Fieldnote, 29 April 2013

Today I worked with two fourth graders in tandem, Lili and Maria. They both read Shel Silverstein poems with me. They both requested to work with me because they said I was the “nicest” tutor, and because I could speak Spanish.

“You like to speak Spanish?” I asked Maria.

“With my mom and dad, yeah. But not with my teacher.”

“Your teacher speaks Spanish?”

“She tries to speak to me, but I don’t like to talk to her in Spanish because we are at school.”

I asked Maria, as well as Lili, when they both spoke Spanish.

“I speak it at my house only,” said Lili. “But sometimes here too when I talk to Maria’s mom.”

“Me too, when I talk at home, but I talk to my brother in English and Spanish, but more English.”

“And sometimes to little kids,” said Lili.

“But why do you like to speak Spanish with me?”

“Because you are nice, and you speak both.”

“It’s true,” I said, “I think I speak more English than Spanish, como ahorita, verdad?”

“Si!” said Maria. “See you are doing it, eso me gusta.”

The two students read their poems and wrote short summaries for each. After this, I asked them both to write a short paragraph comparing the two poems. I noticed that Maria was much further advanced in her writing and reading than Lili, and that at times Lili was embarrassed at her level compared to Maria. But Maria would cheer Lili, help her, but not help her too much.

When we finished, Lili left to use the restroom. I asked Maria why she helped Lili.

“Because she gets mad that she can’t write and read like me. But I like to help her because she’s my friend.”

“But you don’t give her the answers.”

“No because the teacher told me when I help people you don’t give them answers.”

Maria got me to thinking about training some of the tutees at the program as mentors. I asked Maria if she helped many students at the library.

“Mostly the little ones I read to them because it’s fun.”

“I think I know what you want to be when you grow up, but what do you want to be?”

“A teacher,” she said.