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Friday, October 5, 2012

6. Facing the reality

I had to attend meetings with other teachers and administrators to make planning activities at my first week at the school, it suppose we were helping to children to learn more but actually we were planing boring activities for us. 

They told me that it could ask questions about the program, but I decided to be cautious because I didn't want to be the new fool at the school.

I was so busy filling documents the first four days that I did not have time to look at the list of my group. On Thursday night, during a moment of courage, I slowly opened it hoping that names had changed by something that I could read and say without any problem, but there were no changes. What my eyes saw was again were words separated by spaces that told me nothing and I could not articulate. I was only able to read 7 names. 

I decided to ask urgent help to Gaby, I wanted to know if it was true that smile that told me that she liked to help teachers with problems. I sent her an email:
Hey, I have not forgotten you!:
In fact, I plan to use you as my lifeline until you ask me to leave you alone.
I have a problem; I hope that you can give me some advice. I have students of different nationalities, and I don't know how to pronounce their names and I have no idea how to my tongue can say those words, Do you have any advice?

Her reply was almost instant despite the fact that it was almost 11 o'clock, I began to suspect that be educational adviser was a work of 20 hours a day:
Hi David:
I know very well I am unforgettable, but I also understand that you will only be around when you have a stumble, I will not dream, ja, ja, ja. (Is it possible that she can read my mind?)
I don't have much experience with languages, but I know of someone who can help you, please write to: . She is very creative person and speaks several languages, I am very sure she will have a good idea to get you out of the problem. Tell her that I gave you her email.
Do not expect immediate response from her, but tomorrow at the latest at 10 am she would reply.

I did not much like the idea of dealing with someone else, but the situation was desperate. I wanted to be the best the first day of class, I knew I was eventually going to mess up, but I  didn't want to do it the first day. So I wrote:
Dear …
My name is David, I’m Gaby’s friend and she gave me your email, I hope not to disturb you, I have a problem with languages and Gaby thought of you. I am a second grade teacher and I have foreign students, whose names I can’t pronounce, I would like to be able to do so and call my students by name. I hope you can help me.

Her answer came promptly at 10 in the morning the next day:

Dear David:
There is no reason to worry; I have two solutions that complement each other to solve your cultural dilemma. The first is Google, which has an app of translator that allows you to listen to the words that you write. Usually identifies automatically the language of the words, but if they are names, it can be confused. You can choose the language you are typing and that will make easier the task. Just go to Google, click on the tab for More, and then choose translator. Type the word and then click audio symbol and you can listen to the word.

Another advice that complements the first option is using colorful cards, and the first day of class you ask to children to write down their names on the card, it’s important you let them choose their favorite color, and then slowly ask them to say their names, if necessary, ask them to repeat it more than once, until you and the rest of the group can say it. That helps to socialize the group and everyone will be familiar with the sounds of other languages. It is not easy, because the brain will not register the sounds quickly, so you can ask them to have the cards visible as long as you need it. Do not allow jokes about their names between children, explain them that languages, do not necessarily share all the sounds, but that gives even more greatness to the different cultures.

I admire teachers who are able to learn the name of their students; I could never learn more than 5 names.

I wish you the best on your first day of school.

I could not believe that Google would serve for something more than just searching songs or videos, but when I tried it, and I heard clearly every sound, so I wrote down with pencil next to each of the names the way I could understand it. 

The next afternoon, I took a trip to Office Depot and I bought many colorful cards, I think I saw them so attractive as photos at sports illustrated. I was almost ready for the first day of class. 

That night I replied thanked to Gaby for putting me in contact with who had saved my life, I called her my Guru. I also wrote to my friends to tell them that I was anxious about my first day of class. 

With a little bit of anger I felt that what I had learned at school was only a crude mockery of what was waiting for me. For the first time, I was willing to learn.

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