Tag Archive: Spanish

Wordless Wednesday (Spanish Version)

Placemat by Diego. Translation: I am thankful for my mother and father, to see my brother, my family which has my sisters and brother, the rainbow, my hands, my friends, God.

 

 

 

Back to School with the 3 R’s – Reading, Writing and Retention


Diego has been back in school for a couple of months now, and I am happy to say that even though the beginning of the school year presented a lot of challenges, we survived it.  You see, Diego is in the first grade. Again.  It was a big decision, and one we did not take lightly, but after several meetings last year with Diego’s teacher, the school principal and a reading specialist, Juan and I decided it would be in Diego’s best interest to repeat first grade. I felt it was the best decision.  Until the first day of school when I saw Diego curled in the corner crying. My heart ached and I began to second guess our decision. It was not the first time either, that I would second guess myself.

The first time was shortly after Diego started  kindergarten, when he was in pre-school and his pre-k teacher suggested he could use another year before he went to kindergarten. The kindergarten teacher at the school he was scheduled to attend also suggested it.  Juan and I considered giving Diego another year of pre-k since his August birthday would make him one of the younger students in the incoming  kindergarten class.  Delaying kindergarten, especially for boys, is a growing trend. There’s even a name for it, “Red shirting.” It comes from the term used in college sports when recruited athletes sit out the first year of college play.  In fact our own school district recognizes the benefit of starting kindergarten later and has begun to move back the cut-off birth date so that by next year an entering kindergartner must be 5 by August 1. However, in 2009, when Diego was set to start kindergarten, the birthday cut-off was still mid-December. That year Juan and I  learned that Diego was accepted into our local school district’s inaugural year of a Spanish immersion program, and we decided it was too great an opportunity to pass up, so we enrolled him in kindergarten, even though a part of me felt he could benefit from another year of pre-k.  In kindergarten Diego struggled for several weeks. He cried  regularly when I dropped him off. The teachers assured me that he was fine after I left and he definately seemed to be grasping the curriculum, even if 90% of it was in Spanish.  I felt better about our decision to to start him in school–and then he got to first grade.

Suddenly, it seemed like the curriculum took a steep curve. The class sizes increased to 29 students, due to budget cuts. When I volunteered in the classroom, it seemed chaotic, a couple of students seemed to continually interrupt and demand attention from the teacher, as she tried to work with small reading groups. Diego seemed to be a bit behind in reading, but we figured it had more to do with the fact that this year 80% of the curriculum was in Spanish, and the understandable confusion between learning to read in Spanish and English.  Four months into the school year, the teacher determined that Diego needed reading extra support and he began to see a reading intervention specialist. The added support seemed to make a difference, and Diego loved it. He received 20 minutes per day of individualized instruction. Unfortunately, by the end of the school year, his reading was still significantly behind the standard,  and we were faced with the decision to let him advance to the second grade or repeat first.

Juan and I were taken aback. How could this happen? Diego is a bright, sociable, confident boy.  Juan and I both love to read, and we have been supportive of his education.  I hate to say it, but I felt a bit like retention was a poor reflection upon me, and my ability to raise a child who loves to read.  My ego was tied up with my son’s academic achievement. Mother fail. When I came to terms with the idea, I realized  retention wasn’t about me, but about him. I knew that retaining Diego was the best thing for him.

I broke the news to Diego, and he was, understandably, very upset. He cried because he thought he would not see his friends and that he would not be able to play with them.  He sobbed and told me he was a “failure.” Ugh.  Exactly what I did not want to hear. I had tried to put as postive a  spin on retntion, without ever suggesting that he failed. Diego came up with the idea on his own. My own fears were realized, since I had read that one of the major criticisms of reteniton was the negative impact it had on a child’s self-esteem.

The first day of school Diego was anxious.  He saw his old friends but didn’ t engage them much. He seemed self-consciouse that he had to  line up separately from them.  When he got into the classroom, he didn’t recognize anyone.  He took a seat on the carpet away from everyone and began to cry.  It was awful. I tried to comfort him but I there was little I could do to make him feel better, and eventually I had to leave. I hovered outside the door for about 10 minutes and watched through the window as his tears stopped. I knew that he would adjust. It’s taken awhile but he seems to be doing okay. He used to regularly ask if he could move onto second grade, but he is doing that less and less. He still plays with his old friends and has made new ones. He is confident in class and is one of the kids who regularly speaks Spanish to his classmates, and his reading has improved.  The class size is smaller, 21 students.

Next week, Juan and I meet with his teacher for a conference. I am anxious to talk to her and spend some time discussing his progress. Even though I may have second guessed my decision to send Diego to kindergarten early, and our decision to retain him for first grade, the more and more I see him really blossoming, the more I feel like it was the right decision. Diego is not the youngest in his class, but he’s not the oldest either. I think that he is right where he needs to be.

The “J” of Spanish

Only two more days before Diego returns to school at his Spanish immersion program. During the winter break we’ve kept busy with holiday festivities, and we’ve had fun playing card games, board games and video games. We’ve also continued to practice his Spanish vocabulary whenever we can.

Diego’s Spanish has improved so much since he started the immersion program last year in kindergarten. He is so proud of himself and continues to remind us how, during a Spanish vocabulary drill on a family car ride,  he came up with the word for “pillows” before his 15 year-old sister, Olivia. Olivia,  who is in a high school Spanish II honors class, does not like to be reminded of that moment she was stumped by her 6 year-old brother.

