Looking at the strips of cloth on the makeshift table, planning which ones to use for the next piece of sky, I was reminded of the work I had been doing the years before. It occurred to me that setting up an early ESL program from scratch was simply another form of quilting – other material, but the same process of planning, thinking, and creating a unified work of art.
I recalled the first months of the program, when I first started designing plans and writing lessons, entirely in my element as a pioneer in the Dutch education system. There was no curriculum yet, no means of assessment, and no way of telling if I was even going the right direction. I had only my inner sense of direction and general plan of action.
For months, I made materials to fit the needs of this new program, procuring material “by hook or by crook”, judging its fit to the need based on color, texture, and pattern. Cutting where needed, pinning and sewing, fitting line to line, watching the picture grow under the needle of my sewing machine, just as the ESL program developed in my hands, step by step.
Curricula developed as time went on, as did assessments, records and reports. The development of child portfolios was an ongoing process that took years to refine, along with the means to record each child’s progress. Group plans and cycles of action grew before me, and now I look back and realize that the quilt of early ESL at my school is nearing its completion.
Of course, it wasn’t always easy! Many are the days I felt alone, lost in the fog of the unknown. Others, I was inspired in inventing the wheel of early ESL at this Dutch grade school. And other times I sat on the couch at the end of the day, uncertain of my work and wondering if what I was doing was ever going to be good enough.
Sewing down the edges of the quilt and spreading it out for the world to see, I note details in texture that are unique to the program I built. I see how it fits seamlessly into the school’s Dalton vision and extra-curricular program, and I am pleased. I also see where I learned the hard way, and feel the years of experience flowing through my veins. In the blogs to follow, I look forward to sharing this process with other teachers, in the hope that they will be able to profit from my work and find inspiration for their own.