Yesterday a girl in my class got a 44 on my test. It freaked me out a little, because the test was fairly easy. In fact, it was a multiple choice test, which I don't usually give, and she filled in eight "E" answers, though the options were only A, B, C, and D.
This is the third test I've given this year. She was absent for the first one, and was out for three days in a row. In the rush of beginning the year, I failed to follow up on that. But the second time she missed a test, I got a guidance counselor who spoke her language to call home. Since then, she's been early for class every day and hasn't missed a single moment.
However, I have 34 kids in that class, and being the last one in, she's been happily seated in the back. I walk around and look at the work kids do, and have been correcting her a little more than I should be at this point. My class is level 2 ESL, meaning near-beginners, and I was thinking of moving her down to level one. But when we checked, we found she'd been here for three years. It's remarkable to be a teenager in a country for three years without acquiring the language. Usually it's either someone who was not educated in L1, or someone who was dragged to the US kicking and screaming. Sometimes it's both.
I found she was in an AP's class, and the AP also spoke her language, so I went in and asked how she was doing in his class. She seemed to be doing OK, but he teaches in her native language. He called her in and asked why she marked so many "E" answers on a multiple choice test.
"I was indicating none of the above," she responded, serenely.
I started banging my head against the wall.
"Look," said the AP. "You're giving Mr. Educator a heart attack."
"That's nothing," she replied. "He has heart attacks all the time."
She's right, of course. I am melodramatic from time to time. But the fact that she was so quick to observe that shows me she has a little sense of humor, or irony, or something. I wonder how she manages to keep such a placid demeanor while she's doing so poorly in a basic English class. As I walked her back to class I asked her what she thought she could do here without English. Was she planning a career in dishwashing? No, she was not. How does she maintain that Zenlike composure in the face of such appalling results?
"Maybe she knows something you don't know," commented my supervisor. She certainly must. I wonder what on earth it is.