Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's Chinese To Me


One of my classes is full of kids that do not speak much English. They are fairly new in the country and they are really struggling. There are kids in the class that speak their language (and English) and excel in math. These kids often explain things to the others in their own native tongue.

Last week a boy in my class was explaining LRAMS, RRAMS, and MRAMS (rectangular approximations of areas between the curve and the x-axis) to another . I listened carefully and watched what he was pointing to. I told them I just wanted to make sure that he was doing the work correctly. Both kids laughed as they know that I do not speak or understand Chinese.

I started listening as a joke, but as I stood there, I thought about how hard it must be for them to understand me, although their limited English is far better than my knowledge of Chinese (which is nonexistent.) I wanted to feel the way they felt every day. I told them why I was listening so hard. The kids just smiled and thanked me. That part of the lesson was just as valuable or even more valuable than the calculus they learned that day.

9 comments:

Ms. Tsouris said...

I hope the kids took some time out to wish you and themselves "Gong Hoy Fat Choy".....Happy New Year!! After all, it's the Year of the Rat!

Anonymous said...

Do YOU speak English?

"One of my classes is full of kids that (sic) do not speak much English."

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

You listened with your heart.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

I have always been of the idea that the DOE should pay for teachers to study other langauges.
Instead of useless and meaningless PD why not bring in langauge teachers to teach the staff whatever langauge will help them communicate with their Limited English Speaking students.

Courses should be offered in:
Spanish
French-Creole
Mandarin
Cantonese
etc etc etc

NYC Educator said...

It's very nice that you did that for these kids and I'll bet they appreciated it a lot. You must have been lonely on Thursday when they celebrated the New Year.

jd2718 said...

When I taught math classes in English to mostly ESL classes, I asked kids to teach me 1 - 10 and how to say "good morning boys and girls." It's been a bunch of years, but I still remember some. It was fun.

I also learned how to say "here" (as in "Here, take this handout") in several languages. Hearing that absolutely freaked kids out.

Or is it "hearing which?" Maybe I should find someone who speaks English...

Jonathan

NYC Educator said...

There are two philosophies about grammar. One is called "prescriptive" grammar. This philosophy suggests that the grammar book is the final authority, and that its rules may not be violated.

The second is called "descriptive" grammar, which suggests that grammar is what people actually speak and use. Ideally, you want to speak like a native speaker, as native speakers know their languages perfectly. That's true even if they occasionally use "that" to refer to people, as many native American English speakers do. They're generally very well-understood.

Actually, living languages evolve, and generally encompass and embrace widespread popular changes. Some people confuse grammar books with the Ten Commandments, and we have words for those people too.

I'll spare you.

Mrs. T said...

Thank you, NYC Educator for commenting on the "anonymous" comment (if that is indeed the commentor's REAL name). At first, I was inclined to just ignore- to not dignify with any sort of response. I am reminded of a joke I learned in a linguistics class- one about not ending a question with a preposition... the punchline is "Ok, where's the library AT, a**hole?".
To comment on the post, what a wonderful post! I used to teach ESL to Vietnamese refugees. I tried very hard to learn a few words in their language, to no avail. It infuriates me to no end to hear people mutter in disgust that "those people" (meaning any and all non-English speaking immigrants)should learn English! It's not easy to learn another language. It's not easy for many to learn upper level math. Learning math in a language other than one's own? More than "a challenge".

Pissed Off said...

I guess I should have used who instead of that. Just call me a math teacher with poor verbal skills.

If anonymous doesn't like the way I write, anonymous should stay away.

Thanks for your comments!