Fieldnote, 16 September 2013

Long day of running back and forth, but also teaching. I went as ambassador to a high school on the north side of the city, North High School let’s call it. NHS. At NHS, a Spanish instructor had contacted folks working with Viva Mexico, who reached out to me to do some community work. I said of course, I always do.

Once I arrived, I learned that two Spanish teachers wanted me to speak to their classes. That would work fine. Mostly sophomores, some juniors and seniors. I was to have about thirty minutes each. And also to speak to them about the Year of Mexico at the UK.

The first class was pretty excited to see me, I guess. They asked me lots of questions about my life, where I came from, what it meant for my family. The teacher had done his research on me, and he knew about some of my work. I brought copies of the LOL book and I read a story about a language broker. I also spoke about the my autoethnography project and how I’ve used education and learning to critically unlayer aspects of my identity. I felt like I was doing my conference presentation from the weekend over again–twice again for this day.

The first class had about twenty students, arranged in grouped desks of four, the center of which had a flag from a different nation in Latin America and Spain Some of the students spoke while I spoke, but most listened to me. The teacher did his best to keep students in line, but I kept speaking, I think I handled it well. I did have to call out one student who for some reason or other was taking off his shirt in class. I think I won him over by the end after I read the LOL story though.

They asked me about my career, where I grew up, what it was like to be a researcher and teach at the university, what it was like being the first person in my family to attend college . . . basically all the stuff I love to talk about.

The second class was shorter, and we engaged in that class with more discussion about immigration, as well as the book project. In that class the students were “advanced” which meant more females and less discipline. I could feel the difference. The teacher in this class was female. The classroom was smaller. The desks were arranged the same way. There were no flags in the center of reach group though.

In this class I had a stool to sit on while speaking. In the first, there was no such option. That would have been nice, I thought, as I sat on the stool to speak.

“Bueno, voy a hablar poquito en espanol, pero, not much, porque hablo espanol bien feo. Entonces, voy a hablar en Espanglish. Para mi, it’s better to speak that way. Bueno, today I’m going to tell you a little bit about me, about my work, y otras cosas in the UK.”

Yeah, did I mention I practiced my Spanish in front of the class. Eventually I went back and forth. I was able to use more Spanish in the first class, but in the second I was very frank with them, and I admitted that I spoke “bad” Spanish, with groserias naturally, and that if I were to speak to them properly I would have issues. The teacher seemed to be understanding. The first teacher spoke with a Spaniard’s accent, and also Argentine. The second teacher was from Argentina. They could appreciate my Chilango-isms.

Later, I went to the Village Branch and worked with two students. The first was J. She’s a fifth grader at the immersion school. We did some math problems, and I spoke to her in Spanish. I did well with my Spanish today, creo. I asked her how to read numbers in her problems in Spanish. After we read two chapters together in a book about a boy in the wilderness of Maine during the nineteenth century. She reads well.  She was very independent and resented when I would correct a word when I hadn’t given her enough time to figure it out for herself.

The second student I worked with was a tenth grader. She needed help with her geometry. Turns out she was a student at Dunbar. I gave her a copy of the LOL book. I think she’ll enjoy it. Her math was difficult, and I only was able to help with a few problems. I think I may have confused her, but it appeared I was the only tutor able to take it on. The high school teachers hired at the center are not able to tutor this subject. This is an issue that I think I’ll have to address with the manager when I start writing my reports.

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