Georgia Threet: Well, I’m Georgia Threet and a 3rd grade teacher.
Interviewer: Georgia, we appreciate you being here and uh first of all I’d like you to tell me about Roxanna. You had her before, right?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I had her in 3rd grade and when—when I had her (interruption) Excuse me? Oh, I had Roxanna in 3rd grade. Yes, Roxanna. And when I had her, we could not get the parents to give her any extra help. And we felt like she had a learning disability but because of the language problems we couldn’t—we couldn’t do any more than what we’d just do in the classroom so she did a lot of copy and—and we did oral things but it was really hard. She really struggled.
Interviewer: How long had she been in the school when you had her?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I believe she’d been there since the—either the middle of kindergarten or the beginning of 1st grade. So she’d been here a long time. Long enough she shouldn’t have known a lot more than she did.
Interviewer: So she’s been at Cherry Hill for most of her education.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Most of her education. Yes. She just struggles, she’s—I think there’s a learning disability. I really do in both languages. I don’t think it’s a language think. Just like Julie said, I think she struggles.
Interviewer: Well tell me about your experience with her.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) With Roxanna?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, it was really a neat experience. She um—she’s very friendly, very outgoing. She wanted to—she wanted to please but not in a bad way. She just—she wanted to do and be part of and she tried very, very hard. She just couldn’t—she just struggled with it. So we cut back on her work and did the little things, took her back a little bit in reading so I put her back down to the—a little tiny—pre-primer type things so she felt good about what she was doing. So she had—still had good self-esteem and I think she still has. But I can see her getting kind of, you know, a little bit frustrated more and more as she gets older because she knows there’s problems.
Interviewer: So she was a fluent speaker of English when she came here.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, no not really. She knew English, she understood it, but she couldn’t really speak it fluently. She still struggled in that area too because she couldn’t—I don’t think she can remember that well. I think it’s a—it’s a going over and over and over it again until it gets into her mind. I don’t think it just comes to her easy like some people do.
Interviewer: And so what kinds of things (interruption) Tell me a little bit more about what you did with Roxanna.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, in reading I would sit there with her or have one of the students that was my Spanish-speaking sit there and we’d follow word by word and have her read with us. And that was the way—that was the only way she could do it ‘cause even after I would sit there and read it to her and I’d go have her read it to me, she still couldn’t remember it. Just the little—the little pre-primer, she really struggled with them. So it was more one-on-one whenever we could or with a Spanish-speaking student so that they could help her in the Spanish and I could help her in the English and that’s just kind of—I cut her spelling down to five words, that kind of thing.
Interviewer: So even the pre-primer kind of stuff, she couldn’t understand it?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) No, to go back and do it, she couldn’t remember the words.
Interviewer: What if you read it to her?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) that’s what—I—I would read it to her. She understood it as far as when I was reading it, but to go back and read the words, she couldn’t remember the words. So understanding the pre-primer, she could, as long it was read orally to her.
Interviewer: And could she understand 3rd grade stuff if it were read to her.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) No, she couldn’t. She was back in 1st grade—beginning 1st grade level. She just really couldn’t. She struggled. Even in the math area and things like that.
Interviewer: And so was that an English problem or was it a, like you said, a learning disability.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I think that’s a learning problem. I don’t believe it was English. I just think she struggled.
Interviewer: So you think that—that as far as the English is concerned she—she could understand.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I think she could understand a lot more than she could put down on paper or um convey on paper. She could orally do it but not on paper. She just couldn’t do that or read the books and do it that way. She needed help.
Interviewer: So what do you think would be the best thing for her?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She needs as much as she can one-on-one—somebody there with helping her in the classroom. She needs—she’s going to have to have teacher that allows kids to talk to her in the class and help her and they don’t want just silence ‘cause she can’t work that way, she needs help. Whether it’s a teacher or one-on-one, whether it’s a student, she needs somebody there to help her.
Interviewer: OK. Well, let’s talk a little about your current classroom.
Georgia Threet: OK.
Interviewer: Can you tell me a little bit about your classroom?
Georgia Threet: K, right now I have three—three Spanish-speaking students and one from Portuguese—Portugal—Portuguese speaking, Brazil I guess. And um, two of them are doing extremely well. You can tell they have a good background, where they came from and their education. Brenda Ora—Orapenza? OK, sorry. Brenda is doing very well but she is struggling more and I—because this is her first year here, I’m having a hard time like with her math and stuff, knowing if she has a basic background in it uh, you know, a foundation or if she needs to learn with her Spanish language too what’s going on because she doesn’t do it quite as well as the other two children do but um she can do it, it’s just—I don’t know if she—her educational background was quite as strong as the other two that came in.
Interviewer: This is her first year…
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) This is her first year here at an English-speaking school. So for that she’s doing great.
Interviewer: Where is she from?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) I believe she’s the one—oh, she’s from Mexico. She’s the one from Mexico. So…
Interviewer: So she just came from Mexico.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Mm-hmm.
Interviewer: She hasn’t been living in another state or anything?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Well, to my understanding, no. From what Mrs. Monterrosa said, she’s new here this year. And so like I say, for what she’s doing, she’s doing well. But I don’t know her academic background well enough to know if she’s a little behind where we’re at and if she just needs some help catching up or what.
Interviewer: What kind of strategies have you used with her?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Oh, my biggest one that I use—I’m very lucky, I have—oh, the strategies that I use for Brenda, I’m very lucky because I have a—a girl in my classroom that speaks Spanish and English and so we’ll sit down together and we do a lot of translating. Um, when we do math I just sit down, she’s learning—she knows her numbers well enough in English that I can help her and we just kind of sit down there one-on-one, work the problems through. But this is where I’m not sure if she’s understanding me because she still struggles when she does it on her own. So I don’t know if I’m not getting the message across very well even with the other girl’s help.
Interviewer: Do you have her reading in 3rd grade material?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) I have her reading in 3rd grade material for a part of our class time. She’s also—we have an aide coming in that is reading to them in more of a—kind of a middle to upper 1st grade level and helping them that way so that’s really been very helpful. Um, I sit down with her sometimes and I—I’ll read the word and she repeats after me and she does really well and she’s starting to recognize some of the words in the English language. I don’t think she knows them all yet and that’s OK.
Interviewer: So she didn’t speak any English when she came to your classroom?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) That’s what Mrs. Monterrosa said. So she’s doing really well considering that.
Interviewer: What other things does she do well in your class?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Um, well she—actually, she tries to do everything she can. I allow a lot of copying on some of the stuff that’s just absolutely over their head and she’ll sit there—down there and she makes sure she gets it done and I have the students, or myself, we’ll go through and read the words to her that she’s doing so at least she knows what she’s writing. The spelling, we’ve cut it down to 10 words so that they can—they’re getting the concept of the word ‘families’ that we’re working with at the time. Um language, that’s a lot of copying. We do what we can and we’re helping her learn the words and the aide is helping—right now we’re working on um plurals and possessives and things like that and he’s helping her understand what the word means. We do it in class and then he’s helping her and the others understand what it means what we’re doing.
Interviewer: Have you had any surprised in her at all?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Um, no not really. I’ve had enough ESL kids in my classes for the last four or five years that all my surprises are gone. I, you know, I use to worry about their—their skill levels and their—their education coming in but I’ve learned real fast that most these kids come in top notch and ready to go. There’s a few that struggle but they’re right there with the rest of the kids. That’s been my learning experience.
Interviewer: So most of the ESL kids that you’ve had have been on grade level academically.
Georgia Threet: On grade level or just barely a little below and we’re able to work with them. They don’t really struggle. They’re able to understand well enough.
Interviewer: Are you finding that Brenda’s not quite there?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Brenda struggles a little bit more than some of them I’ve had so I do worry a little bit. And I don’t think it’s a learning problem, I think it’s—maybe she didn’t get the background when she came here. Maybe she was just a little bit behind us, that’s all. I think she just needs to learn it.
Interviewer: So do you know what kind of schooling she had in Spanish?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) I don’t. I looked in the folder but I couldn’t really tell and I haven’t had a chance to talk to her parents so I’m not sure what she had.
Interviewer: What’s your major concern for her?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) For Brenda my major concern? That I really would like to have somebody that could come in and just—well, maybe this, talk to her and find out where she was at at school and find out like her math level, her reading level, where she was at, was she—what they were teaching her in school. That’s my main concern ‘cause then I’d know if I need, how much I need to back down to help her out a little bit more.
