Wednesday, March 29, 2017

School Survey ALMOST in Your Language

One of the factors about the school survey that appeals to me is it's given in the home languages of my students. So they can say whatever they wish, and actually understand what they are talking about. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Chinese, though, which many of my students speak, is problematic. Students from mainland China, the overwhelming majority of Chinese speakers I serve, are taught to read and write in simplified Chinese. The survey is given in traditional Chinese. My co-teacher happens to be from Taiwan, where they use traditional Chinese. It was pretty odd for me to see her running around translating Chinese for speakers of Chinese.

How on earth did the geniuses at the DOE manage to be unaware that traditional Chinese is not the norm for most Chinese speakers? Why do I know this while they don't? I guess at my lowly level my job entails actually talking to real students and teachers, and therefore I learn things they simply do not. In fairness, many words are the same or similar. So students can guess. But when you're issuing a survey, and you want precise answers, you ought to know your audience.

The College Board runs AP classes. I understand that, in AP Chinese, students may choose between traditional or simplified Chinese. In fact, the city offers a LOTE language exam, which is a substitute for the former NY State language Regents exams, with that very same option. (New York State, evidently, deems language unworthy of value, which is surely why they dropped language Regents exams. It's also ESL teachers have largely been reduced to assistant teachers via Part 154.) So here's the thing--if the city knows the LOTE needs to be written two ways, why hasn't this knowledge been shared with the writers of the student survey?

It's been a number of years since I had to submit paperwork to the DOE. I'm sure things are different now, but I remember having to bring my college transcripts a number of times. I say "bring" because I stopped mailing them stuff once I realized they pretended to lose absolutely everything you sent them. On one occasion, while I was demanding a receipt for the most recent copy I'd brought them, I asked, "Why do you need these? I just sent them in a few months ago."

"Oh, that copy is on the fifth floor sir. We're on the ninth floor."

You know, you'd hope that, with computers, such problems would become fewer and further between. Still, I can only surmise that the people on the fifth floor, the ones who write the LOTE, do not converse regularly with those on the ninth floor, the ones who write the survey. And who wins? Why bureaucracy of course. Things are complicated and incomprehensible for no particular reason.

How do you feel when you hit snafus like that? How would you feel if you got a survey, everyone told you how vitally important it was, and it was almost written in English? I don't know about you, but I'd be fairly pissed off. Would I trash the school for it? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'd think the people who designed the survey were idiots.

If I were around fifteen years old, like my students who took the survey, that might color my opinion even more than it does now.

Update--A teacher friend of mine tells me that Regents exams are also offered only in traditional Chinese.
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