroom like she's, she's human too and she has a 21 I mentioned like, Yeah, my dad, they're like, like you have a dad? Like they Yeah. So I want to create an organic, real relationship with these little kids with these little humans and restricting them from my most special part of me. I think it's a little bit unfair because oftentimes in the classroom, we ask them like, oh, so what did you do at home? Or like, How's mom, How's dad, how's, what did you do this weekend, we always want to connect to their home life. So I don't think it's fair if we shut that part of our lives out for them. Because then they can't see our, our true selves in our whole part, like our whole selves. At home, I often speak about my students. So Timo and my nephews, they know about my students here. And it's funny, like, they'll say, oh, like, sometimes I'll bring stuff from like, toys, or manipulatives from school home, and they're like, oh, did you bring this from your job from your school? Or they'll ask for student, they'll be like, Oh, how's Excel? And so, and vice versa, like my students are asking about my kids at home. And, yeah, these two parts of me coexist in my world. And so I like to connect them both together so that they know, this is what represents me, this is who your teacher is. And now who are you like, how, you know, what is your world like?

Georgia 21:22

So? Yeah,

Andrea 21:24

I think it's only fair that teachers share. I mean, obviously, you don't have to go into detail or too deep. But I do think it's important for teachers to also open up and like, you know, their kids know about things that happened in their life, ya know,

Christine 21:38

it is so important. And I feel like it, it helps them to understand you or kind of like, relate to you a little better, or respond to you a little better, maybe. But sometimes it can be a scary, I don't know what, you know, what, what you can and can't talk about, or I think administration plays a big role in what people feel comfortable sharing too. So it's awesome that you do that. And I

Andrea 22:00

say the age too, because like, yeah, comfortable with pre K, I would not share these things with like older students. True, true.

Christine 22:08

I, it depends. Yeah,

Georgia 22:10

I think it's funny what you said about telling them about your dad, because I was still in the classroom last year, and I actually had my dad come to school, and read the kids book and do a little activity with them. And my students were just like, mind blown that this was my dad. And on a similar note, I had a photograph of myself and my fiance, and they asked me is that your dad? So they just they're curious about your personal life. And it's hard for them to kind of grasp at all, but I'm totally with you about how important it is to like, share whatever you're comfortable with sharing.

Andrea 22:44


Christine 22:45

With them. Yeah. I love that. When we were first talking about you coming on and chatting with us. Something that stuck out was you were talking about, like the hidden expectation, expectations of teachers. And you say a little bit more about that, or, I guess what you meant by it? Yeah,

Andrea 23:09

I actually think it's more it makes more sense to say hitting expectations for teachers, of teachers. Yeah, I just, you know, I think just teachers and moms. For me, teachers are like myriads of moms, like they teachers do so much in the classroom, they teach, they mentor, they love, they like connect, they have to read direct, etc. And there just seems to be a curriculum guide for everything like, like for math, or literacy, for reading for social emotional, how to connect back home, there's just so many books and so much stuff and resources that gets thrown at us. And it's funny because it gets thrown at us, like in a very soft way, like, oh, so this is all to help you. But here's like a million books that you read. And then like when we get assessed or observed, they're like, by the way, Oh, no. So you know, in like, the PDS, whatever, like you remember, you don't have to do all this, you know, your classroom. But then when we have like, documents, they're like, by the way, did you do all that? And it's like, no, I thought, you know, I think those are like the hitting expectations I'm talking about where they give you so much stuff that you have to accomplish, but they do it so softly or like or maybe or maybe it's, I'll speak in I statements or maybe it's because I'm a perfectionist, I feel like I have to live up to those things that they give us and when I don't, or when I'm not doing it at the correct time that they suggest. I feel like I'm falling behind on my teaching. And so, you know, I set these like, again, hitting expectations where I'm like, Alright, by this time, I need to be doing this. I need to be doing that. And it's not realistic. It's not realistic. It is not enough time to teach and to like actually let it sit. You know? Yeah, it's just kids are not sitting with what they're Learning about because it just we go through it so quickly. I don't know if that makes sense.

