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The Student Who Taught Me Not to Take It Personally

Lotus Hoey usually finds an easy connection with her students learning English, but not last fall, when one student pushed back on her instruction.

Lotus Hoey teaches English as a second language at Pershing Middle School in Southwest Houston. She said she learned from her student Emiliano Campos not to take students' attitudes and behavior personally. This year, Emiliano has returned to her classroom as a teacher's assistant.
Lotus Hoey teaches English as a second language at Pershing Middle School in Southwest Houston. She said she learned from her student Emiliano Campos not to take all of her students’ attitudes and behavior personally. This year, Emiliano has returned to her classroom as a teacher’s assistant.

When Lotus Hoey started teaching English as a second language a few years ago, she felt right at home. Her own parents immigrated from China, so she had to learn English at school, too.

“Initially, when I first started school, I did not speak any English at all. I only spoke Cantonese Chinese and as I was growing up, it was difficult for me to continually translate for my parents who spoke no English,” Hoey said.

When her students come to Pershing Middle School from places like Central America, the Philippines and Sudan, Hoey can relate to them pretty easily — but not last fall. About a month after school started, a new student showed up, Emiliano Campos.

At 15 years old, he was older than the other seventh graders. And Emiliano was still struggling with the language. “I didn’t like English because it was difficult to read and talk,” he said.

Hoey remembers how she felt that if she even looked at Emiliano the wrong way, he would shut down or stomp out of the classroom. She said that disruption made it harder to teach other kids and she took it personally. Listen to what happened for her to connect with Emiliano:

This piece was produced in partnership with the Teacher Project at Columbia Journalism School.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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