Carolyn McCartney


Interviewer: The first thing I need you to do is state your name and then a title that you would like.

Carolyn McCartney:  My name is Carolyn McCartney. I’m a kindergarten teacher and I also teach reading recovery.

Interviewer: OK.  Great. Well, tell us about Rosemary.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Uh, Rosemary is a very—Rosemary Rodriguez is her name and um she’s a very, very active child and uh she has a hard time sitting still. Uh, she has a hard time staying on task and a hard time listening to directions and following directions. I did talk with her par—her father at parent/teacher conferences and it was a very interesting conference. Uh, he said that his two elder children acted the very same way that Rosemary did in kindergarten. However, they are fine now so there’s—I do have hope that Rosemary will—will be able to follow the—the directions, even the safety directions and—uh, that we have in our class to—and also make progress academically as well. 

Interviewer: And so how long has Rosemary been in this country?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) I don’t know that for sure. I think she is—she was probably born here. That’s my—my guess is, is that she was born here in the United States.

Interviewer: And how are her English skills?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Um, there has been nothing that in my (interruption) OK.  Uh, Rosemary’s English skills um are not deficit at all. I know at the beginning of the year she was tested and she was listed as uh not English proficient. She did not have the proficiency. Um, however, I—I was rather surprised at that. I thought that—that Rosemary probably was—was not proficient in her own language either. She had been tested in that language, in—in Spanish. Though, she probably wasn’t—wouldn’t be proficient in that language either. And I—I did discuss this with the ESL teacher who tested her and um she kind of felt the same way too.

Interviewer: So she’s as strong in English as she is in Spanish?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) I think she is. (interruption)  What was your question?

Interviewer: I was saying, so in your opinion she’s just as strong in English as she is in Spanish.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) OK. I do believe that Rosemary’s just as strong in English as she is in Spanish.

Interviewer: Do you know what language she speaks at home?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) She speaks Spanish at home.

Interviewer: Does she?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Uh-huh.

Interviewer: And probably speaks English with her siblings.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Uh, I don’t—I think at home she probably speaks Spanish. Uh, when she’s interacting with other English ESL children in the classroom she speaks Spanish to them and they speak Spanish to her. I do have five ESL children in my class.

Interviewer: Tell us about your classroom.

Carolyn McCartney:  My classroom?  The makeup of the students?  OK. My classroom is about 25 percent um ESL. Uh, I do have the five children that are—that speak other languages. I do have a child who is Indian—part Indian and part Hawaiian and that’s all I can remember.  That’s about 25 percent.  I do have 28 children in my class.

Interviewer: So you have 28 and five of them are…

Carolyn McCartney:  Six.

Interviewer: Six.

Carolyn McCartney:  A little bit less. One-fifth of them are ESL.

Interviewer: OK. And Rosemary is the one that’s having the most difficulty.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Yeah. Rosemary is the child in all of the kindergarten classes who has tested the lowest and in a recent testing the first day of November, she is still the lowest. 

Interviewer: And what do these tests measure?

Carolyn McCartney:  Um, these tests measure the child’s letter recognition, they also test um sounds, sounds and words, uh writing sounds for words and also recognizing words. 

Interviewer: So these are basically awareness kinds of things?

Carolyn McCartney:  It’s more then—then recognition. The—the test is one that is given at the first of the year and it is given again at the—the end of the year uh that they need to have this same test at—test at the beginning and the end to be consistent. And so…

Interviewer: And these are reading recovery tests?

Carolyn McCartney:  No, these are Title I tests that we use. It’s not a reading recovery test. The reading recovery test is not given to children until 1st grade.

Interviewer: This is not a Title I class.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) This—our class is a Title I class.  Uh-huh and Rosemary does participate in that class. Our—our Title I program is where uh children are taken out for a half and hour instruction with a Title I aide. They use the Waterford computer program and they also do a lot of literacy activities with the children during that time. We keep the children—Title I children after school, after kindergarten, for an additional hour for additional uh reading experiences and letter recognition. We do lots of things, even some math as well.

Interviewer: So what do you think is the very best thing that could be done for Rosemary?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Rosemary needs lots of one-on-one uh interaction. Uh and she—we do have an ESL aid who comes into the classroom and spends a half an hour each day working with the ES—ESL children and Rosemary is one who I have uh work with the aid consistently day after day after day for at least 10 minutes at a time. And I—I have seen some progress. Um, she is spelling her name now which she—which has taken several months for her to—to do. 

Interviewer: What kinds of things do the—do these people work with?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Um, what I have asked the ESL teacher to do is work with—with Rosemary’s name first of all. I want Rosemary to be able to write her name correctly. I want her to be able to spell the letters in her name and—and then after she learns that then we start on the others letters of the alphabet. We work on them one at a time. Uh, I use the chalkboard so it’s a tactile experience and she uses her fingers. I have her work with known letters, all her known letters, and—and then we add one letter at a time to—to try and increase her letter recognition skills, which is the reading recovery method.

Interviewer: Do you—do you uh work with other ESL kids in reading recovery?

Carolyn McCartney:  Um, the E—the reading recovery children are only first graders.  Now—and we—at the first of the year we do not work with ESL children. We are instructed that ESL children have to be proficient in their—in English before reading recovery becomes an effective program for them. So the first half of the year we take the lowest of the—the 1st graders and work with them that are not ESL and then the second half of the year we’ll pull all the ESL children in because by then they are proficient enough in English that we can work with them.

