Sunday, June 29, 2008

And you thought Primary was boring

I was getting Trea dressed the other day, and suddenly she starts singing.

Trea (singing): We will, we will, ROCK YOU!
Me: Where did you learn that? (just curious about where my 3 year old is learning Queen.)
Trea: My Primary class. (For you non-LDS people . . . Primary is what we call the kids' Sunday School. I have no idea why Queen would come up in her Primary class).

Tuesday I went into work, and my student Marcos was talking with Dorothea. Dorothea told me that Marcos had misunderstood the certificate he'd received for having 96% attendance; he'd received it at the graduation ceremony, and thought that he had to leave the school. He was so upset he admitted he'd cried on the way home. Ahhh. Note to self: must work on Marcos' literacy skills so he can read the difference between "graduation" and "attendance".

Dorothea also announced on Tuesday that she's retiring. She's worked there for 37 years, since the program started. When I met her, I thought she was in her early sixties. Then I talked to her some more, and found out that she'd worked for the school system for a number of years before coming to our school. So then I thought she might be in her late sixties or even early seventies. Turns out, she's 81! You would never know it to talk to her. She's not retiring for a few months though, and after that she said she'd come back to tutor.

Thursday we had a school potluck picnic. Mark brought his big gas grill and grilled hot dogs, Kate and I bought lots of cheapo prizes at the dollar store for BINGO prizes (paisley picture frame, anyone?), and we had a wide variety of dishes. School potlucks are a blast, we get everything from VERY authentic ethnic (Tibetan, Mexican, etc.) to people who stop by Little Caesar's and pick up a couple of pizzas. I finally got to meet some of my students' families, and we got to just relax and shoot the breeze. Leticia was much more comfortable laughing at my horrible Spanish outside of the classroom setting :). Phurbu made Tibetan mo-mos especially for me.

After the BINGO and clothespin tag, Emilie and Kate started dancing. Emilie is teaching Kate to Latin dance. It was fun to watch Emilie; she's got some moves. And some of our students are amazing. They looked incapable of missing a beat, like it was just as natural to them as walking. Kate was fun to watch as well, but for different reasons.

Now we have two weeks to clean our desks, organize our files, and plan lessons for next year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Graduation Day

Last night was Graduation. You can't really "graduate" - we don't offer a diploma - but we have a five-year limit on providing services to any one student; so, instead of just telling students to leave, they "graduate." Sounds much better.

Last night, there should have been four students graduating. One of them was my student Victor. He actually showed up for the first time in several weeks, but when he realized it was graduation - and he'd be called upon to stand up in front of a crowd - he split. He did tell me how much the school had helped him. He told me that when he started, he could hardly speak a word of English. He's made amazing progress - he's one of our highest level students.

Ricardo technically should have graduated last night, but he drives the "bus" - the little van that picks up some of our students who live nearby, and don't have transportation. Finding someone who will reliably come to work a split shift two nights a week isn't easy. Rather than tackle the huge task of replacing him, Kate offered to let him stay. Lucky for us he agreed to hang on for a while.

So, that left Antonio (the husband of my student Gloria) and Eugenio. Antonio graduated first. His tutor must have been really nervous - he kept calling him Ernesto. Then he he started calling him Antonio, and mentioned that he had "two great kids" (ummm, he has three kids. Are you saying only two of them are great??). Antonio kept looking at him like he had two heads.

Then, it was Eugenio's turn. He's been Kate's student the entire five years he's been at school, so she shared five things she loves about Eugenio. Then Eugenio gave the most amazing speech. He'd written it himself, memorized it, and he delivered it perfectly. His pronunciation is incredible. He stood there, dressed in a shirt and tie for the occasion, and talked about "our beloved school," and how it was a lot of work to get "this document," (his certificate that Kate printed off a couple of hours before), and just in general about working hard. Eugenio was 58 years old when he started, and spoke no English. He now tests at a level 4. He doesn't have a car, but his attendance over the past year has been 98%. He'll walk, bike, ride the school bus, ride the public bus - whatever it takes to get to school. His motivation is just amazing. I have such admiration for what my students are doing - starting life over in a new country, learning a new language. I had a small taste of that and I know it's hard.

We're almost done with the school-year; we'll have a two-week break, and restart classes in mid-July. We've got a bunch of new students to place. I'm kinda looking forward to having a bunch of new students. Fresh faces, who don't have anyone to compare me to.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Kate tagged me on Thursday. I know, some of you are thinking, "when I tagged you, it took you freakin' weeks to get around to it!" I know. But Kate's my boss. So there. I also think this meme (or some form of it) may already be on here, but what the hey.

