4/30/12

Speak their Language

Here is a question to start off the day.  Everyone who lives anyplace where there is local dialect tends to think of the way they talk as "normal".  From Maine where ayuh is heard for yes, to Gawwgia's southern drawl, from New Joyzee, to Bawstin there are different "normals" all over our fine country.  Where my family lives, our spoken language pretty much matches the written language.  So my husband wondered aloud last night, "How do they teach phonics in an area where the spoken language doesn't match the written word?"  I chuckled.  . .Do they teach Bostonian kids that "ar" says "ah"?  I would love to hear from folks who can share their experience on this, my curiosity is perked. :)

This did get me thinking though.  Where teachers come from, and where students come from and the language and baggage we carry with us can have a big impact on communication and behaviors between the two.  I remember one day during my first job as paraproffessional our school had a buddy time, where two classes of different grades would divide their students into to mixed age groups.  While I was in one group helping out, I noticed a boy wander in to class from a different group.  This guy was known to be an angry little soul with a comparatively short fuse.  So, I felt pretty good that I was able to talk with him and understand him, reassure him.  He was calm, but skeptical of returning to the former group, and insited the teacher would yell at him if he went back.  Being naiive and new to the school, I reassured him that would not be the case. (I simply could not imagine a teacher doing that)  I would speak with her.  It would be fine. I guessed she would be pleased to see he was back, safe, calm, ready to go.

Well, as you can guess, basing a promise on a prediction of someone else's reaction is a highly sketchy proposition.  The teacher not only yelled at the child, she dug into me too, in front of her whole group of first and second graders, nice.  I am only guessing, perhaps that was her way of dealing with feeling foolish at having lost a child.  (It was apparent she hadn't noticed he was gone, or greatful he was, not sure which really)  I left almost in tears, held 'em back long enough to get out of that witch's site.  I only wish I could've taken the child with me.  I felt like a fraud. 

That was one of the first times I knew I spoke or at least understood another language that some children speak when it looks like they are just acting up or misbehaving.  I know in my bones, that behavior is language.  Children who are really misbehaving, consistently angry or disruptive, are communicating in the only way they know how, or in some cases, the only way they are able when their amygdala takes over with it's fight or flight reactions. 

There are children who need teachers who speak their dialect, or who are at least flexible and willing to learn to interpret a new language.  Many kids need teachers to be aware that although they speak a different dialect or language all together, they can be very sensitive to mood, emotion, and tone.  They sense more than they can handle, understand, or communicate with words.  There are teachers out there, even otherwise good teachers who have difficulty grasping this mode of communication that some children use, nor do they have any idea of the negativity that these same kids pick up on.   I wonder, really, can this kind of communication or understanding be taught or learned?  

When children repeatedly bump up against teachers who do not understand them or take the time to learn their "language"  they may speak louder through more outrageous behaviors, they may stop trying to be heard, they may just drop out of school or life.  In an age where bullying, school dropout rates, suicides and mass shootings have been increasing, I really think it is time we all, parents and teachers, learn the dialects of the troubled children.  They have a lot to say if someone would listen.


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