Friday, February 10, 2012

In Mr. Educator's Classroom

Yesterday, a kid came in who didn't bother coming in Wednesday.

"What happened on Wednesday?" I asked.

"Forget Wednesday," he said.

"But you weren't here."

"FORGET WEDNESDAY!" he cried, with a big smile.

There seemed little choice. He's almost never absent, and it didn't look like I was going to get any further. I was actually pretty happy he was expressing himself so clearly. Not all my beginners can do that.

In any case, at that moment the Chinese teacher walked in. She looked worried.

"Who's in my fourth period class?" she asked, quite seriously, ruining any possibility of my discovering why my forgetting Wednesday was so important.

Two Spanish-speaking kids raised their hands. I gave them extra credit for their senses of humor.

The Chinese teacher recited some Very Important Instructions in Chinese, which neither I nor the kids who claimed to be in her class understood at all.

But the Chinese kids nodded their heads knowingly, happy that none of the rest of us had the remotest notion what was going on. That's poetic justice, in a way, because all too often they're the ones with no idea what's going on. It's tough being an ESL teacher, because one of the first survival techniques newcomers acquire is the one that entails smiling and looking like they understand things they do not understand at all.

That's why, while many tests are simply nuts, I'd never advocate doing away with them entirely. It makes sense for me to find out once and for all what kids know and do not know. It makes sense for me to do everything in my power to make sure they know as much as possible.

But honestly, it makes no sense at all to blame me for those kids who came to this country kicking and screaming when they abjectly refuse to learn English. I can try and make it fun, I can show them I love it, and I can place them in a non-threatening environment with kids who are good role models. But I can't simply open their throats, force-feed them English, and make sure it comes out when the VAM tests come.

Assuming otherwise is nothing short of insane.
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