Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New School!

First off, a given:  I can't find the camera cord.  Go figure.  We had two, doubling my chances of knowing where it was, but then the dog chewed one, so now I have to remember what safe place I used to stash our remaining cord.  So, pics later.

We switched schools for Elizabeth this year, into a Spanish immersion bilingual program.  The school is new, and is in a one year temp space, so there have been lots of worries about it.

To give her a lot of time to get accustomed to the idea, we started talking way back in the winter about how she'd go to a new school this year, and she was quite eager to make a change.  Until suddenly, in the middle of summer, she realized it meant she would not go back to her old school, and she decided she would NOT go to a new school this year. End of discussion.  She was adamant.  No, I am not going to a new school.  I will not do it.

So we've been talking to her a lot about it, and encouraging her and just generally being supportive, and she finally admitted she was scared about the Spanish part.  I'll admit that Rich and I are not fully committed to bilingual education.  We have worries.  First, while I took two years in high school and 1 in college, I have very limited spanish, and Rich has none.  So not sure how much we can help her, particularly if we stick with this into older grades.  Second, while research says kids do well in the long run, it can be tough in the immediate term and short term.  In the near term, kids struggle in the first few months - and maybe all year - to grasp the other language.  It's a big change.  Second, if they're struggling with the other language, how much content are they learning, especially if they are only learning content in their english classes.  While most studies show that years out kids do well academically, the first few years they may be behind other kids.  So, risky.  But, as we've long said, Elizabeth has a real skill as a mimic, and has always been advanced verbally.  So we've decided the risk is worth it, at least for one year to try out and see.

Anyway, the school did a great job in prepping parents and kids, and had numerous playdates and info sessions where kids could meet teachers.  The K teachers - both spanish and english - seem fabulous.  I had finally gotten Elizabeth to agree that she would attend the new school, but only the english parts (this kid is a good negotiator, I'll give her that).

The way they do immersion is that there are two K classes.  Each day, one is in english all day, and the other in spanish.  And then they alternate days.  This is another potential downside - hard to build momentum in any one area, and while the kids themselves can bond as a group, they have two groups of teachers to bond with (ugh, and now to I have to buy two sets of teacher and aide gifts at the holiday and end of school year??).  It's not a close one on one with one teacher type of model.  Also, the spanish teachers (who are fully bilingual) are ONLY speaking to the kids in spanish.  In fact, they are telling the kids the teachers can not speak english, though they understand english.  As a parent, if you don't speak spanish, and you have a question for the teacher, you can grab a translator, or you can make an appointment outside of the presence of children to discuss it.  And then, the Friday before school starts, they sent out class assignments.  And guess what?  Elizabeth was assigned to spanish first day.  Yikes.  I told her as matter-of-factly as I could, without fake-y enthusiasm that I knew she'd see right through.  As expected, she flat out rejected it.  Nope.  Not going.  So we just let it drop, as it's hard to negotiate with a flat out rejection.

So, first day of school and we're all up and out by 8 am, and after a fairly lax summer it wasn't easy.  But we made it.  Made the drive to school, and she was actually cautiously excited.  We walked into the spanish classroom, and the teacher immediately warmly greeted her by name and said some welcoming words in spanish.  The one thing I will totally give these teachers is that they are AMAZING at speaking a foreign language and using body, face and inflection to completely convey meaning.  She asked (in spanish) Elizabeth to hang up her backpack, and put the requested school supplies in an specific area.  The room was crowded, so Rich was close by and he was confused about what to do, and Elizabeth told him what to do.

Other kids in her class were coloring, so she immediately joined in and seemed engaged. So we took advantage and all hugged and kissed her goodbye, and walked out.  As we left the building, Andrew suddenly said, I want my sister.  Sweet boy.  I think this may be hardest on him.

I worked from home so I could do pick up, and when I walked into the classroom at the end of the day she was completely engaged in animated conversation with a boy in her class, and the teacher had to go to her and point out I was there.  She told me she had an awesome day, that the teachers understood her when she spoke to them (obviously a worry we hadn't considered she would have), and even better, the work was 'easy' and that the teacher held up her work for the class first to show what a great job she had done.  Bottom line, she was really, really happy.

Later that night, just as she was going to bed, as I was tucking her in and turning out lights, she told me she was just a little shy about speaking spanish and might just wait to do that.  But then she said, 'no me gusto' which means I don't like.  I could not figure out why she was saying that, but she clearly had picked up on it.  Then she started saying made up words (she told me they were fake words) in a spanish accent and moving her hands in a descriptive way (fairly obviously mimicking the teachers).  So somehow, I think this is going to work out.


Elaine said...

Good luck with the new school! If you ever need to talk with someone on the other side, my coworker sent her son to the Adams Morgan immersion son and despite some doubts along the way, I think she's pretty pleased now (and her son is out of middle school by now, I belive). And next time you're over - take a camera cord home with you. I think I have 8 or 9 of the dumb things!

Thrift Store Mama said...

This post makes me smile happily. I especially love how Elizabeth understood what the teacher was saying through her body language. And oh, my girls pretend to speak Spanish all the time. They especially like to do it after they've heard other people speaking it animatedly, which happens fairly often around here.

Laurie said...

How's it going? We sent Zoe and Mia to spanish immersion camp this summer and they loved it. I hope that Elizabeth has a great experience.