This morning Diego tried to stump me with his own Spanish challenge.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for pencil?”

Me: Lápiz.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for paper?”

Me: Papel.

D: “How do you say “desk?’

Me: “Escritorio.”

D: “Noooo…It’s PUPITRE!!”

Me: “WHAT? Well, there are two ways to say “desk” in Spanish!”

An argument ensued, where I tried to redeem my Spanish fluency  in front of my little linguist. I lost. Diego offered some words of sympathy and encouragement.

“That’s okay Mommy. You can be the “J” of Spanish.”

What is the “J” of Spanish? I thought of all the Spanish vocabulary words which begin with “J” and could possibly mean, “Beginner,” “Novice,” “Loser.” Diego reminded me that we had been playing War with a deck of cards the other day, and he explained:

Daddy is the King. I am his Bodyguard and you are “J.”

“J?” I am only the Jack? Doesn’t a King need a Queen?

Diego tried to offer me more encouragement, “When you learn more Spanish you can be the Queen.”

Hmmp! I only hope that my Spanish will improve and I will be made Queen.  In the meantime, I may just stick to challenging Diego to games of War instead of Spanish vocab challenges.

The "J" of Spanish

Only two more days before Diego returns to school at his Spanish immersion program. During the winter break we’ve kept busy with holiday festivities, and we’ve had fun playing card games, board games and video games. We’ve also continued to practice his Spanish vocabulary whenever we can.

Diego’s Spanish has improved so much since he started the immersion program last year in kindergarten. He is so proud of himself and continues to remind us how, during a Spanish vocabulary drill on a family car ride,  he came up with the word for “pillows” before his 15 year-old sister, Olivia. Olivia,  who is in a high school Spanish II honors class, does not like to be reminded of that moment she was stumped by her 6 year-old brother.

This morning Diego tried to stump me with his own Spanish challenge.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for pencil?”

Me: Lápiz.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for paper?”

Me: Papel.

D: “How do you say “desk?’

Me: “Escritorio.”

D: “Noooo…It’s PUPITRE!!”

Me: “WHAT? Well, there are two ways to say “desk” in Spanish!”

An argument ensued, where I tried to redeem my Spanish fluency  in front of my little linguist. I lost. Diego offered some words of sympathy and encouragement.

“That’s okay Mommy. You can be the “J” of Spanish.”

What is the “J” of Spanish? I thought of all the Spanish vocabulary words which begin with “J” and could possibly mean, “Beginner,” “Novice,” “Loser.” Diego reminded me that we had been playing War with a deck of cards the other day, and he explained:

Daddy is the King. I am his Bodyguard and you are “J.”

“J?” I am only the Jack? Doesn’t a King need a Queen?

Diego tried to offer me more encouragement, “When you learn more Spanish you can be the Queen.”

Hmmp! I only hope that my Spanish will improve and I will be made Queen.  In the meantime, I may just stick to challenging Diego to games of War instead of Spanish vocab challenges.

Monolingual Mommy/Bilingual Baby

 If I could change something about my childhood, it would be that I did not grow up learning Spanish. My grandparents all spoke Spanish.  My father grew up speaking Spanish and is fluent in both English and Spanish. My parents made a conscious decision not to raise me and my siblings speaking Spanish. I believe this was because they wanted us to have a good command of the English language, and my father remembered the stigma that was associated with speaking Spanish in his youth.  I understand their decision and I appreciate them for wanting my  siblings and I to become strong in our English reading and writing skills.

 Still, I wish I was fully bilingual. Not that I haven’t tried to become fluent in Spanish. I took 3 years of high school Spanish, one semester in college, and post-college I attended 2 more years of Spanish evening classes at a community college. In law school I spent a summer living with a Mexican family, studying law in Mexico, and taking Spanish language classes. It’s my great frustration that despite all my efforts I can still only say that I am “conversant” in Spanish.

So, last year when Juan and I learned of a new program launching in our local public school district that would fully immerse the kindergarten through 5th grade students in Spanish, I was very interested. Diego was about to start kindergarten and on track to enroll in the same private catholic school that Nico and Erica attend. Juan and I had to make a decision to send him there or invest in our public school and put faith in this new program. We were on the fence because, honestly, our public school system does not have the best academic reputation, and we liked the small, family community and spiritual development our other kids were getting at their school

The day that we had to make the decision to send our seat deposit in for Diego at the private school, I was in San Francisco, attending a conference about the transitioning Mexican legal system. Prominent Mexican judges and attorneys were lecturing about their legal system, in Spanish. I was only one of a few attorneys who needed the aid of simultaneous translation.  That moment helped me to make the decision that Diego would attend the public school Spanish immersion program.

I have not regretted that decision. He is becoming bilingual and bi-literate. Soon he and Juan, who is a fluent Spanish speaker, will be able to talk about me without me fully comprehending what they are saying. Tonight, I am attending a special screening of the movie ”Speaking in Tongues” at Diego’s school.  This film shows the benefits of dual language programs. It’s such an exciting concept.  I encourage anyone who is in the Pasadena area to attend this event.  And if you’re into “Twittering” please give this post a “tweet.”

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