February 07, 2005

Great Expectations

There sits Miss Haversham, always a bride, forever virginal, living a life devoid of life because she can't get over her betrayal; she can not change her plans.

Me: Great expectations. My girls in my English class where going to read. All of them would be at or beyond third grade level by the time we ended the term.
Reality. It ain't gonna happen.

I've had to downsize my expectations to meet reality, not because the girls I work with are unintelligent, obstinate, or lazy, but because their environment has, in part, honed their abilities and talents, and one thing their environment has been telling them to do since they could read Hebrew was; ignore the vowels. Learn the words by site. The vowels aren't there.

This learning is both subtle and overt; a stated goal in school, an obvious goal when books read to them contain things (nikoodot, equivalent to vowels) that big people's books don't have.

But English is somewhat vowel dependent. Yes, I cn rd ths. But is this word I mt hm met or meet? English holds its vowels tight, and English, unlike Hebrew, has words that don't even seem related which in fact are; went and go. And why is it goes anyway for she/he/it but not for anyone else? Why is it FISH and not fishes?
Slept but not sleeped, kept, but not keeped, but bleeped and seeped?

Culture has inoculated those of us who have grown up in an English-speaking world, so that even if we err, it is easier for us to learn to do it correctly because we have heard it correctly, numerous times, without our awareness. Movies, radio, books read to us, conversations that take place around us, teachers and parents correcting us: it is KEPT, not KEEPED, you WENT, not goed.
Hear the correction and the correct way; hear it in our sleep.

If I'm the main source of this information, if I am the main one who will say "That's a (short A) sound not e(short e ) sound, it will take much longer to learn.

Even if their parents do correct, and the girls in my class have conscientious parents so I'm sure they do, they can't do it all the time, and I wouldn't want all their English conversations to become heavily bogged down in a lesson. Better to speak English at least some of the time, even poorly, than never at all.

So I am reviewing the situation (again with the Dickens) and revising my expectations downward, to, hopefully a proper level.

It feels a bit like giving up, but in reality I know it is the opposite; it is moving forward.

Sometimes you have to climb down a bit to get up the mountain.

Posted by Rachel Ann at February 7, 2005 08:27 AM

An important life lesson here: If all else fails, adjust your expectations!

Posted by: RP at February 8, 2005 09:54 PM

That is so funny Rachel Ann, we were discussing the very same book in Hebrew class on Tuesday!

Posted by: Renee W at February 10, 2005 06:13 AM
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