“This is too hard,” he said, “I don’t know these words.”
Many of the words were from elementary school and he knew at least some of the words on his study guide very well. But the study guide included a long assignment and David’s videogame time was sure to be compromised.
“You do too know a lot of those words,” I said, “and if you don’t, we need to find out what words you need to learn.”
“I can’t do it,” he said. “I’m too dumb.”
“You are not,” I said. “Don’t be silly.”
“I’m dumb,” he insisted. “That’s why I am in a bilingual program.”
I just reiterated that David could and should do his homework.
Eduhonesty: While I am on the topic of bilingual programs, I ought to observe that I’ve heard versions of this conversation before. I recall asking a girl at the start of a school year if she was in the bilingual program.
“I’m not stupid!” she immediately indignantly replied. I mollified her by telling her I had hoped to have her in some of my classes.
David was just trying to get out of his homework, I believe. But one overlooked yet potent aspect of the Illinois bilingual program structure is that the best students do test out, in full view of their classmates who remain in the program. The students who can’t manage to test out often come to see themselves as losers. The best teachers in the world can’t prevent this from happening. Administrators may not like it, but when a student fails an exit test year after year, that student is going to draw some conclusions about what that means.