Interviewer: What do you think her reading level is?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Well, right now in English she’s right down there in 1st grade, beginning 1st grade to—to really be able to read the English language. Um…
Interviewer: Do you have 1st grade materials in your class?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) I do. I’ve pulled some out of the library and I have a few things. I’ve got to find some more. I—I want to get things like pictures and words that go together so they can learn that more. I need to get that kind of stuff.
Interviewer: Are there any stories that stand out in your mind that capture her experience in your class?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Um, I do remember when she first came—she’d been here about three or four weeks and she was sitting out in the hall by her mom and just sobbing and I got somebody to help me and we figured out she was so frustrated, you know, it was all the news that finally hit her all and she just—she wanted to go home. You know, the—the pressure of trying to be English and—and knew that she was a better student then she was doing in here and she just felt stupid and dumb and I felt for her. You know, we all had a good cry and then we took her in the classroom and now she’s coming along and smiling and working. But she had a time there when she just felt like, “This is it. I’m going home. Everyone thinks I’m dumb.” I really felt for her.
Interviewer: What did you do to help her adjust at that?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) We just brought her into the classroom, I made she was sitting by Elisa, who’s my student that does both English and Spanish and we just sat there and worked with her, let her know that I knew she was intelligent, that she could do the work, that the barrier was the language and it was OK, she was not going to fail on her report card. She would get good grades because she’s doing what she could. And that really seemed to help her.
Interviewer: And so what would you say is her biggest challenge?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Um, Brenda’s biggest challenge. Maybe just—maybe just um knowing that—well, I guess the challenge—what I’m trying to say is knowing that she understands her biggest challenge—for me knowing her biggest challenge is kind of not quite understanding what I’m teaching her and maybe she needs it explained a little bit better by somebody else that—in the Spanish language to reinforce what I’m trying to teach her.
Interviewer: What’s the area where you’ve seen the greatest development?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Either in her—oh, the area that I’ve seen her—her greatest development for Brenda is in learning her English words. They are coming along very well. She um—she’s getting sound out—in the 1st grade books, the lower 1st grade books, she can start read the—start to read the English words and I think she’s starting to understand a few of the basics and she is understanding me a lot better now ‘cause when I talk and give instructions she’s able to go do things even though she doesn’t quite understand everything she’s doing. She’s able to go where she needs to go or get what she needs to get. So it’s picking up—her understanding is picking up even if she can’t quite speak it yet.
Interviewer: What kind of self-confidence does she have?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) She has good self-confidence. Brenda really believes in herself and she knows she can do it. She knows she’s a smart little girl and so she’s very willing to try.
Interviewer: What about her autonomy? Can she work alone?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Can she work alone? Um, she—she can. She can do that. She can work by herself very well too.
Interviewer: How’s her motivation in general?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) She has great motivation. There’s no problem there. If she knows what needs to be done, she’ll go do her best to get it done and to do the best she can, even if it’s just copying the paper. She makes sure she gets it done and gets it spelled correctly. It looks neat.
Interviewer: What kind of coping strategies does she use?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) Um, that’s a good question. Coping strategies. Um, pretty well just what the other kids do. She—she has friends that she can go to when she needs the help, she feels very comfortable in that. She’ll come back and ask me in Spanish—she’s not afraid to just come and ask me what’s going on and we try to work it through while I call my little helper back and so she’s not afraid to ask. If it needs to be done, she’ll ask somebody and get some help that way.
Interviewer: So she attends well to instructions?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Brenda Orapenza) She does. She has no problems with instructions.
Interviewer: What’s the most significant thing that you’ve learned about uh dealing with these children?
Georgia Threet: The most significant think I’ve learned uh about dealing with them is that they’re just—I guess they’re just children. They’re—they’re just like everybody else. They need the same caring and love and kind voice and—and the biggest thing that I’ve found is I just need to cut their work back so that they can have positive feelings about what they’ve done, that they know that they’re accomplishing things and they don’t feel overwhelmed.
Interviewer: What’s been the most challenging thing for you?
Georgia Threet: My most challenging thing is figuring out where they are when they first come in. I wish there was some kind of testing or something that could give us the whole academic background. The—the math, the reading, the—so—all of those so we kind of knew where to start from. That’s my challenge is not knowing how much they know when they first come.
Interviewer: So that—you mean that would be in their native language, right? That is, what they’ve learned in their native language, right?
Georgia Threet: Exactly. I wish there was some way—‘cause I know they do some—the ESL does some reading testing and vocabulary, but I would like to know what they knew in social studies, in math, in science. I’d like to know a little bit more about their other background—educational background. I really would.
