Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Help Is Hard to Find---But Good to Have

A kid in my level two ESL class doesn't really belong there. The second day of class I went to my supervisor and told her. He doesn't understand the work very well, and kind of sat there mystified. I thought it would be a good idea to move him down a level. But somehow, in summer school or someplace, he'd already passed.

I figured OK, I'll do the best I can and try to drag the kid where he should be. But then he cut the rest of the week, including a test, and things didn't work out. My class was at the end of the day, and learning English was of no evident importance to the kid, so he simply went home early---but--bad luck--somehow he got transferred to my midday class, and skipping out was no longer so convenient--he'd miss all those vital classes in his first language, the one he needed no instruction in whatsoever.

So he showed up on Tuesday. I gave him the leaflet I'd made up so he could do the work. At first, he responded. But he didn't like it when I made him repeat things. He didn't like it when I made him say things in an audible voice, and honestly, who the hell needs English in the United States of America anyway. So he walked up to my desk, dropped the leaflet there, and simply answered, "No English," when I called on him. That would teach me to waste his time with this ridiculous language nonsense.

It was pretty jarring to me. We have a two period class, and here's this teenager determined to do absolutely nothing. It made me tired watching him not answer questions, not mix with his classmates, and not do anything. I would not have the patience to sit and do nothing for 90 minutes, so in a way I have to give the kid props.

It's been a long time since I threw a kid out of class, and I toyed with the idea, but decided not to. I went to his guidance counselor, one who speaks his language, with a written description of his behavior. She told me he had come to her, complaining I was too strict, and saying he wanted to drop down a level. She told him he couldn't stay at level 1 forever, particularly since he'd already passed it.

The next day I was out, but she dragged the parents up for a conference. I don't know what she said or did, but the kid came in yesterday a new person. He's trying to do the work, trying to answer questions, and that defiance has disappeared absolutely. It's like she did magic while I was out.

I'm really lucky to know someone who can help me like that. And the kid is lucky to have her too, though he probably won't acknowledge it for a long, long time.
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