Friday, June 17, 2011


Or what about She/He, or I/Me.  You/I is tricky, too.

How would you use words to describe the difference?  Two English language learners, fluent in Spanish and Nepali but struggling here in the USofA, bright eyed and totally confused by my chattering, were wondering the same thing this morning.  While the rest of the class moved from station to station, we three tried to find a way to differentiate between in and on.

Eventually, we resorted to visuals.  The tiny tie-dyed super ball we were using for mine/yours went into overdrive with in/on.  We began with a red plastic box and created ramps out of small envelopes on which he rolled the ball til she saw that it was in.  Then it was her turn but she didn't want to try so we gave her the camera and worked on big and small as she decided which button to use to take the picture.  

I stopped filling the silences with meaningless verbiage.  I encouraged her to wait with her answer until his light dawned and the answer spilled out of his mouth and we were blessed with the world's biggest grin as he got into the game and the ball went on her head and in his fist and on the table and suddenly we were the center of attention as our neighboring table tried to find more unusual in's and on's.  

We went around the table, the three of us, discussing me/she/he/I/you/her/we and by that time we were well past shyness and far into I can do this.  We had some fun with write and ride and made the distinction between the T and the D quite precisely.  Much giggling ensued.  

The teacher's grateful glances reassured me that my free form lesson wasn't getting in the way of some grand pedagogical plan, so we began to roam the room, asking permission.  "May I take your picture, please?"  Self-confidence, manual dexterity, politesse, I/you... those are the lessons I saw, and I wasn't looking that hard.

Finding just the right sentence construction, the right tenses, the right pronouns took some concentration and a fair amount of time.  I was worried that I'd put my charges in an awkward position, asking them to struggle in front of their friends.  

I needn't have worried.

There were no sneers from the other students.  "They've all been there themselves," was the teacher's explanation for the quality of the laughter we were sharing.  The other students were more than willing to go along with the show, shaking their heads with smiles on their faces as I refused to allow them to accept an ungrammatical request.  There was some tickling and some face making and lots of encouragement. There was no attitude.

As for the three of us, we had nothing but fun.  There was frustration but no embarrassment.  They sat with me for 90 minutes and never once did I see a yawn.  I've never felt as appreciated.  

These aren't my Cuters but they are my kids.  They are Sudanese and Central American and Native American and Nepali and Texans and they are our future.  It reminds me of my parents' tales of the public schools in the 1920's and '30's.  They were Italians and Greeks and Germans and Jews and they learned to brush their teeth and conjugate verbs in the same classroom.  

What do the public schools do?  They create Americans.  How dare we deprive them of resources?  


  1. Woman, I am in awe of all you do. Thank you!

  2. AMEN!! Our NC government just adopted a budget that lessens education resources by a large margin. And then they spent at least 20 minutes naming NASCAR as the official sport of NC. I am ashamed of them.

  3. I hope that this is taken as "tribute" rather than "creepiness."

    I'm a 30 year old teacher from Florida (not public school), going back to college to become a therapist. I began skimming your blog a few months ago, and would love to be your "casual occasional online friend."

    A few months ago, I was reading a human interest story about someone who had been indirectly involved in an awful event. And for some reason, it reminded me of a story that had touched me deeply: "the Arizona woman who was friends with the little girl, and who was going through terrible emotional pain."

    I tracked down that news story again, and I was possessed with this urge: "Find that woman's email address, and write a note telling her how much her pain touched your heart, and sending her your love."

    Instead, I found your blog. And rather than feeling sorry for what you'd been through, I wound up developing a great admiration for your wisdom and your character.

    - Careena at gmail

  4. Great post, loved it and agree fully with your final thought.

    Hugs, Meg

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