Interviewer: Is there anything you would like to say to teachers who are learning how to teach ESL?
Georgia Threet: Um, teachers. Well, anyone that teaches an EN—ESL kid needs to realize that—I—my—my personal thing, they’re just kids. They’re just like everyone else. They need love, they need understanding, and they don’t have to do everything the other students do. They need—they need to be cut some slack. Not because they’re dumb, because they’re challenged just to do the English thing and think about it. So they need—they need to be able to think more and have to do less. Does that make sense?
Interviewer: Well, thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful.
Georgia Threet: OK. Thanks.
Interviewer: Why don’t you just tell us a little bit about Arie?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) OK. Arie Carlo has been in a system from I believe kindergarten or 1st grade on but he—he doesn’t have a lot of his Spanish background because he’s been doing a lot of English and so he struggles in both areas. He struggles with the Spanish, he struggles with the English. And so when we’re trying to help him learn, because he doesn’t have a good background in either one, he just can’t do it. He’s—he really struggles. He’s not dumb ‘cause when he does math or things like that that doesn’t take the language, he can do it. So what Arie’s problem is—and he told me this once, he says, “Mrs. Threet, I’m losing my Spanish. I can’t remember it.” So he’s not getting enough Spanish to help him learn and so he can’t transfer it over to his English background to help him there. That’s really where he’s coming from. He just—he needs to learn both languages.
Interviewer: Tell us a little more about what he—what he does well and what he does poorly.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) He does well anything that does not take a lot of reading to—to decipher what’s going on or what’s happening. He—he struggles in language, he struggles in reading, he struggles when he’s writing stories sometimes because he—he can’t—he has a hard time putting down what he wants to put down. He can—like we’re doing science or when anything’s explained to him orally, he can understand that. He does the experiments. He can do the um—the social studies. Anything that we’re doing orally that we’re learning, he’s doing fine in. He struggles in spelling because he doesn’t have that background that he needs. So we’ve cut his spelling down and he works with the ESL students in those areas because he has such a um low back—a—a low foundation in both of them.
Interviewer: So uh compare his performance in your class with kids who come in with very little English but have a good background in education.
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) OK. Um, Arie—for his back—OK, how do—how do I phrase this? Arie—Arie has had a lot of (interruption) You bet. No problem. Arie—Arie struggles more than these kids with a good strong educational background because he doesn’t have the background he needed in his Spanish language to help him transfer to his English. I’ve talked to Mrs. Monterrosa a lot about this and we really feel that’s where he’s coming from.
Interviewer: So his English skills were good when he came into your classroom, orally?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) Yes. Orally he’s just fine. He understands very well. If you read out loud to him, he understands what’s going on. He can’t do it on his own. He can’t transfer it, he—I guess from the one language to the other. And when he’s trying to help in Spanish—the kids from the English to the Spanish, he struggles there too because he doesn’t have a very good Spanish background. So sometimes he’ll just say, “I don’t know how to tell them. I don’t know how to help.”
Interviewer: What is his grade level performance in math?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) Uh, math he’s right up there. He’s right at 3rd grade. He’s doing just fine. His reading, I would say he’s down in the probably lower 2nd grade—upper 1st, lower 2nd right now.
Interviewer: So do you have him reading materials at that grade level in your class?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) I do. Not as much as I should, but I do. I have him working down there and when we do reading in 3rd grade, we do a lot of oral—helping each other like in partners or I help them, so he knows what he’s—what we’re reading because he gets it orally. but if he were reading by himself he couldn’t do that. He would be lost. His comprehension--- he just doesn’t have the comprehension he needs when he does it on his own.
Interviewer: What do you think would be the best for him.?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) From what I’ve heard from Mrs. Monterossa, I think he needs some Spanish learning as well as some English. I think once he understands where he’s coming from in the Spanish language, he’s going to take off and do just fine. I think he’s just confused right now. He’s trying to do two languages at once.
Interviewer: Didn’t you think, say his Spanish skills are better, or are low?
Georgia Threet: (referring to Arie Carlo) In certain things I think so, His Spanish skills and his English skills in certain things I think their low, like the reading and I think he needs some help in that. Like the language skills… how to put the words together how to you know the different ways you conjugate or whatever. He needs help with those Orally, he doesn’t understand his Spanish as well, but he can do well in English, orally.
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