Monday, December 21, 2009

Student Reflection

Danielle McBride

This is a photo of me looking over an old history book and reading up on the Vietnam War. Due to the fact I feel insecure about my knowledge sometimes, I occasionally come home from working at the school and research topics that I know I am going to have to work with again.

While working at Central High School, on numerous occasions I have found myself thinking, “How am I supposed to explain this in Spanish when I am not entirely sure how to explain it in English?” Working through situations like this, where I may simply not know how to articulate a concept or an idea in English because it seems so “second nature” to me or I may not know the concept or idea to begin with, I have learned numerous tactics to approach these situations and I feel as though I have improved myself throughout the process.

Sometimes, I am faced with a student that needs help with a subject that I have never taken and have no real knowledge of. In some instances, I was not even aware such subjects were offered in high school (such as economics, anatomy, psychology, etc.). Being from a small town and high school, I wasn’t exposed to these subjects and, being an International Studies major with a focus on human rights, I have not had exposure to these subjects in college either. This seems quite problematic when faced with a student depending on you to help them understand their required work. When I first was in this situation, I was sure I would be of no service to the poor student that was going to be stuck with me as their tutor. But once in the thick of the predicament, I realized that I have the ability to read, think, learn, and explain. It was then I recognized that I can quickly glance at the textbook to find out the information and facts I need to know and still be able to translate and explain in English.

Another issue I’ve come across is almost opposite in nature. Some things, such as math for me, come quite naturally. In fact, I have never been very competent at explaining or clarifying math concepts to others because in my mind, no explanation is necessary. Of course, when faced with it being necessary that I explain such concepts, and in Spanish rather than the language I learned them in, I thought the task was going to be daunting. However, I have found not thinking of these concepts as I traditionally have, but rather thinking in Spanish first then looking at the concept, I am able to explain in a much clearer manner. I would have never guessed that explaining trigonometry would be easier to do in Spanish than in English, but it seems to be the truth in my case.

Translating, both words and concepts, between English and Spanish can be an overwhelming task at times, but it certainly is achievable. Working in the ESL classroom, there are always challenges in translation. Sometimes you simply do not know the word in Spanish. Working in this classroom has strengthened my ability to not stutter or freeze up when I do not know a word, but to find another way to get my point across. I either explain the word or find a different approach to my explanation (which sometimes includes using more vibrant hand gestures…).
Needless to say, working in Central High School has really changed my perception of language obstacles. Now, rather than thinking, “How am I supposed to explain something in Spanish that I can’t explain in English?” I turn towards the thought, “What is another way of approaching this situation so I can think through it in Spanish and provide help and assistance?”

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