Caleb has only been in the United States for a year now, but does remarkably well speaking English. Conversational English, however, is much different from academic English. Research shows that children his age who are learning English for the first time require 7-10 years to catch up in academic language.
His ESL teacher has been less than wonderful this year. I’m still trying to figure out if she purchased her degree online or if she does indeed understand her field but has a very lazy work ethic. Caleb was in school for more than 2 months before she ever even assessed him even though the law says she only had 30 days maximum. For his ESL work, she has given him a journal where she puts a photo she has taken of him in front the library for example, and he writes a few sentences such as, “This is the library. This is where I can borrow books.”
Meanwhile in Language Arts, he is expected to complete daily oral language sentences where for the most part the only mistakes he can recognize are needing a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and a period at the end. Has his ESL teacher advised his Language Arts teacher on what is appropriate work for my son? Not that I am aware.Has she made accomodations for him in social studies or science where the vocabulary is light years over his head? Nope. His regular classroom teacher has only graded him so far on the work he attempts. He’s no dummy. He figured out rather quickly that if he doesn’t attempt a problem on a test he doesn’t get points taken off. So, my kid can’t write English, and struggles to read English on a first grade level, but made the honor roll last quarter. Go figure.
Last month when Jeff and I were out of town, my sister stayed with my children and helped Caleb with a reading about the Boston Tea Party that was way over his head. She earned a check plus. 🙂 Two weeks later, he brought home another assignment that was similar but on Sequoyah. Virtually every sentence would need at least two words explained; tedious to be sure. Since Caleb brought it out of his backpack after hours of other work and it was already bedtime, my DH out of frustration wrote, “This is beyond Caleb’s abilities” and then signed his name and sent it back. My DH earned a check minus. Bad, bad father.
Neither can compete with me. I’m earning all A’s for fifth grade this year. After a book report got sent home which was literally impossible for my son to do, I tired of fighting the system. I send emails to his teachers, I choose his own spelling words, I read to him daily, I share research with his teachers on what is appropriate for an ESL student, etc, but one of his teachers doesn’t seem to get it. I didn’t have it in me to explain yet again why the expectations on this assigment were impossible, so I let him dictate to me in his broken English and then I wrote it out in grammatically correct English. A large portion of his grade was based on grammar. Whose grammar? I earned an A. Sadly, however, I am not the one who needs to pass fifth grade.
His assignment this month was to read the newspaper daily. OK…newspaper = sixth grade level reading ability. My son can read on a first grade level…barely. I already do plenty of homework each day with three children who read on a very beginning level. Micheline of course because she is in kindergarten. Ben because he is deaf, and Caleb because he is still learning English. Do I now spend an hour each day reading the newspaper to my son? I think this one is going to go back saying “This is beyond his capabilities”. Bet I earn a check minus. Dang! There goes my GPA!