Ms. Understandings: A Bigotón in First Grade
by Richard Villegas
As an elementary school teacher I get notes addressed to Ms. Villegas all the time. I’m a maestro and male and a bigotón. I inherited my bushy Chicano mustache from a long line of handsome Mexican men. But despite this hirsute display, the immigrant parents and their children who I teach still insist on using Ms. when addressing me. I don’t take it personally, however. It’s funny. I make gender mistakes in Spanish all the time and I have two degrees. English is just as tricky for them as Spanish is for me. All of us are in a language dilemma.
Thousands of these misunderstandings occur everyday in and out of my classroom. Sometimes the mistakes are harmless and hilarious. I had to correct my first grader Adolfo when he thought I was repeatedly saying “sexy” during math class. He was giggling like Bevis and Butthead as I taught the lesson. I asked what was so funny. When he told me what he thought I was saying, I corrected him immediately and loudly, “Set C! Adolfo! Set C not sexy!” I laughed about it later that night.
On the other hand, so many other misunderstandings happen that are never corrected because I’m not aware they are happening. This is especially true for homework where children have to rely on Spanish-speaking monolingual parents for assistance. Many of my students’ parents don’t read or understand English. And even if they do, the parents don’t understand the logic of some of the homework. They get confused by activities that ask students to color and underline and circle and write and draw lines to different things at different times. Often homework is returned to teachers incomplete or just plain wrong.
That’s why Jacky Recinos Krell, another veteran teacher, and I created A B Sí Kids.
Our activity books help ease the language dilemma students, teachers, and parents find themselves in during homework time. It’s the one daily piece of paper that everyone gets to look at.
A B Sí Kids creates work with instructions in both Spanish and English. The phonics activities use cognates when possible (baby and bebe when learning the letter B for instance) and provide tips at the bottom of each page (like explaining to parents why drawing with details is important for children’s writing in later grades).
A B Sí Kids knows it takes a pueblo to teach a child. We just try to make the pueblo have easier signs to read.
A B Sí Kids materials can be found on Teacherspayteachers.com at the following link: