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Some years back, I spent an hour each week with a class of 8th graders in one of Hawaii’s public high schools. It was part of a program with the goal of helping kids become better writers.
I was attracted to the program because I had always been of the opinion that when the boss got a really well-written memo—clear and concise—whoever wrote it would be noticed and maybe marked for promotion.
So much for that theory. At my very first meeting with one of those classes, I Iearned how difficult the job of a public school teacher is, especially here in Hawaii.
There were about 30 kids in that class and for eight or nine of them, English was not their first language. Two spoke Ilocano or Tagalog, the two principle Filipino dialects; two spoke Japanese, one spoke Mandarin, one spoke Tahitian and French, and two of the kids spoke Samoan. They all spoke some English, but the range of skill was from almost fluent to a few dozen words.
In addition to the classroom work, I gave simple homework assignments to the entire class, none of which would have taken any of the kids more than five minutes to finish. (Few if any of the kids born and raised in Hawaii ever did my little homework assignments.)
I occasionally think about those kids and wonder how they’re making out. I’m betting that most of them are doing all right and that the kids with the additional language skills are doing better than then others.
There’s an addendum to this little story:
After I quit working and we moved to Maui, I sent letters to the principals of two of the public high schools here, the two closest to my home, asking if they would be interested in having me do the same kind of program once-a-week in their schools.
I never got a response from either one.
This article first appeared on www.trainsandtravel.com
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