As many who read this dribble regularly know, I teach high school English by day. Only if you know me personally do you know that while I teach high school English in the middle of Oklahoma, most of my students are Hispanic.
I have never talked about my student clientele here on the blog. Until now.
On Cinco de Mayo.
Go figure. A high school in the middle of no-where-land-Oklahoma and my students are named Carlos, Isabella, Sugey, Ramiro, Jose, Juan, Silvano, Luis, Marcela, Javier, Nicho, Saul, Elizardo and Franco (to name a few). (Those books are from their Spanish classes by the way, not my English books!)
In all my years of teaching English, I had only had three Hispanic students before this job. Three. Total. Ha! What a culture (literally) shock I was in for when I began my present job five years ago.
To begin with, the majority of all high school students do not love English class. Now compound that with the fact that the students I teach have very limited English vocabularies. Yikes!! (To the 100th degree yikes!!!)
Even if the students have lived here for a while, their English vocabularies fall way behind the other students. There are way too many nuances of our language to grasp it quickly. You know what I mean? (Ewe no watt eye meen?) Just our words that are homonyms (like the sentence I shared). Or idioms: You drive me up the wall. (Really, you're going up a wall?) That was a piece of cake (Cake? Where's the cake?) You have a chip on your shoulder (How'd I get a chip on my shoulder? I haven't even eaten any!)
See what I mean?
To complicate things even further is that fact that in order to 1. get your drivers license in Oklahoma and 2. graduate from a high school in Oklahoma, you must pass your English state assessments. The state assessments (or EOI's --End of Instruction) tests, are the ones you hear about on the news. They are standardized tests given at the end of the school year across the nation.
These tests carry an enormous amount of weight. (hello--drivers licenses and graduation!!). My Hispanic students take the same tests that all students do in our school. As you can imagine we have LOTS to do between August (when school starts) and April (when tests are given).
So every single year I stress myself out trying to get my students to the point that they can pass their EOI's and actually enjoy--and learn--while they are doing it. Believe me, there is a huge difference between "learning" and "memorizing". My goal is to teach, so that they might "learn".
This year was harder than any I have ever experienced. I had my usual crew of Hispanic teens, then in addition I had four that were very limited in English and two that spoke about one percent English. It has been a tough year!
My students tend to always try their hardest on the EOI's. Obviously, once in a while there will be the lone student that clicks (the tests are computerized) his or her way through the tests, but by and large they try extremely hard.
They want to (obviously) do well so they can get their drivers license...and of course go on to graduate. But they also do well to please me...and best of all, they try to do well because I have convinced them they CAN do well.
The long, stressful year culminates in a long, stressful week of testing. We just finished that long, stressful week last week and I am happy to say my students did extremely well.
The only students I had that did not pass the test are those four that do not speak the language. What a relief! What an accomplishment for those students! What a joy!
Those four that do not speak the language, will hopefully begin to pick up our (very complicated) English language and they will get more chances to pass the test. I will work with them individually and we will continue to take it until they can pass.
Next year I will get a new class of students and the process will begin again. So today, on Cinco de Mayo I think of my students who have worked hard for me all year. Stressful, yes. Rewarding, without question. Maybe one of my students will have a big plate of tamales for me tomorrow. (Believe me, their tamales are the best! ) ....And that my friends is why this teacher is doing the nine-day-countdown till summer! Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo!
Cute plates are from Pier One.