Thursday, December 1, 2011

Don't Hate Me

"Don't hate me, but I need to talk to you when you get here." that was the text from my director at Kumon. I go in and he tells me I am getting 2 of the 4 new students who are all suppose to be quite a challenge. I question him further and he tells me one of the students will be starting at square 1. Ok, I thought, I can do this.

After introducing myself I asked her if she wanted to take her coat off. No response. I figured she was really shy, sometimes it takes the new ones a bit to warm up to me. Her face didn't read fear and she wasn't about to cry, so we proceeded.

From what I gathered in our 20 minute class session I'm not sure she speaks or understands much English. Mmm. . . literally square 1. We did lots of hand over hand work (including how to hold a pencil and tracing the letters in her name), peer modeling (thank goodness the boys in that class are awesome and more than happy to help out). She did repeat the words after me, although it took peer modeling to get there.

How do I teach a child that doesn't understand me?

Upon talking to a close teacher friend she noted, it really isn't much different from your students with special needs (my other job). They can't talk to me either. But I can tell by body language and facial expressions what they are feeling. I think the difficult part with this student is her face is a blank slate: no confusion, understanding or frustration, just blank.

I'm going to see if we know what language she speaks (several are common in the country she hails from). I'm sure I will butcher trying to learn some simple words, but I can try. Also I'm going to see if one of the other students in the class can talk to her in her native language, as he comes from the same country. The tricky part with that is for him not to revert entirely back to that language, but use it as an avenue to tell her basic things she does not understand and to continue on with his learning without this holding him back. . . so many ideas to ponder. . . so many things to consider before executing any one plan.

I wish I had more time with them, an hour a week isn't very much (2 half hour classes). I certainly hope she is getting immersed in the English language somewhere else besides just one hour a week; I fear that isn't enough and she will struggle to learn quickly. But then again, she is young and more easily able to learn complex things like languages. Perhaps I am turning scenarios over in my head and making this a much bigger deal than it is.

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