Friday, December 17, 2010

Does my Spanish offend you?

If you've ever called my office, you will have heard my outgoing bilingual message. It's your run of the mill, "hi, I'm not here," message, then repeated in Spanish. Did I mention the message is BILINGUAL?

Today I got a message from a reader upset that I have a message in Spanish (a complaint that I get fairly often, actually). This particular reader equated my outgoing message with how supporters of the Dream Act (as depicted in a photo that ran along with an article I wrote) also use Spanish.That's the problem, the caller said. That we don't want to learn English.

And did I say my message is in ENGLISH and Spanish?

I have an outgoing message in TWO languages not because I want to impose my own tongue on English speakers. I have a message in Spanish to make callers who may only speak Spanish feel like they can talk to me, like they'll be listened to. In fact, my message says "I will communicate with you in either language."

For the record, not one of the young Dream students I interviewed spoke Spanish to me. They all speak perfect English, even the ones who arrived here when they were nine or ten. This is the rule, not the exception: every single student I've interviewed over the years, regardless of where they're born, spoke perfect English after two or three years in this country. In fact, that's a condition embedded in the Dream Act: if you want to attain residency, you have to go to college. Have you ever heard of a student attending college and not having to take English 1A?

And why wouldn't they learn the language? It's everywhere: they all listen to Justin Bieber, watch Glee and read Twilight. English is the dominant language in this country, it's the global language of commerce and trade. These young people are smart, and they're being socialized with English all around them. They would have to live in a cave not to learn it.

So why do I have an outgoing message in Spanish? It's because their parents need it. It's field laborers, maids, people who migrated to this county when they were older who still have a hard time with English. Not because they don't want to learn, mind you -- there are lots of ESL classes that attest to that. It's because after a full day stooped on the strawberry fields it's hard to process a foreign language. It's because they have children they have to feed, it's because their brain at 25 or 30 or 40 is not what it used to be when they were 15.

So how exactly does this offend you? And by the way, did I mention my outgoing message is BILINGUAL?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good and bad news

If I give you the good news first, will you stop reading to prevent the pain?

OK, here's the bad news first: yet another report documenting how painful the budget cuts are for schools in California, and what districts are doing to cope with them. From competing priorities, delayed payments, cutbacks not really "away from the classroom," and how proposed reforms are adding to school administrators and teachers workloads, the picture is far from rosy. If you have the stomach for it, check it out here.

In the good news department: thanks to a huge federal grant we got in Monterey County, there will be more technology programs available in the next couple of years. For instance, there are six spots left on an animation workshop for girls that will take place in King City the first week of January. Yep, that's next year.

Chicas: learn how to make an animated short: Learn basic stop-motion animation from local artist, filmmaker and animator, Andrew Dolan of Surfhound StudioTM. You’ll learn the entire animation process from start to finish: Write & draw your story then use a digital camera and computer to shoot, edit and record the soundtrack, then upload your video to the Internet to share it with everyone. No experience required--all you need to bring is your story idea. Open to girls from 9 yrs and older. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m Jan. 7 and 8 at Sol Treasures, 519 King City. Space is limited so sign up today. Free. For more information, click here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good morning, Zumba style

Neither cold nor rain stopped first graders at Carmel Mission's Junipero Serra School from performing their Zumba Christmas dance routine.

The children performed their holiday exercise routine twice this week, after several morning practices with Alexandra Semlali, a Zumba fitness instructor at the Monterey Sports Center.

The performance included quick-moving dance steps with jingle bells tied around their wrists shaking to the beat of holiday songs. "We just wanted to do something fun and festive to get everyone in the spirit of Christmas" said first grade teacher Mrs. Hofman. This performance not only helped everyone get exercise, it was a fun way to welcome everyone to school on a cold and wet morning!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hail to the champs!

Kudos to the skating athletes of Marina, who nabbed first place at the 2010 California Amateur Skate League National Skate Federation State Championships. The City of Marina/On the Beach Skate team, took first overall place Dec. 5 at the Woodward Skate Facility in Southern California.
Individual awards given as follows: 12 and under division: Chance Youngs, 1st; Alejandro Martinez, 2nd; Sergio Anaya, 4th; 13-15 division: Sean Byrne, 4th; Billy Rodel, 5th; 16 and up: Coach Perry Doig, 4th and Knox, 5th. Best trick: Knox, 2nd; Perry Doig, 3rd.
The team now advances to the National Championships, to be held August 1, 2011 in San Diego,
and will represent the State of California as the Junior Olympic Gold Medal State Champions.
We'll cross our fingers for you, champs!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Planning ahead

If you're planning to go to this year's robolympics at Hartnell College this Saturday, be prepared for a treat: the Hartnell Rockets and Robotics club students will be demonstrating robot-sumo and its protagonists, sumo-bots. Like in sumo, the robots in robot-sumo try to push one another out of a circle.
But the real competition will take place among six high schools -- Soledad, King City, Alisal, Salinas, North Salinas, and Everett Alvarez High. From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., students will face off in two robotics competition. And maybe next year, they'll design their own sumobot.

For more information about the event, check out the Olympics website here.

Also coming up soon, the English as a Second Language Department will hold an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6. at the college's Marina Education Center, 289 12th Street, Marina. With help with registration for all students, bilingual counselors available.

For more information contact the MPC Marina Ed Center at 646-4850.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Of giving and receiving

Thanks to the big heart of 13-year-old Kylie Lemaire, The Hope Center at the McGowan’s House will receive a $2,500 grant from Nickelodeon Big Help grants. Kylie found the grant, applied for it, and said she wants to use the money to keep the Hope Center's food pantry stocked with enough groceries, toiletries and household cleaning items to help local Monterey families in need.
Don't be deceived by Monterey's glitzy reputation. One in nine people in the Peninsula go hungry, and one in ten children are on the subsidized lunch program -- according to the Hope Center. So they need help to help the needy.

And speaking of receiving... these days of budget uncertainty, the only way schools seem to be getting money is through grants, and three local districts plus the Monterey County Office of Education were recently awarded some of those federal funds everyone seems to be fighting for.
The California Department of Education announced that Monterey Peninsula Unified, North Monterey County Unified, and Soledad Unified will share in the $36 million pot with $250,000 for MPUSD, and $50,000 for each North Monterey, Soledad, and the county office.
The Enhancing Through Technology grants will be used to buy and upkeep data to improve high school graduation rates, a big piece of Obama's education plan to reform schools.