Friday, October 25, 2013

Someone Loves Us

Last night we had parent-teacher conferences. I always like to meet parents face to face, even if I don't speak their languages. As an ESL teacher, I spend half my conference time frantically searching for translators. I can speak Spanish, but that's about it. Our school hires a bunch of translators, but some are in great demand and I drag students or anyone I can find to help.

Yesterday I was pretty lucky. One of my new students speaks a language I don't, but her mom spoke perfect English. She told me she was born here, but moved to another country.  Her daughter grew up there, but last year they moved back here.

She enrolled her daughter in a religious school run by people from her national background. But she claimed her daughter spent a whole year there and learned nothing. I found that hard to believe. I asked how that could be. Apparently, almost all the people in that school were American-born. The teachers said, "Oh, she doesn't speak English," and pretty much dumped her in a corner by herself.

The girl was miserable. She cried every night, and begged Mom to take her back to her country. For this, Mom paid $5,000.

This year she came to our school. She was placed in the beginning ESL class, but three days ago was transferred into my near-beginner class. She took a seat between three Spanish-speaking girls who I'd previously deemed inseparable. I'd actually wanted to break them up and use them as buffers between people of our primary language group, but they thwarted my plan by behaving fairly well and speaking English virtually all the time. The new girl is best buddies with them, and now they all speak English exclusively.

She's very happy. She wakes up eager to go to school. She participates avidly, and I'm confident she will do well in my class. Her attitude strongly suggests she'll learn English quickly and do well in other classes as well. Mom is over the moon at her newly well-adjusted and contented child.

"I should have sent her to public school in the first place," concluded Mom. The papers can trash us from here to eternity, but we know how kids like that need to be treated. Clearly not everyone does.
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