Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Turkey vs. Molé

I spent a couple of hours with the English class yesterday and was sorry when it was time to go home.

My first task was to take the more advanced readers into another room and read through a story about the first Thanksgiving—you know, how some people in England felt persecuted, or as Dive would say weren't allow to do the persecuting, so they hopped aboard the Mayflower with brave Captain Myles Standish and headed to the New World. They timed their trip all wrong so they landed just as winter was about to hit, and they weren't at all prepared. If it weren't for the local Native tribe, they would have all starved to death. Thanks to Squanto, they learned to plant indigenous vegetables and to hunt the local game. Come harvest time, they all got together for a three-day party. "And what a grand time it was." I explained to the readers that "grand" is a formal term that isn't often spoken in casual conversation.

It was interesting to work through the vocabulary in this story, but it led to an even more interesting discussion. Everyone at the table will celebrate Thanksgiving this year in one way or another, but they won't necessarily have turkey. The Puerto Ricans celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving growing up, but the Mexicans prefer molé to bird.

We all met the director of the program who then introduced us to a visitor from a local educational something or other. The man, well-intentioned I'm sure, was embarrassingly patronizing in his tone. I was telling him about what we were reading, and he said, pointing to the students, "Can they understand me?" I know he wasn't aware of the spelling words they would be tested on after the story, words like plateau and astonish and eventually, but I had just described the story they were reading. Throughout his visit, it was clear he wasn't really listening to anyone. One woman told him her son was a student at St. Joe's, a private Catholic elementary school, and a minute later he asked her if her son was in high school. She gave him the quizzical look he deserved.

I don't know how I would have reacted had I been one of the students, a hard-working adult who was being talked about like I was a child or not actually in the room. The students were gracious, but I wonder what they were really thinking in that awkward situation.

5 comments:

dive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dive said...

Sheesh! That last deleted comment was me. The typo monster bit me again. Sorry about that.
I was going to say that your class of readers sound smart enough to take it for granted that authority figures will be patronising and stupid.

And my vote goes to molé.

savannah said...

probably the very same thing you were thinking, sugar! xoxoxo

MmeBenaut said...

What an ignorant and insulting man. How horrid for the students. Lucky them that they have you Robyn.

Mark said...

Could we arrange to 'lose' the gentleman in downtown Kiev, to observe how well he adapts to a foreign culture? Heh.