The rules:

1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?

June 2003. . .actually a relatively quiet time in my life. I'd been married about 8 months. I was working as a test development coordinator for an online university; I learned more about project management and test development than I ever thought there was to know. I also took an online class.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

1. Go to the Farmer's Market
2. Go the Chalk Art Festival at the Gateway.
3. Clean out the car!
4. Go shopping.
5. Get my kids to bed before 9:30! (A challenge lately)

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1. Any kind of chocolate. . .but the darker the better
2. Guacamole and chips
3. Ranch dip (especially my homemade stuff) and veggies
4. Chocolate chip cookies
5. Baked stuff, like brownies and pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Can you tell I'm not a salty snack kind of person? I don't crave potato chips. Just sugar.

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?

1. Travel the world. Anywhere and everywhere. Maybe not Irag, right now, but just about anywhere else.
2. Go back to Cambodia and do a huge research project to document the Pol Pot regime. It's part of the history of that country, and they don't have the resources to really deal with it. Donate money to Tuol Sleng. Donate lots of money to bring teachers, dentists, doctors and nurses to Cambodia to teach Cambodian university students.
3. Buy an enviromentally-friendly house. Paint all the walls.
4. Buy John a Lexus for Christmas, with a big bow on it (we always joke about those commercials; who buys their spouse a car for Christmas? We don't spend $20 without knowing what budget category it fits into, and our "personal" money is nowhere near enough to buy a Lexus. Ever.)
5. Hire a housecleaning service. Love a clean house, don't care for the cleaning.

What are five of your bad habits?

1. TV. Such a waste of time. (Did you see So You Think You Can Dance? Joshua is so graceful! Will is so talented! Susie would never be allowed to teach my kids!
2. Staying up way too late.
3. Worrying.
4. Eating chocolate.
5. Letting the house get cluttered.

What are five places you have lived?

1. Salt Lake City, Utah
2. Omaha, Nebraska
3. Khon Kaen, Thailand
4. Chiang Mai, Thailand
5. Severna Park, Maryland

What are five jobs you've had?

1. Waittress
2. Test Development Coordinator
3. English as a foreign language teacher
4. Courier
5. House cleaner

Five people I tag: I think most of the people I know have done this already. If you haven't, and you want to do it, consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sorry, Miss Brady!

I keep trying to organize my posts around themes. My junior year of high school, my teacher, Miss Brady, drilled in the fundamentals of good writing. I keep trying to write these well-planned posts with controlling ideas and supporting details. I wonder if that's part of being a former English major, or part of who I am? What came first, the OCD-ish tendencies in my writing or the BA?


I have a tutor - we'll call him Phineas. He tutors at a table set up on the landing in the stairwell at the far end of the building. I never thought I would take to avoiding a stairwell because of one person's body odor, but I have. You can smell him from either floor. I try to keep conversations with him short, and stand upwind. I don't know how his student does it. She must really want to pass her citizenship test!

Went to Wal-mart the other day and tried to buy pajamas for Adia. But all of them had these little appliques on the chest; they were stiff and scratchy on the inside. For real, people! These are kids' pajamas! Soft, not stiff, and definitely not scratchy!

I also had an interesting conversation with a student a couple weeks ago. Somehow the topic of living arrangements came up, and I mentioned that we hope to buy a house in a few years. He was surprised, and made a comment along the lines of, "I don't know what it is, maybe I work hard or something, but you were born in this country and don't have a house, but I have a house."

He's really very nice, but I didn't especially appreciate the implication that I don't work hard (the fact that I am a total slacker notwithstanding). I wanted to point out that they don't issue the deed to a house along with a birth certificate, but I refrained. I've had other students react this way as well. It's a little funny - I thought I left the "the streets are paved with gold" idealistic picture of America behind when I left Thailand. I could understand it there. But a lot of my students seem to think that being a citizen here erases all obstacles. I wish, for their sakes, that learning English and becoming a citizen would be the key to wealth and happiness and all of your dreams coming true. It's not. Sorry about that.

So. Kids are doing great. Trea is starting to understand so many new concepts - the other day she told me she couldn't eat one more bite, because she'd already eaten one bite and if she ate one more that would be two bites. Basic addition! She's a genius. She has a very vivid imagination. It takes some serious work to keep up with where her mind goes.

Adia now says more, down, no, and bird. Ok, she says more than that, but those are the ones I can understand.

Sorry about the disjointedness, Miss Brady. It can't all be perfect.