I recently had a health issue that required appointments with doctor, after doctor, after doctor. I found myself in a familiar predicament, that of being an English Language Learner. This time though, they were speaking English. Doctors would share information, and I would nod my head. When I would get home my husband would ask me, â€śSo, what did the doctor say?â€ť I would respond with â€śWell, I think he saidâ€¦.â€ť I am fortunate enough that my husband is a nurse and after that initial experience, went with me to every appointment.
This experience made me realize several things. First, not knowing exactly what the doctor was saying made me feel dumb. Even though I got the gist of what the doctor was saying, once I left his office, I couldnâ€™t retell what the doctor said. This is what happens to our ELL students in class. If students donâ€™t have time to take notes and process the information, they will not be able to recall. I should have made maps to take notes and I would have had success in sharing the information with my husband.
Second, once my husband explained it to me in lay terms, I knew what questions I should have asked but it was too late. This reminds me of when I would call friends when I was in school to ask them questions. Â Sometimes these friends were ELL themselves and in the same boat as me. Again, students need the opportunity to process, discuss, and clarify before leaving the classroom so that they can move their own learning forward.
Finally, after being told I need surgery, the nurse started giving me instructions. My mind was going 60mph wondering about work, insurance, and needles. We know that the brain focuses on emotion first. Well, after the second step, I was lost. Of course, I was not going to ask, â€śWould you repeat it again?â€ť She did give me a sheet with the instructions, but there was so much text on it that I got home and made myself some maps. I needed something that I could see and understand, at a glance.
This experience took me back to when I was in school and did not know the English Language. Â More importantly, it validated why ALL students need Thinking Maps. Even if they are not identified as English Language Learners, all students need to be fluent in the language of math, science, history, etc. They still need visuals to process information in a way that they make sense of it and can use to refer back to when needed. I will always be an English Language Learner because I am not fluent in the language of medicine, law, real estate, etc., but I have the maps to help me. I canâ€™t wait to share my maps with my doctor.