Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The class sweetheart

At 9:15 AM, select students file out of the classroom and others file in. My CT, JL, takes the main group and launches into his free-form styled English Language Development lesson. I take two first-year English Learners and attempt to teach them six school years worth of English.

Andy* is from Mexico. He has been in the US for about a year. He is quiet, in the non-production stage. He comprehends well enough, although sometimes he doesn't do anything about it - probably because he's zoned out. He also goes to speech and spends time twice a week with a special education teacher. He has issues with spelling/sound combinations.

Marty* is from Pakistan. At the time I met him, he had only been in the US for a few weeks. Marty is shy, and refused to make eye-contact with me in the beginning. I encouraged him to translate things from English into Urdu. He loved this and opened up dramatically. Marty knows a lot more English than he lets on. His writing is fantastic, considering. He loves drawing and embellishing fonts with arabesques and curlicues. He had his off days of course, like everyone else. But he started to love being at school a lot. Which made me enjoy being at school too.

Andy is a great kid. But it was Marty that really made me teach my best during our scant 30 minutes of individualized English instruction. I wish I took photos of his work - they were beautifully and proudly made. For the seven and a half weeks I taught them, we graduated from 2nd grade to 3rd grade level picture books. Marty* could probably go for the slimmer chapter books too, but Andy was lagging behind while Marty's academic skills literally exploded and I didn't want to leave him behind. It makes me a little sad to aim for the middle road between students of such varied skill levels, but they were both learning something, so it wasn't all bad.

At 9:45 AM, Marty and Andy clean up their areas and return to their classrooms. Andy leaves with a perfunctory wave. Marty pauses and faces me, heels together. "Good-by Ms. Ng," he says formally.

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