Multiple Intelligences?

Oh my, what a week. Let me tell you about it, and then I’ll tell you what I’m thinking…it’s sort of a new path of thought for me. Yesterday I was doing a story vocab lesson on a PowerPoint with my Intermediate English Learners. The room was a little darker than usual, and a few students were out of their normal seats so they could see the screen better. Two mistakes on my part, as it turned out, although this is my normal procedure.

As I was showing them definitions for the vocab in the story we’re about to read, I saw a boy pick something up off the floor. He looked at it and innocently asked if it belonged to anyone. Another kid said it was his wallet. He took it back and I thought nothing of it. A few vocab words later, the wallet owner, all 4’9″ of him was standing before me, and he said, “Ms. Jacobs, I had $22 in my wallet and now it’s gone.” Exasperated, I asked him why he had brought so much money to school, as if that was any of my business. He sniffled a little, and told me that he’d had a twenty dollar bill and a two dollar bill. A friend confirmed that it had been there at the beginning of the period.

Sighing, I continued with my lesson as the money loser writhed in agony. Finally, ten minutes before the end of the period I stopped everything and announced that money was missing and we needed to find it. Before saying anything to the class, I called the Assistant Principal and PASS officer and asked what they recommended I do. They said they would be right over. So, as I tried to get someone to ‘fess up to having the money, we waited.

The V.P. finally arrived, and when no one admitted to him that they had the money, he said they would have to search everyone and no one would go to morning recess until everyone had been searched. With that, they excused me to go to break. I didn’t feel I had a choice, so I left. I sat in my office across the playground and waited for students to begin leaving my room…and I waited. Finally, after about half an hour, well into the next period, they came pouring out, running madly for the classes they were late to. They were followed by a couple of little guys trudging across the blacktop behind the Assistant Principal.

Unsnarling this story was complex. It seems that they searched all the backpacks with no result. A two dollar bill is noticeable, so it should have been easy to spot, but no luck. They found and confiscated a few packs of gum, but nothing more. Then they announced they would be searching pockets. Suddenly a girl said, “Look! There’s some money in the trash!” She fished it out, and lo and behold, there were $33 there!

It seems that the boy who had moved from his seat had found the wallet and taken the money out. He tossed the empty wallet by the feet of the boy who announced that he had found it. As that boy was finding it, the money taker passed the cash to a friend, who passed it to another friend, who passed it on and on until five different boys had handled those bills. Finally, when the pocket searching started, the last boy had tossed it and his own $11 into the trash. So much for building a collaborative community. There was some collaboration going on, but not exactly what I have been hoping for. So that’s the first part of the story.

The second part has to do with the PowerPoint I showed. I received this slide show from a colleague who I respect highly. I modified it quite a bit to fit my own style of presenting, and my students’ ability to comprehend the definitions. In some cases I replaced her photos with some others I’d found, but I kept several of hers as well because I thought they fit the definition better than mine. Now, please don’t judge me, just look at the picture below:

Yes, indeed. The word was “bluff,” as in to mislead or fake something. Many of our students love to play poker, some of their parents are dealers at local casinos, and they understand that concept, so I thought this picture would work as an illustration. I completely missed the little lady in the bottom right hand corner of the picture until it was large on my SMART Board, and a student was crowing, “MISS JACOBS!!! Look at the lady!!” We didn’t spend much time on the word Bluff. Later on, distracted by the money stealing event, I forgot about the lady and showed the slide again in my next class. Again they noticed it right away.

I know this is taking a long time, but here is the thing I’m thinking about. My students seem to be fluent in English. They speak it just like all the other kids who aren’t English Learners. They are learning academic English, or CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). When I told my colleague about the little lady in the picture, she laughed and said she hadn’t noticed it, and neither had a single one of her 100 students. Her students are, for the most part on grade level, or just below. They are not English Learners.

I suddenly realized the complex system of compensation that my students have developed. Reading is difficult, so they rely on what they see and hear and feel to decipher a situation, along with the words they read. They are extremely collaborative when the occasion demands it as well, as the money passing indicates.

This year my granddaughter is in seventh grade, and her school uses the same textbook that we use. Seeing her work with the same stories that my students read has opened my eyes to the vast differences between even an advanced English Learner in my classroom and a student who is on grade level or beyond. The gap is massive, and the English Learners are struggling to use everything they have fill it in. How exhausting and discouraging school must be for them at times. Once again I realize the immensity of my task if I am ever to be able show a drawing where the kids miss the scantily-clad lady and focus on the words.

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4 thoughts on “Multiple Intelligences?

  1. dkzody says:

    OH, Lord, Lynn, in that one story, you brought it all back to me. I have broken out in a sweat, and have the beginnings of a headache. I was so afraid you were going to tell us that you had gotten in serious trouble over the slide, too. That would have been the capper.

    Yes, you are right about your students. I kept seeing this over and over each year at the high school level, where we only have four years to make those students into graduates. Even the students who were getting As could not do the work my daughter and her friends were doing across town at another high school. I knew they were in trouble, and we were only blowing in the wind.

    Sure enough, I saw the AYP for Fresno High, and it is now, after 5 years, back where it was in 2006 before we slipped so badly. However, the school has all these IB students who should be making the score go up much faster. There is no way because the lower students are just sinking lower and lower.

    • lynnjake says:

      Yes, I lucked out on that slide! Actually, minutes before I showed the PowerPoint in the afternoon, I was observed by the Principal and County Office of Ed Coach. They left before I began this part of the lesson. It’s probably just as well!

      I am frustrated for my students. I need to figure out how to up the ante so they have a chance of catching up or at least coming closer to those other kids. The Achievement Gap, indeed. Makes me sad and frustrated.

  2. dkzody says:

    I am going to tell my very sad story here because I know you, and those like you who read this, will understand.

    Each year, the Marketing Academy names one graduate the student of the year. This is a student who has done well in all areas and has great promise. Every so often, however, we would choose a student who made a 180 degree turnaround during the three years they were with us. In my final year, that was the kind of student we chose. A young lady who had been in trouble almost every day of her sophomore year; who had almost straight Fs that first year; the girl whose mother was on speed-dial and first-name basis with our department secretary.

    Then, something happened, at one of those parent conferences, when her mother broke down and cried and told the student she wanted so much more for her than she had for her life. The student did turn her life around and did very well in school, earning straight As her senior year. She applied for college with plans to become a pharmacist because she loves math.

    Now, two years later, she is pregnant, and not too sure what she will do with her future. So, even when you get one turned around, things don’t always work out. I too am sad and frustrated.

  3. lynnjake says:

    We truly can never know what will happen with the kids whose lives we touch. We become so invested in their success that it is hard to hear it when they don’t seem to be fulfilling their (and our) dreams for their future. It might help to hear that my own daughter became pregnant two years after high school, when she was just getting a start in college. She went on to finish college and has now been a teacher for 5 years. Her daughter is 12 and a blessing to all of us. Things often work out better than we imagine they will.

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