Christine 25:05

No, it definitely does. I, we were talking to a guest recently, when and they were echoing the same exact thing that students need more time teachers need more time. And it sounds like kind of what you were saying too, is just the content is just so immense sometimes to get through. And that's why we don't have enough time to get through all the standards or whatever it is that we need for, for testing. And, yeah, it doesn't feel fair sometimes for teachers for that load. And then for students to be getting it. So rapidfire. And I remember you talking about even, you know, in your other teaching role in Sunday school, how you were using, like four different stories throughout the month and one story each week, and then you realize you needed to shift to just one and it's so much more meaningful. Like, that's a perfect way to kind of speak to that, too.

Georgia 25:59

I think that that's so true. Like what you've been saying of, you know, we're told oh, it's okay. If you don't have time to get to this, it's okay. But at the same time, you do have to get to that. It's just, yeah, you're you're so right on that. On that note, is there anything that you think would make education better right now, perhaps, you know, something to come up with a solution for that issue with the hidden expectations for teachers or really anything? Anything you think that could be a small change to make a difference?

Andrea 26:35

Yeah, I think that if we just took our time learning about, you know, one topic at a time, I, I'm a school, Sunday school director at my church. And so I designed our curriculum, how it's going to look for, for the year and I used to come up with a theme. And then teachers had to find like different stories like Bible stories that related to that theme. So at one point, I remember like they were doing like four different stories in a period of a month. So like, that was so unrealistic, I realized that it wasn't about homage stories. So the students knew about but more about how much of a story they knew about especially like, after having my own kids, like join Bible School Sunday school, I mean, we'd ask them, like, Oh, what did you learn about and they couldn't remember it. Like, it wasn't sticking, you know, it just they couldn't remember it. And so I remember, like, you know, sitting down and being like, Alright, how can I make this better, like, we want them to really know and understand what they're learning about. And what I decided was, I'll, you know, still focus on a theme, but learn about one story at a time. And so even that seems a little bit too fast sometimes, but now we're doing one story a month, and so they're constantly hearing this story throughout the month. And they're, they're hearing it several times, and it's sticking with them. And they're they're learning it and relating it back to their lives at home. So it's, it's more, they're hearing it more often more detailed, more deeply. And it it's that's how I feel like the education field should be as well, you know, to focus on one area at a time. Like that, you know, less is more, pretty much and like, look back on some things and really focus on what are they what do they really need to do to have a successful life? So bad? Oh, true. Yeah, I

Georgia 28:27

think we all could do that better. It's down focus on one thing at a time. Absolutely. Yeah, for sure.

Christine 28:37

That makes sense. So, next question that I was thinking of, kind of as you were talking, would you say so like from the beginning of your career in teaching to now you know, as a pre K teacher is Sunday school teacher? What does success mean to you when you started? And versus now? How are you making the grade? Like from beginning to now is it different?

Andrea 29:07

It is so different. So different. I think success has changed. So much for me, like I you know, I mentioned this earlier earlier, but I am a big perfectionist. And so, to me, successful teaching was about getting students to do things correctly. So for example, when I was George's para I used to be in charge of like the arts and crafts area, and I used to do like a sample of the craft and have students do their own, but sometimes they'd make like minor differences and you know, then then mine they put like a hat backwards or whatever, and I'd have them be like, oh, you know, try again, like let's do it. Why don't you take that off? I'm trying. I feel so bad saying it out loud now, but that was how I thought teaching was supposed to be like teaching them right from wrong, right? Because you often hear that like you teach them right from wrong, but really like Do you have to teach them? Instead of teaching them right from wrong? It's like having them realize what right and wrong is. And you just guiding them through the process. I don't know if that makes sense. Like, instead of like, here's what it is, it's like, what do you, you know, like given them the option of knowing, like what to do. And so I used to be really focused on like, this is a correct way of doing it.

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