Fieldnote, 8 April 2013

Spring Break is over, and the first Monday back to the library. This time I agreed to bring a graduate student with me to observe the library, the daughter of a colleague studying anthropology at the UK. She’s Latina, and she wants to be involved with the Latino community. I was glad to connect her to the library, as I think it’s a natural place for her to get to meet people, and possibly informants for her work. I may end up helping her on one of her committees if I’m not careful.

At any rate, we went to the library, and I introduced her to folks. She met the folks in the front, as well as the Cicely who organized the tutoring program for the evening. I had the student observe me working with one student, and she watched closely as I worked with one student, who was getting tired by the end. I work hard with the students, so she saw the intensity and what I expected when she worked with students. This is a good strategy to get students to think about all the possible ways to teach students, and different strategies for tutoring.

The first student I helped, Evelyn, was a first grader, six years old. As soon as she saw me she said she wanted to complete all her homework pages.

I flipped through the pages, and she had about ten pages to work through, ranging from ELA to math, to vocabulary and spelling words. She said her mom told her to finish them all. I was thinking this might be because she couldn’t come back tomorrow. We worked as many sheets as we could, through the mathematics, and then into the reading which took a little longer. She head to read short passages then answer multiple choice questions about what she read, ranging form the main idea to the details of the passages. She read well, but she had difficulty taking away content or clues. I showed her how to re-scan the passage and to mark things with her pencil. Important skills, I realize, and I think back to Brenda and how Sara and I stressed that with her. That’s an important strategy for students. That and process of elimination, since that’s a skill these tests teach.

When we were finishing her eighth page, her mother came to check on Evelyn’s progress. I spoke to her mother briefly in Spanish and asked if Evelyn had any help with her homework in English. She said yes, that Evelyn has a sister.

“How old is your sister?” I asked Evelyn.

“She’s seven.”

“Oh, well, yes, she can help, that’s true.”

I did my best to communicate with Evelyn’s mother that she should help her daughter with as much mathematics as she could, but that we would help her with the language issues, I said this in “broken” Spanish–somewhat shameful, alas, alas.

As Lili watched all this go down, she was called into action. Hush, hush about that. Needed an extra hand, and anyway she’s a student and friend of mine, so they saw her watch me help a student, and they could trust her. She helped one boy, while I helped my second student. A sixth grader who made me think about my geometry again, thinking about triangles and numbers, areas and things of that nature. Rosita and I worked on her math, but she was actually performing extra-credit. She had completed all her homework from Spring Break early, so she was working ahead. She showed me her homework on graphing paper.

“My sister helped me with this.”

“Wow,” I said, “she’s knows what she’s doing.”

“She’s in eleventh grade. She’s smart.”

“I can tell.”

I helped her figure out missing lengths for triangles embedded in rectangles. These were things I hadn’t done for a while, so it took me a bit longer to remember some of the details when I had to stop and think about things. So strange: I used to be so good at math . . . really liked that stuff . .  . but that I chose language? Do we choose that, or do we get chosen? Not like Wittgenstein or Beckett or Joyce who had both.

Anyway, I helped her with this, then she showed me the keychain she was beading with materials from the Teen Room. This was the most recent art project.

As I watched her do this project, the last student I helped for the evening arrived.

First grader Diana did some reading and writing homework very much similar to the previous first grader I helped. The framing of multiple choice questions was the same, and the readings were of equal length and difficulty. Both of the students I helped handled the words well, but the second student, Diana, did better with comprehension, though she too had difficulty reading for content. Her passages were much easier for comprehension than the first student’s, however. For Diana, her readings dealt more with describing scenes, a building storm ending in a flash of lightning. The first child’s homework reading dealt with a crab spider and how it hunted insects.

Diana read well, and when we finished, we turned the page over to her mathematics. With this she was hesitant. She had to read clock times, and she had to count money. I talked her in to counting the money. She mistook nickels and dimes, but overall she was able to count money well. She had a difficult time adding three numbers at the same time. I could tell she had some difficulties with math. She was completely against the reading clocks section. She read a few samples, but then she claimed that her teacher said she didn’t have to do that section. I didn’t really believe her, but I let it pass. She had done most of the two-sided sheet already, and I think that may have been her homework for the entire week.



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