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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thank You, San Rafael School

A distinguished group invited me to speak to them yesterday morning. I was summoned to their headquarters at 9:15 a.m.

They were the bright, charming 5-year-olds of Pasadena's San Rafael School. These kids are part of a dual language immersion program, where English-speaking and Spanish-speaking kids go to school together. Most of their classes are taught in Spanish at the start, and gradually English is introduced. By the time they graduate all the children will be bilingual. They've been learning about different careers and they wanted to know about acting.

My Spanish is abysmal, and after a brief demonstration to that effect the kids were willing to hear me in English. They had wonderful questions about stunts, make-up, plays and movies and they told me stories about their own acting experiences. I was in my first play when I was about their age, so we had a lot in common.

I studied French when I was growing up and would have loved a language immersion education. Pasadena has a dual language immersion program in Mandarin Chinese, too. It's a fantastic opportunity for the kids.

Three of my English-speaking neighbor children go to San Rafael. Two of them were in yesterday's class. It's their first year in school and already they speak Spanish well enough to translate, negotiate deals (truly) and know abysmal Spanish when they hear it. These girls were responsible for inviting me. Seeing their smiling faces in the group was my favorite part.


Update: You can contribute to the San Rafael School here.

30 comments:

Dina said...

Aww, sweet.
These sound like great immersion programs.
In Chicago schools we did not start foreign languages until age 14, way too late.

Jerusalem has a few new schools where Arab and Jewish kids learn together in both Arabic and Hebrew.

Italo said...

I think you had a very funny day at the school with those children :D

Petrea Burchard said...

I wish I could have taken pictures of the kids, but it would require releases from all the parents.

Dina, those new Jerusalem schools sound like a potential road to peace and understanding.

It was funny, Italo. But mostly they charmed me.

J+P said...

I had language immersion at school, too. While the math teachers wrote foreign phrases on the board, I immersed myself in drawing.

Laurie said...

I would have loved to have seen you there. I'll bet the kids loved you.

Petrea Burchard said...

I was looking out the window at that point, J--making up stories in my head, I guess.

Laurie, it was so adorable. I reached to hug the two girls who had invited me, so then everyone wanted a hug! I don't know if they loved me, but I sure loved them.

altadenahiker said...

How cool! Now you have a new generation of fans.

Petrea Burchard said...

That's my evil plan, Hiker.

Diana said...

And you can all help San Rafael Elementary win $500 worth of Spanish-language books for these kids by voting for the school here: http://www.spanglishbaby.com/my-bilingual-school-library-contest-important-info/bilingual-school-library-contest-poll/ You can vote today, Sunday *and* Monday! You don't have to register or give any personal information to do so, either.

Diana said...

Ouch, it seems they've closed the contest due to some glitch, so I apologize for directing you to the poll.

Irina said...

In 1976 we had about 100 schools in 10 million people Moscow where they taught foreign languages. Why to bother? No foreigners, no weakest possibility to go abroad, we were surrounded by enemies, after all. Why my mom decided that I have to enter such school, I do not know, very strange decision. Well, who could guess that in 1984 Gorbachev would do what he did)). So I learned English without any exact purpose, just liked the process. And then it constructed my career, which constructed my perception of the world.
Languages make our worlds wider. I am so glad for the kids. And for the wise teachers.

Laura said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for going to a public school to speak!

With all the real problems the PUSD has, there are still terrific teachers and brilliant children learning and graduating and going to college.

There was a report on the KNBC news this a.m. about a similar school in a different district. Glad to see this story on San Rafael.

TheChieftess said...

Fun story of a fun day for you!!! Sounds like an interesting program!

Petrea Burchard said...

Irina, I love your story. Why teach languages indeed? You are a brilliant example of the answer.

Laura, of course the school is welcome and it was my pleasure! Everyone should have the opportunity to see inside our schools and meet these wonderful teachers--how calm they are, how well they handle these big groups of kids.

It was, Chieftess.

