The Grade 10 literacy test is in two weeks. Most of the kids don’t care about it very much; my Grade 12s are the ones who are starting to freak (culminating activities, don’t you know).
I’m kind of freaking because, for the first time, I have several students who are not going to pass the exam. I often find myself in the company of one who, usually because of a reading or writing disability, just won’t be able to do it. This time, though, all three students are battling some sort of disability as well as ESL. If I’d had a year with them, we might be okay.
I’ve had to be honest with the students and their parents. Would really like to have not said anything, not just to cater to my own ego but also the egos of the poor students. It’s almost impossible to make the parents understand that 4 1-hour sessions with a tutor is not enough to overcome a decade of literary difficulties. ( Wouldn’t someone think that a 16-year-old who has been in the ESL class for 9 years might be up against something other than just a second language?)
The silver lining is the occasional bright face when the students see the improvements they have made. Even though it’s not enough to impress the school board, finally understanding the term thesis means the student can now – demonstrably – write an essay. And, yeah, I’m okay with the students applauding themselves in the middle of the library. To go from My Favaurit flaveur of ice cream is ctiocolatc mint because it do’sn’t tast bad to Bill Gates is no longer the richset person in the would in one week is actually pretty good, I think.
My little nephew and niece phoned me last week to thank me for some books. My niece is 1, and doesn’t talk (though she communicates with absolutely no problem at all) so she just listened to me. My nephew is a fabulous orator at age 3, and had chosen a Spiderman comic book and a Level 1 Diego reader with his gift card; he told me all about them. Those two kids already have literally hundreds of books, but those don’t last very long when you read for a couple of hours each day.
We just gave my newest nephew his birthday present; the first child in each family receives a library of Literary Necessities like In The Night Kitchen and Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. My sister was ecstatic because he only had a dozen books or so, and she was getting mighty bored of reading them over and over. As with my sisters, and my other nephew and niece, I don’t expect this newest nephew to have any academic problems in school. (Behaviour problems, perhaps… when he’s older, we’re going to tell him about some of the things his mother did in school. )
I wish the school board would drop this stupid literacy test. It’s too little, way too late. Start with a Chapters gift certificate the day the baby is born. Don’t worry about toys in a daycare centre: fill a backpack full of books and spend the day in a field. None of my students like to read, but all of them are happy enough to “stop working and choose a book from the shelf”. (My students don’t read this blog, right? They’re not going to clue in to my tricks?) Grade 10 students who can’t write should be sent to poetry readings and creative writing sessions so they can pick up on the electric rush that goes through the room whenever anyone puts two brilliant words together.
Tonight’s Literacy Test student is one of the ones who isn’t going to pass. He can tell you about every aspect of a1965 muscle car, and with a little supervision can even put one together, but he can’t write a sentence. He will never be able to write a sentence. I would rather die than read a book he wrote, but I’d trust him to build me a safe, sturdy car that wouldn’t break down for a long time. He won’t ever be allowed to do that, though, because he won’t pass the test so he won’t get his high school diploma. He’ll be serving burgers for the rest of his life.
He likes to read the annual lemon reports when he’s taking a break from working.