I think I may have made a small child cry today, and have probably traumatised her for life! I was with one of my fourth or fifth grade glasses (7 or 8 years old, but she looked smaller). The rest of the class are really noisy and are constantly competing with each other for the teacher’s attention by shouting “mas, mas, mas” (which means teacher, or Maserabello). I was reading to the children from the set book, just a simple cartoon style strip, which words in bubbles for the children to translate, repeat and join in. Sadly, I have at least one student in every class who doesn’t have enough money to buy the set book, and this means that the child cannot join in the lesson as the teachers only teach from the book and don’t do anything extra. Basically the children without books are completely ignored and quickly fall behind in their English and end up disrupting the class or becoming complete loners.
One of my aims here is to try and get all of the students involved in my classes and I am helping some of the weaker students with some private tuition on a 1:1 basis twice a week to help them to catch up in class. If the children fail to learn the English alphabet or script then they have no chance with English later on as everything is read from the book, and they cannot do homework, so have no idea what is going on.
I don’t have a book of my own, and neither does my teacher, so we always end up borrowing from students, which means that the student who lends the book also gets behind, unless another student will allow them to share theirs. Usually, I will share my book with another student who doesn’t own their own book, and so far have been able to get them interacting, as they are often bright and keen to learn, but end up disrupting the other students because they are bored. Today, I noticed a small girl in the middle of the room who had no book, and so I went over and offered to share my book with her and was pointing out the words as I read them. This probably would have been ok, as she started to make eye contact with the book, even though she was clearly very shy.
Unfortunately, my class were so surprised at my actions of including this girl that they all turned around in their seats and started teasing her and telling her to read. It was such an awkward moment and I felt incredibly bad to bring such embarrassment on her. When the co-teacher saw that I was reading with her, she quickly pulled me back and said “we don’t teach her English”. This made me really sad, for several reasons, but mostly because the child had been written off and would never have the same opportunities as the other children, either now or in employment later on. If she had been the child of one of the teachers then she would have been included in everything even if she was poor at English, but I felt awful for subjecting her to such ridicule from her classmate, and she looked so uncomfortable for the rest of the lesson. Had I realised this before I took action, then I probably would have just invited her to private lessons with me to help her to learn her English letters, but instead I caused her more trauma. I just hope that she will continue to come to lessons as that has to be better than not being exposed to any English.
On the plus side, school was great today as I held auditions for the play I want to perform next year. It was mainly older girls and younger children who turned up, but many more students than I had anticipated, and the standard of English of the younger students is much better than that of some my older students in my classes. The Principle thinks that I should focus more on the older students in class as their English is better, but I believe that I should get in with the younger students as it is much easier to catch simple mistakes and they are much more able and interested in learning. I think the play will be pretty interesting though as I have more younger children than older ones, so will be getting them to play adults. Luckily its a gothic pantomime, so maybe I can get away with it, but it will be pretty hard work to organise!