Fieldnotes, 9 April 2013

Helped four students today. The first two were both kindergartners, females. The third was a fourth grader, also female. There were not many students receiving tutoring, and there were more tutors than tutees for many periods. When I started to tutor the third student, Sara came to sit with us. Because there was not a hurry, we took our time with her work, and she had both of us to work with her on her reading.

The first student Lili received help from her older sister, nine-year-old Olivia and her friend from school ten-year-old Jennifer. As I helped Lili read words from her worksheet and find patters of letters and sounds, her sister watched us, also guiding Lili with Spanish. At the same time, behind her, Jennifer also helped using Spanish and also pointing directly to the worksheet. I asked Olivia if she helped Lili often.

“I always do,” she said.

“I help her too,” said Jennifer.

“I can see that.”

“I help her because I already did this stuff before so it’s easy peasy.”

“Easy peasy, easy peasy.”

The second student I helped was Jazmin, also known as Migdaily. That’s the name that appears on the screen when I call her. But when she writes her name on her worksheets, she uses Jazmin. I ask her if that’s the name she uses at school.

“Yes.”

She’s in kindergarten. She reminds me of a kindergarten student I taught in Mexico City. We worked in basically the same worksheets as Lili, but this time with just me. Compared with the “fun” of the event, I can see she was not as entertained as when Lili had her audience. She also wasn’t compelled to complete additional homework beyond two pages. Lili was energized to complete four pages, the most difficult reading parts and the places her sister needed help with. Jazmin, however, remained focused, and we did read a book.

The last student I began this post with: Jana. She’s a fourth grader, she attends the bilingual school across town. Her homework this evening was to read a newspaper for students and respond to multiple choice questions about the reading. The reading varied from using caution while online, to different types of monkeys, and a simulated testing zone for astronauts training for Mars (in Utah). We read the newspaper together, and I asked questions and added outside knowledge. When Sara joined us, I noticed Jana was happier, again because she had an audience. She “showed off” how she could read, and also how smart she was. Again, the crowd, the triad offers an approach for understanding power dynamics from the position of audience . . . empowered and disempowered at the same time.

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