I have faith (that I will understand someday)

For some reason this week I am less exhausted. Sometimes I wake up before my alarm. Take time to drink a cup of coffee, to sometimes (& accidentally) catch the bus on time, to meander into school early and wait outside the doorway of my first class – papers and flyswatters in hand – before the bell rings, instead of scrambling things together at the last minute.

Maybe there's just something about the sea air.

Somewhere below my feet (or below my skin) I can feel the slow almost perceptible shifts – things connecting. Getting It Together.

In school I am hearing a lot more Hellos and less Holas.

Nodding heads and ah, vale vale vale or even okay, of cooooouuuuurrrrse are replacing panicked blank faces.

We are drawing superheroes using comparatives and superlatives, who can throw hotdogs from his eyes or transform into a chocolate.

Occasionally my name is morphing from the familiar SAH-rah into a more deliberate SAWR-AH. (Not really phonetically closer to my native pronunciation, but paso a paso, eh?)

In classrooms and hallways students stop to ask me questions about the United States. (I haven’t had anyone ask me about England in weeks.)

Somewhere the 6th graders learned oh my god (I don’t think it was me) and like to use it with gusto.

(One learned asshole and used that with gusto, too – again, I swear it wasn’t me.)

And slowly we begin to move forward.

More than anything, I notice that when I am speaking to individuals or classes in English, students listen to me with trust instead of apprehension. Trust is big in language classes. I didn’t realize this at first, but it is. Trust and confidence are both far more integral to language production than boatloads of grammar. Similar to my first days in front of my American students years ago, during my first lessons here in Spain I was met with a sea of furrowed brows and many glassy stares. Even if I was repeating instructions that the teacher gave in Spanish or Valencian, these kiddos were totally at sea.

Write your name and the date at the top of the paper using pencil.

At first, despite wild gestures, brandishing utensils, and pointing to the date on the board, I imagine I sounded a lot like the adults in Charlie Brown. Bwah bwah BWAH bwah bwah BWAH bwah BWAH.

With some time, individual words began to emerge – thanks to some cognates, some basic vocabulary, and the fact that English is a stress-timed language. Bwah bwah NAME bwah bwah DATE (exaggerated indication of the date on the board) bwah bwah PAPER (waving around a paper) bwah bwah PENCIL (by now a few kids are on board and assist me in my wild pencil waving.)

Now, students watch me closely, perhaps trusting that somewhere in the sea of seasick vowel sounds there will be a life raft – a gesture, a cognate, or – even better – a word that now connects firmly to some image or idea in their heads.

Today in English a 4th grader made a joke.

Me: That looks like my cat. I have a black and white cat, with green eyes.
Kiddo: Pues, tu cat is old.
Me: Old? What?
Kiddo: Black and white photos? Old?

I am so proud.

So as the calendar Marches on (get it?) and with a date set for my return home (July 30th) I am hanging onto hope, and reigning in my building anxiety about returning home. I am going to trust that clarity will arrive when I need it.

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One Response to I have faith (that I will understand someday)

  1. annadefenestrated says:

    I laughed out loud re: the old cat interaction. Because I’ve totally been on both sides of that conversation before. It feels like a secret passage to understanding how comprehension works or doesn’t work- and that’s insight in to learning for both parties.

    Paso a paso.

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