Jun 19, 2007

Celeste and School = bilingual?

Celeste and I went out walking for the first time in two days. I just haven't been myself for a little while, and she's lost one her big top teeth sometime this week and isn't really interested in eating today. She's been throwing up in the morning for the last couple of days, but then ate about half of her food this morning before we went outside. She's in a long, gangly stage and looks and acts like a teenager (God help me). She has this attitude that says, "I'll do what I want, WHEN I want", and tries to ignore me, mostly.

But the girl needs a new bed. She had adopted a wash tub that she loves, but she's getting to be too big for it now, and needs something else. I think we'll go looking for a regular dog bed when I get paid next week.

This month has been kind of trying at school, so far. I have some very intelligent students, but a few of them are having trouble grasping the material. I have had this image in my mind of me trying to shoe-horn the information into their brains. One of them doesn't really care until it's time to take a test. Then she panics. One of them is an older military man, who is taking the course because he has to in order to be promoted. He was in one of my other classes and failed. So I have him again this time, and hopefully we will be able to get him through this class. They've reached a plateau that they can't go past until they apply themselves a little more. I think they all breezed through intermediate English because they weren't required to speak much, or they were allowed to do a lot of their participating in Spanish.

Now that they are in advanced English, the concepts are the same, but they have a lot more vocabulary to learn, they have to listen to lectures and take notes, and they have to be able to write a short composition based on those notes. Not to mention participate in English while in class. What a surprise. I require them to produce their thought in class orally. They have fallen into a habit of writing something down before they say it, but now that they are in advanced English, there is no reason why they shouldn't be producing thoughts and phrases without writing them down first. It's very hard to carry on a conversation with someone who wants to write their answers first and then tell you what they wrote, or repeat your question back to you thinking that will satisfy you.

I think that by the time they are in advanced English, students should be able to speak with some degree of confidence, and that is only gained by practicing. There are some who do, but there are those who depend on their writing skills to get them through the course without uttering more than a couple of words in English. I think those may be the ones that just want the paper certificate that says they completed the course. I am of the firm belief that those who participate and contribute in class do better than those who don't, because they are practicing what they learn. Next week we have finals. We'll see if I'm right this time.

Celeste is bilingual. She doesn't pronounce her words well, but she does understand "Do you want a cookie?" in both English and Spanish.


kathleen said...

I think that if they are going to be paying for their class or if someone else is paying for it, they should apply themselves. If English wasn't their cup of tea, this institute also offers courses in French, Chinese, Italian, German, and Portuguese. Most of them just need ANOTHER language to fulfill their requirements. The Italian course is much shorter and very similar to Spanish, so maybe that would have been a better choice for those who want to put almost no effort into their studies.

Rani said...

You commented on my blog not 5 minutes after I posted it. Funny to think that there you sit at your computer a half a world away, while I sit at mine.

Picturing Celestial Celeste in the washtub is just about the cutest thing I've heard.

I have much respect for you - teaching. It is a labor of love/hate/joy/frustration (i taught Kindergarten and 5th,6th grades). Good luck!