Just to clarify: Pasadenans know the San Rafael neighborhood to be quite upscale. However, this is a public school that gets by on public funds like any other. Many residents of this neighborhood send their kids to private schools (I'd say most, but I don't have statistics). I can tell you for a fact that most of the children in the dual immersion program come to the school from other neighborhoods. So even though you can't vote (thanks, Diana, good try) you can still donate to the school. They need it as much as other schools do.

Bellis said...

This school has been turned round by introducing dual-language immersion. I hope more people in the neighborhood will start sending their kids to there, rather than moving to other cities when they reach school age, or paying huge fees.

Aren't children wonderful at this age, Petrea? I bet being hugged by the whole class gave you more of a boost than a week at an expensive spa. Hope this is the beginning of your new career on the K-12 speaking circuit.

Ms M said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience! I, too, think language immersion programs are important. I wish I'd been part of one when I was a kid.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Nothing says school days like those yellow half moons at the door. Sort of like a halo...hmm.

Margaret said...

Those girls were smart to in it's you. I bet you had real pearls of wisdom for them.

Petrea Burchard said...

Bellis, they didn't all hug me but I got a lot of hugs. I wouldn't mind the spa, though.

Me too, Ms. M.

PA, I didn't have the half circles at my school. What are they for?

Margaret, did you comment from your smart phone?

Katie said...

Those kids are a distinguished group indeed! Learning another language so young is definitely the way to go. And I have no doubts that they all wanted to hug you after your presentation. Great photo; really brings back grade-school memories Glad to see schools still have water fountains!

Virginia said...

No matter how much I coached my third graders, when we had "famous" people come to speak, the one thing they always asked ( and made me cringe) was , "How much money do you make???" :)

I would have loved to have been in the audience to hear you too P.
V

Petrea Burchard said...

Hi, V. Sorry, my dander was up for a minute.

Glad you put "famous" in quotation marks!

They didn't ask me how much money I make, but when I told them how long I'd been an actor (how many years it's been since I was five years old), they gasped.

Bellis said...

I like it when your dander is up, and John and Boz join in as well. Grrr. Hope Anonymous gets the message.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Bellis. As John says, this is a friendly, open-minded blog. I think we're all willing to hear opposing opinions--in fact many of us hold them and still like each other.

I'm talking about considered, thought-out, well-read opinions. Racism doesn't fit in that category. If Anonymous wants to come back (with a name) and share a considered opinion, he/she is welcome. Racism, however, will be ridiculed, insulted and shown for the massive display of ignorance it is.

Petrea Burchard said...

How fortunate! Here's a link to where you can contribute to the San Rafael School, via your PayPal account.

Something's wrong in Sacramento, but our schools don't have time to wait for the legislators.

The statistic I heard on the radio yesterday: California spends $7,000 per school child annually, and $58,000 per prisoner in our correctional institutions. Can that be right? (These stats include teachers, administration, building maintenance, supplies, etc.)

Petrea Burchard said...

P.S. If any of the comments sound odd here, it's because I deleted some Anonymous comments and the responses to them. Trying to keep things civil.

Susan Campisi said...

I bet those two little girls were so proud they were the ones who had invited you to class. They must have been beaming.

Petrea Burchard said...

They were, Susan! They got a "thank you" from the teacher and the class, and a special hug and kiss from me. Bonus for me: I get to see them in the neighborhood every day, and I get to watch them grow up. It's one of the pluses of having landed in the spot where I plan to stay.

Anonymous said...

Petrea, I don't know you but my daughter was in Mrs. Ibarra's class and really enjoyed your presentation. We were very skeptical about PUSD initially but are so glad we chose San Rafael. Such a wonderful community of children parents, and staff. Our schools really are in crisis so if any one could donate even $5 our kids could certainly use it! Thank you for giving of your time. Joye (mother of Sophia T)

Petrea Burchard said...

Joye, it was my pleasure! San Rafael is indeed a remarkable school and the kids were just great. I met more than one Sophia!