July 19, 2007

Back to the point . . .

Posted in Uncategorized at 3: 13 pm by MK

As I begin to move forward in creating lesson plans, there are some things I’m wondering/slightly concerned about.

1. I’m not sure if A. & K. are literate in their first language.  Last time during the lesson A. kept asking his son to write things down in Burmese for him, he wasn’t writing anything down himself.  And the same was true for K.  The two young Burmese men that live downstairs, W. & P., were writing everything down.  I don’t know how to confirm this, or if it is even relevant, but I find it interesting.  If it is true, I wonder how it will impact their ability to learn a new language.

2. There are obvious cultural differences in terms of female and male roles.  (Well maybe not so different from some or a lot of American families, but definitely different from my life/expectations.) The one-year-old obviously needs attention; he’s only one and a very active child.  When our lesson began last time, A. kept telling K. (from what I could deduce) to leave the room and take care of the baby so he wouldn’t disrupt the lessons.  I kept trying to communicate that the baby was fine, and K. should stay in the room so she could learn too.  This didn’t happen and I don’t know if I wasn’t understood or if this just wasn’t an option.

So what do I do about this?  Is it my place to challenge their patriarchal family structure? But do I remain silent and accept the fact that K. won’t be in on the lessons?  I was thinking of maybe eventually setting up some time to work with K. separately, but if childcare is essentially her duty the child will always be in the picture.

I think I’ll just have to feel things out as I keep teaching…I didn’t realize that defining my role would become an issue.



  1. Elizabeth said,

    That is tough. I am sure that if it is her role to care for the child than she will never really have the oppotunity to sit down and learn. Is there any way for you to bring along some toys for the baby to play with while you are there? The baby could be in the same room as you three but be possibly entertained by a new toys.

  2. mariakristin said,

    That’s a good idea–I’ll definitely give it a try.

  3. housegirrl said,

    You’re definitely coming up against cultural differences and patriarchal injunctions against educating women and girls. I like the idea of incorporating the child into lessons with her–in fact, as primary caretaker of the infant, her literacy needs may even be different. Do you have a sense of what the family’s expectations are for her? Will she stay at home? Do the shopping?

    On the one hand, the family structure may seem foreign. But on the other hand, most young mothers I know are the primary caretaker (and many have given up their jobs to stay home).


  4. mariakristin said,

    I would assume the goal for K. is to stay home and raise the children, so yes, it makes sense that her literarcy needs will at some point be different from her husband’s. I want K. to see learning English as important because I could forsee her family leaving her behind, so to speak, in this area. The children will be in school, her husband eventually working–and through these experiences they will learn English much more quickly. The family must see it as a priority for her to have the opportunity to learn as well.

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