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Why not both?- Vignette

pbernal's picture

Ana María is a current 8th grader. She's been in the states for about two years and has an older brother who is also in the 8th grade. They both go to King's After School Program, sit close together, and look out for each other. They share a lot of similar qualities, but Ana María is mathematically talented and her brother is consistently encouraging her. Earlier in the year, Ana María was taking Pre-Algebra, but this semester, they moved her up to Algebra 2. She was moved to two levels of higher math. Her school recognized that Ana was doing so well in her previous math class that they gave her a math test and based on that score, she was moved to Algebra 2. Her courseload is different from many of her peers, for she is taking First grade reading level classes and is learning how to write sentences in English as well as learning how to read in English and understanding what she's reading. But she so happens to take math classes that not many of her peers are taking. She mentioned that only five people were taking the class, including herself, the only girl. Her own brother wasn't even taking the course, her biggest motivator. For science, she has all her handouts and readings translated, so that she's able to learn the material without having to struggle to understand what it is exactly she's reading. All of her tests can be taken in Spanish except for her literature tests, for they are meant to try and improve her english language skills. Earlier in the semester, Ana María expressed struggling with the new math material, especially for not being feeling confident in a classroom full of boys, none of them being her brother. She said she'd rather be in her other math class than her Algebra 2 because at least there she knew she could be who she was and not feel ashamed for knowing the answers. She felt confident whereas in this new classroom, she feels like she has to keep to herself, especially because all of the boys speak and read english well, and she doesn't. 

Ana María's experience relates to a few of the material we've discussed and read over the semester in Schools in American Cities. Here's a unique school that is helping her foster her education at the appropiate pace she can handle while at the same time being challenged. The school and teachers have worked together and constructed a curriculum specifically for her. They are acknowledging her weaknesses and strengths and helping her each step of the way. Whereas there are some schools, where students like Ana María are just thrown in a classroom and expected to keep up or perform at the minumum level without ever addressing the issues of their learning abilities and language barriers. 


jccohen's picture


This is a striking example of a school that is really paying attention to what this student can do and where she needs help, and stretching her in the first instance and supporting her in the second.  Especially exciting is her enrollment in Algebra 2.  And yet you also note her discomfort in that class, and I can't quite tell whether this discomfort is actually getting in the way of her learning.  How's she doing in there - is she able to do the work despite feeling socially/linguistically out of place, or is the social/language situation interfering with her learning?  Also, I take it that she confided all this to you, which is great; do you think she's also shared this with someone at the school who might step in to help ease the situation for her?