Monday, November 16, 2009
Tears while Teaching, a Series
Ok, so it's not a series, but I actually HAVE been able to muster some semblance of emotion when dealing with humans involved in violent hormonal transformations that effects mind, soul, and patches of short and curly hair.
Last week I had to teach a lesson on steroid use. About 3% of Granite high school students actually use steroids. The percentage of Granite students that abuse prescription drugs is close to 25%, but it would be ridiculous to have a lesson focused on that!
So back to the 'roids.
My teaching partner and I made up gender-specific Jeopardy-like games to try make this dry and oh-so-pertinent lesson fun. One of the schools I teach at has VERY few students that could be considered belonging to a minority demographic, but the kids that do fall into this category are usually extremely athletically gifted and have been "drafted" from other parts of the Salt Lake Valley to play at this "winning" high school.
One of the health classes I teach has a bruiser of a kid in it. He's well over 6 feet tall, at least 200 pounds, facial hair, the whole 9 yards. He looks like he might be able to throw a football. And he has quite a bit of trouble with his English. He's improved so much over the course of the school year, due to sheer survival techniques, especially since his teachers can't/refuse to help him in Spanish when he has a question.
So, naturally, there are some words he's still working on.
In my zeal to get all of the boys involved in the lesson, I didn't give them the choice to "opt out" of answering a question, as I had in previous lessons. I had totally forgotten about this student until he was standing in front of the class, ready for the next Jeopardy question. I'm sure he and I were whispering the same prayer that the question be relatively easy to understand.
Of course it wasn't. But since he is a competitive soul, he rang the buzzer first and then looked at me with an "Oh-great-now-what-do-I-do?" expression on his face. He had totally understood the question, but I could tell he was struggling for the answer in English.
He mumbled, "I...don't know it...in, um...English." The class was dead quiet for the first time all morning. We were all holding our breath.
So I responded as his face turned red, "En espanol esta bien." He let out the air in his lungs in a sharp breath, like he'd been punched in the stomach.
"En serio?" he asked. Yes, I was "for real" and I was trying to keep it together now, since his eyes had glassed over and a look of relief had washed over his face.
I totally understood how he was feeling. When I was entrenched in a study abroad in Valpariaso, Chile, no one, I mean NO ONE spoke English. My brain was ALWAYS working, even when I didn't want it to. Driving by billboards, having the radio on in the background, listening to the conversations on the bus, even the box of damn tissues I cried into - all had to go through a multi-step translation in my brain. It was an exhausting process. Whenever I came across a fellow English-speaker, it was cause for celebration. And a much-needed break for my brain.
He answered the question in Spanish, "Los pulmones...?"
It was wrong.
Gah! I wanted so badly for him to get it right! But at least he was able to communicate his wrong answer to me. He smiled sheepishly as the other team stole the question and went back to his seat.
After the game was over and the boys were shuffling out of class, he straggled behind and gave me a beautiful smile with a jock-nod. He was totally the victor that day. Somebody understood him.