Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sarcasm Part III - In Spanish

I explained earlier how after careful thought and consideration (and the fact that no one else agreed to do it) I got to teach a non-special education, bilingual geometry class.

It goes something like this- I explain something in English, someone translates it into Spanish. Everyone laughs.
What I said was not funny in English.
So I translate it into Spanish.
Everyone laughs again.

Now I am sure they are talking about me.
Is this how non-English speaking kids feel in English classes?
I think  I am getting paranoid.

It would be unpleasant- except it isn't.  This group is the sweetest one I have.
They arrive one at a time (everyone in our school does- punctuality is a lost art).
We sit in semi-circle (all ten of us- my special ed tradition extended into the bilingual classroom). And each entrant comes in stops at each desk and if male - kisses all the girls and shakes the hands of all the boys, if female- kisses everyone.

Except me.
I am sad.
Why am I not worthy of handshakes and kisses?

I ask.
Everyone laughs.  I must be a very funny teacher.

Friday we are working on a group of problems finding the missing angles in a polygon.
Sr. Alto, a quiet, tall Dominican young man who earned his name because he often arrives before the kissing cycle which results in him being asked to reach the folders stored on top of the locker, has worked through the first set.  Carla is holding his papers in one hand and writing away on her own paper with the other.

I suggest she try the problems herself.
"No Miss,"  I show him how to do it, now I write what I tell him".

"Oh, and I fell off the turnip cart, yesterday."
I try to translate that one- but quickly realize I have no idea how to say turnip in Spanish.
And the sarcasm is lost in translation.

So the period goes on. I lose the page on the Smart Board once, accidentally erase the writing twice, and trip over the wires three times. (a typical day- did I mention how much I miss my chalkboard?)

There is another set of problems to work out, Sr. Alto is working away.
Carla not so much.

I ask if she is again explaining to him how to do it.

She turns and asks the assistant in the back of the room, "Como se dice.... (how do you say?)

The best the assistant can offer, is "lies".

"No, that's not it," she replies, frustrated.

"Sarcasm?"  I offer.


"Very good,"  Violeta offers, "Now you understand our Spanish!"

Time to look up the Spanish work for turnip!

Sarcasm Part I and II here and here

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sneaky Reading

The year is rolling to a close.  A friend posts the remaining number of days above the time clock, and the spring weather has decreased our already dismal attendance.

Regina  finds herself alone in my tenth period math class often.
I ask a question as she comes in that one day is going to get me in deep trouble.

"Reading or math?"

Regina is not half bad in math.  She "passed" the state Regent's exam in January.  By passed, I mean, she scored enough point to earn credit when her IEP is taken into consideration.  It doesn't exactly qualify her as an algebra genius but most of the students in the self-contained special education program don't even reach that level.

We moved on to geometry.  Which means we spend a lot of time coloring foldables (my new addiction) about angles and postulates and theorems and things like that.  And Regina gets it.

But when tenth period rolls around and the halls have become deserted by all but the girl's track team, who practice in the hall since the boys get the running track, Regina often finds herself the only student  in the math room.  The first day in September I asked Regina to read aloud, she refused.  She came up to me later and explained she didn't know how.  She spent the first thirteen years of her life in country where education was not a regular thing and arrived in our school system long after the grade where reading instruction is a given.

I try to sneak it in.  Sometimes we stay late.  Sometimes I think maybe its more important to know how to sound out two syllable words than identify  corresponding angles. I am aware it is not my decision to make.  Its not Regina's either.  I am her math teacher, her schedule says tenth period geometry.

We sneak out of the math room and hide behind the barriers in the Resource Room.  There Regina figures out that pan and cake makes pancake.  She knows the word or.  When you have no phonic skills you get good at memorizing sight words.  But it is a revelation that  an h  in front -and some letters in the back make horse.  Or now store and  forum become readable. Regina reads through a whole a story we found in an ancient stack of unloved readers.  The pages are yellow.  The stories refer to such  anachronisms as video stores and beepers.   They are not the shiny new complex non-fiction texts that the Common Core staff developer urges us to "scaffold" for our "challenged" readers.(Not that I have to worry about that - I'm a math teacher.)

But Regina gets through the whole page.  She will never again say she can't read. (Okay so it was probably on a second grade level- but it was a lot of words and she understood what all those previously mysterious symbols were trying to convey).

She beams.  This is happiness.

We got away with it.  We did reading instead of math.

We didn't get caught.

Back to triangle theorems tomorrow.