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Re: [teacherartexchange] frustration -- ESL student


From: Sharon (sharon_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Aug 31 2007 - 20:12:41 PDT

I teach at a very small private boarding/day school (150 students) with a
very large international student population. We do have an ESL program, but
today was just the 2nd day of class for us so these kids have a long way to
go yet.

As is typical, there's a lot of fluctuation in my rosters the first week or
so. This is my 9th year at the school, so I'm pretty good at just rolling
with the craziness until everything gets balanced out. I ultimately
average 8-10 students per period and each period usually has a mix of kids
in grades 8-12 and mixed levels (with different projects/curricula!) of Art
1, Art 2, Advanced Art, Honors Art and Graphic Design. (Nutso, at least

Yesterday in one (currently very small) class of 5 students, I had FIVE
NATIONALITIES represented, and varying degrees of English competency!! My
biggest challenge is going to be figuring out how to pronounce their names!
I have such "American" ears... It's very hard for me to "hear" how to make
some of the sounds in their names.

I knew that today's exercise was going to be a challenge for some of the
kids, but I went ahead with it anyhow. From "memory," I had them draw a
piece of popcorn, a pretzel and a circle. They then had to make the circle
into an M&M candy. Well of course even if some of the international kids
knew what popcorn was, they didn't know the English WORD for "popcorn"--or
pretzel, so they had no idea what I was asking them to draw. To my
surprise, several DID know what M&Ms were--lol. But after drawing from
memory, I GAVE all of them popcorn, pretzels & M&Ms and had them make an
arrangement of at least one of each and draw from observation.

The point I was trying to make with this exercise is that your mind is
pretty good about storing images, but it's easier/better to draw from
observation. (In a couple of weeks I'll go into this in more depth with
right brain/left brain function and how these stored images can interfere
with your ability to draw well.)

In retrospect, to make sure that everyone got the concept, I probably should
have had them do something they were more likely to know in English (like
draw a "shoe" from memory, your "hand" from memory, etc.) but all was
forgiven once they had something to look at AND that they could eat when
they were finished. :-)

While it's often a challenge for international kids to grasp everything that
the other students do, I have INCREDIBLE admiration for them. What courage
it must take for them to leave their families, friends and familiar culture
to travel halfway around the world in pursuit of a quality education. Most
are willing to work very, very hard to succeed. They deserve the very best
that I can give them and I love teaching in our small but very global school
community. :-)


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