little girl who visits me on alternate evenings. She is now becoming more comfortable coming home, and opening up wonderfully. She has begun going to a children's activity center and the question "what did you do today?" opens up a flood that I need to stop with a stern call to studies. She paints excellently, has an astounding grasp of mathematics and a keen interest in the world around her. She is also exceedingly generous and often brings me little gifts like this flower she made.
The problem is, I feel like a fraud when I coach her. I have bitten off far more than I can chew, and it is sheer bloody-mindedness and the reluctance to withdraw what little help I am without offering a better alternative that is making me continue.
I am supposed to be helping her with Maths and English. The Maths she only needs the slightest help with, and the English she needs far more than I can give her. It is not her intelligence that is at fault. It is the education system. Its emphasis on focusing on the exams means that children like her get by with concealing the real state of their knowledge till they are suddenly thrown into the world.
She reads her English text well including words like 'attended', and 'jealous', and 'regularly'. She translates each paragraph correctly into Hindi. All this made me think that she is competent in English. No, she isn't. She has simply memorized the textbook.
Trying to converse with her in English made me realize that she actually has an extremely poor vocabulary. She did not know the meaning of 'you' or 'me'. This has me stumped, because I cannot conquer the large gap between what she knows and what she has learnt by heart. Getting her to translate a simple new sentence,"what is the time?" is impossible, because she tries to translate each word. We end up tied into knots because not only do Hindi and English have their subjects and predicates at different ends, but they also split verbs in a maddening manner.
For a while, I said goodbye to the school curriculum and focused on language games. The BBC games were a little out-of-context, but she had good fun with the graphics and would actually listen and try to understand the instructions. And making words with scrabble tiles was fun too, though that game usually ended with us building a house instead.This starting from scratch would probably yield results given time
But now exams are around the corner. I know that her parents expect that she'll do better because of the time she spends here, and the only way to do that is by dropping this and 'doing her lessons' which is learning the questions and answers by rote..knowing that if the question is worded even a little differently, she does not have the language skills to know what is being asked of her.
I have no idea what to do..should I sit down with her father and explain matters to him? Tell him that it is important she develop basic language skills now, before the gap between her curriculum and her skills is unbridgable? And even if I do, will I still be able to teach her, knowing that she has an utter phobia towards the language? I want her to know that English has an applicability outside the classroom, that there is pleasure in the written word. I show her my books- the few with pictures in them- and plan on buying some appropriate for her soon, but will that be enough? Is it any surprise that I feel like a fraud?
An Easter Resurrection
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