Interviewer: So Rosemary, for example, is as proficient in English as she is in Spanish.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Mm-hmm.

Interviewer: So will she be in your reading recovery next year?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Next year?  Uh, there’s a chance that she will but I have a feeling that during the summer she will be immersed in Spanish again so by the time school starts again then it will probably be to her benefit to wait till—till January before we pull her into reading recovery. But in my estimation, she will be in it next year.

Interviewer: Is there any other things that you would like to say about uh her or if you were addressing people that were learning how to deal with ESL kids what would you do—say to them?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez and Maria) What would I say to other teachers who work with other ESL children.  Go slow and uh don’t expect more then—from them then—then what they’re ready for.  Um, it’s—my experience with ESL children has—has been quite varied. Um, I had a child last year, Maria, who was in the very same position as Rosemary is this year being the—the bottom of all the 1st grade—or kindergarten classes as far as testing and Rose—Maria this year is at the top of the 1st grade classes that—her 1st grade teacher was surprised when I told her that Maria started at the very bottom.  I had another child um…

Interviewer: What do you attribute that to?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Maria) What do I attribute that too? OK. Why did Maria succeed so well over the—the kindergarten year? Um, it’s—it’s my belief that a child who is ESL, if they go to school in their native language, those children who rise in Spanish will also rise in English. Those children who are at the bottom of the class in English will probably be at the bottom of their class in Spanish.  I had another…

Interviewer: And so this kid—this kid you were talking about was in kindergarten right?  So they didn’t have the Spanish instruction.

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Maria) No, but had she gone to a Spanish classroom, she would have been at the top of her class even though she entered at the bottom. It is my feeling that she probably would have risen to the top of her Spanish class.

Interviewer: So cognitively she was well uh prepared for kindergarten but it was just her English that was lacking?

Carolyn McCartney:  referring to Maria and Stephanie) Um, yes. Uh-huh. Um, with Maria I’m not quite sure if cognitively she was prepared but she has—she mentally had the cognitive skills ready and—and she learned quickly. Her—her rate of learning was—is quick. She catches on to things fast. I had another child, the very same situation, Stephanie, who did not know a single word of English when she walked in my classroom. She was only in my classroom for six weeks but by the end uh of those six weeks, she almost knew the whole alphabet when she left at the end of October. And why is it?  Well, she’s cognitive. She’s ready to learn.

Interviewer: What kind of family background did these two come from?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Maria and Stephanie) Um, Maria came—her family background is that she had a very, very young mother. Maria was the oldest of four children when she entered kindergarten. And um she had a wonderful mother.  Her home—we do homework where we send home a—a book at the first at the week and there are some letter activities that are just fun. Homework is not academically oriented. It’s very fun. They bring back the homework on Friday and uh Maria’s mother never missed. She brought it back every single week.  And uh I had another—this Stephanie that I spoke of earlier, you know, it’s the same thing.  I—I don’t think that Maria had a Spanish literature uh background. I don’t think that she was read to a lot in her classroom—I mean, excuse me, at home. But with Stephanie I think her mother is one who read to her a lot in Spanish. And I think the reason why she was—accelerated so quickly is because she had that experience in her home with Spanish.

Interviewer: You were going to talk about another kid.

Carolyn McCartney:  That’s the—Stephanie—Stephanie was the one.

Interviewer: So you see—you see Rosemary’s problem—Rosemary’s problem more as she—she just is not cognitively ready to perform in school very—at a high level?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Mm-hmm.

Interviewer: Even though her English skills were higher then these other two kids?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Mm-hmm.

Interviewer: She comes into the school uh and even if the school was in her native language you see her not having performed very well?

Carolyn McCartney:  (referring to Rosemary Rodriguez) Yes.  That’s true. (interruption)  It is my opinion that if Rosemary was in her—a school that was a Spanish-speaking school, she would probably still be struggling in that school as well as she is—as much as she is struggling now. Uh, she doesn’t know her colors in Spanish.  She struggles to count in Spanish.  Um, she really struggles to pay attention. I really strongly believe there’s an attention deficit problem that she has.  We do something in our class what I call a power test and um what I do is I instruct the children that for one minute we’re going to watch the second hand on the clock and we’re going to see how powerful our mind is. If our mind is powerful, we’ll be able to watch that hand all the way around. Um, as—as it starts at 12 and goes all the way around to 12, if we’ve—if we’ve got a real powerful brain, then our mind will tell our body what to do and um probably 50 percent of the kids can do that without moving. I also tell them that if somebody comes into the classroom, they’re to tell—their mind is to tell them to hold still, not even to look at that.  They won’t even look at my mouth as I’m talking and—and uh 50 percent of the kids can do that the first time and then after we do it a couple more times then—then probably 80 percent of the class can do that. I do coach them the whole time while they are doing this. Rosemary can last between five and 10 seconds and her—I have not seen that increase. And—and she’s fidgeting when—when we’re reading in a group—uh a story in a group. Rosemary cannot follow it and her hands are on other kids and poking and so forth.

Interviewer: All right, well thank you very much. This is very helpful. 

Carolyn McCartney:  OK.