June 18, 2024


International Student Club UK

NYC Educator: The Morning Class

NYC Educator: The Morning Class

I had a morning class earlier this year. There were 8 students in it. I really liked teaching it. However, the school killed it and redistributed the kids in other classes. I’m happy to tell you they’re all doing well, albeit with far less attention from me. 

For a while, I had four classes. My beginning classes were, and are, difficult. I have to devote quite a bit of time toward discipline, or it will be chaos. I’m at school before 7 AM, and once it’s past 7, I’m making calls. 

This week, the school reinstituted my morning class. this time as a beginner class. I previously had two beginner classes, one with 34, and one with 33. They have been keeping me hopping. I have a lot of students I suspect to be SIFE, or lacking in formal education. It’s been quite difficult keeping them engaged. For a while, I taught the way I usually teach beginners, but I was losing over half the class. 

I started doing far more basic work with them. I have a picture dictionary and we’re doing very rudimentary vocabulary and sentence construction, very slowly. I think that way I was up to 75% passing. But I still had some hard cases. 

It’s very natural for people to want to speak their first language. If I were in China, I’d long to speak English. So kids who have a negative attitude about the US, English, or both will do all in their power not to hear the new language. If you move them away from their paisanos, they’re likely as not to tune out out and fold into virtual cocoons.     

The first morning of my new class, yesterday, only one kid showed up. After that, I went to a helpful secretary who printed out the schedules of the other students, and I distributed them myself. This morning, eight of the ten students scheduled came in. 

And a miracle occurred. There is a boy I’ve thought of as an impossible case, a boy who’s never paid attention or listened, who’s never lifted a finger to learn English. Once, he stood up in class and announced, “No es me culpa si no se ingles.” It’s not my fault if I don’t know English.

That made me very upset, and I did something I usually would not. I answered him in Spanish, in front of the whole class. I said, no, it’s not your fault if you don’t know English. But it’s your fault if you don’t try. It’s your fault if you don’t listen. It’s your fault if you don’t do the work. He remained unimpressed.

At 7 the following morning, I called his house. He never made another such announcement again. But he sat sullen and angry every day, and never lifted a finger to do better. 

When he arrived to the new class, late, he saw there was one small circle of students and pulled up a seat. We were talking about colors. I said, “I’m wearing gray and red.” Then I got some students to say what they were wearing. I wrote my statement on the board.

Then, they boy said, “I’m wearing black and white.”

It was the first time I ever heard him breathe a word of English. It was a small sentence, but worlds over the expectation I held yesterday. And it happened because he was in a small class. With 34 kids, I have to move some around away from others, and move myself like a whirlwind so as to preclude chaos. I don’t need to do that in a small group. I can get everyone to participate. I can do a better job. 

Danielson doesn’t account for things like this, but every teacher knows. It’s criminal to place 34 kids who know virtually no English in a classroom for 40 minutes a day and hope for the best. It doesn’t have to be under ten. But it just cannot work with 34.

We can do better and we all know how.