Monday, April 21, 2008

Story Time

This morning I took my youngest son to the Japanese story time at the library. All the stories are read in Japanese. There are Japanese finger songs and everything else is done in Japanese. I don't speak much Japanese (squishy nay ;) For those of you that don't' speak Japanglish, that means "a little bit" for those of you that speak Japanese, please ignore my pronunciation there). The rest of my family (hub and both kids) are fluent in both English and Japanese. Most of the moms at the story time are Japanese and most of the kids are Japanese. The rest of the kids look like half Japanese and half American, like mine. So I get a few stares and people have to repeat things for me or I ask my son to translate as needed during these story times. Here, being "white" definitely means being "different."

Now its story time at "The Cookie Jar." So gather round the camp fire kids! Hey! You, the gal from Colorado, if you're going to be having a snack, make sure there's enough for everyone and don't be so greedy with that cup!

One day I found a letter in my kindergartner's backpack explaining the English as a Second Language program at his school. It indicated that my son was eligible for the program and asked me to sign it and return it to the school. I laughed! That's crazy! My son speaks English good, like me (yes, I know its supposed to be well :P ). I thought maybe they were picking on him for pronouncing the "w" in "talk" or something like that. He was born in New Jersey after all! So I didn't sign it or send it back. The next week I find a classroom assignment in his backpack that was incomplete. I asked him why he didn't have enough time to finish it in class like the rest of the kids. I thought surely he must be chatting or slacking off in some way. Nope, he was being taken from the classroom a few times a week so he could learn English as a second language! I guess the school figured I didn't sign the letter because my English skills were so poor that I couldn't understand the letter... I don't think so.

So I contact the classroom teacher. She said that she was surprised when my son was put on the English Language list, but it wasn't up to her. So I spoke with the English teacher and explained that there was a mistake. I speak English (granted it may be with a slight northeastern accent, but still English!) and that I speak English at home to my children. She explains that it's not her decision. The list of kids requiring English lessons comes from the school district. So I contact the school district and again, it's not their decision, it comes from someone in Spokane. I forget what the agency was called, but I remember that they directed me to the person in charge of "immigrant education." And I was assured that I would not be deported for enrolling my child in school. Whew! Because that had been keeping me up at night! Although, I wasn't sure where I would be deported to.... Maybe they didn't know that New Jersey was part of the US? Dare I point out that New Jersey was a state long before Washington was?? Or Maybe they didn't realize that people really do speak English in New Jersey? I'm told that if I put it in writing I can get my son out of the English lessons.

The next week my son asks why I took him out of those English lessons. He really liked going because it was so much easier than what the teacher in the classroom was making him do. That is exactly why he needs to be learning in the classroom! Oh, and the English teacher told me what a "fast learner" my son is. Fast?! He's been learning English for the last 5 years! You call that fast???? Maybe she still didn't believe me when I told her that I speak English and only English.

I thought that was the end of it. I thought the English lessons issue was past us. Then I found another letter in my son's backpack in December. This letter said that even though we "opted out" of the English lessons (not they had mistakenly enrolled my son into English as a second language lessons), they need to continue to test my son's English skills through 6th grade and that within the next weeks, he would be taken out of the class so he could take this English test. So again, I call the school first. I have to know if every child is being tested or just mine because if it's just my kid, that sounds like discrimination to me. Now I never before felt like I was a foreigner or that my children were foreigners, but the school district seems very quick to point out that my son is not fully "American." So after several phone calls and back on the phone to Spokane, I learn that when you fill out those questionnaires needed for the first day of school, anyone who checks that their child is "bilingual" will get put into the English as a second language program, even if you also indicate that English is the first language learned and the primary language spoken in your home. So now the questions becomes, how do I get off this list???? I don't want him to "test out" of the English program. I don't' want him to be marked as a "success" for the program. I want them to admit it was a mistake! But when you're dealing with school bureaucracy, you learn to take what you can get!

In the end, they sent me a new questionnaire and told me to answer that my son only speaks one language, English and that we only speak English at home. I did as I was told. Now when he gets into junior high school and signs up for Japanese class, the teacher can again tell me, "what a fast learner he is!"

No comments: