I've been checking in on the kids in Ms. Ginski's ESL classroom at Pulaski Elementary School (pictured) every few weeks since last winter, watching these kids in grades 5-8 struggle to learn English and keep up in their academic subjects.
A profile of one of the boys, Jafet Melendez, is in the current issue of Catalyst (Immigrant student faces language, social hurdles). He is third from the right, in a black sweatshirt. Ms. Ginski, the ESL teacher, is third from the left.
The piece focuses on the academic and social challenges that Jafet,
his family, and the school are all facing. These challenges include
the difficulties of coordinating a pull-out ESL program with the
regular classroom, finding appropriate Spanish-language materials for
older children, and the challenges of being a beginner at English and a
slightly homesick 13 year-old boy all at the same time.
For the school system, which once used to focus mainly on how much
time it took to transition ELL (English language learner) kids to
mainstream classrooms, there's the NCLB-created additional pressure of
showing students' academic proficiency on a version of the ISAT, even
as the city has lost federal immigrant education funding and the
overall numbers of immigrant and ELL kids are falling.
For me, the main value of the piece wasn't wondering whether Jafet
was going to make it (he probably is) or whether the school was going
to make AYP for its ELL subgroup (it did), but rather the experience of
being in a classroom on and off over time, remembering how mentally and
psychologically hard it is to learn something new, and getting to
practice my Spanish.
Thanks to everyone at Pulaski for their hospitality, and to everyone
at Catalyst for assigning me the piece and editing it so well.
Filed under: Media Watch