The Mexican Child

by: Emma P. Weir
Posted: July 17, 2021

Reprinted from Texas Outlook, June 1936

THERE should be in the schools of Texas at the present time about 20,000 Mexican children, and it ought to be the duty and the business of parents, teachers and citizens to see that these children attend school, for our Texas constitution states that the public schools were founded primarily for the good of the state, and secondarily for the good of the child; therefore all good citizens should be interested in seeing that all children attend school, especially the Mexican child who so much needs the training for citizenship.  Someone is at fault somewhere, for every year a few Mexican children enter the Austin schools, sixteen years old, and under, who have never been in school before.

In Austin we have some fine Mexican citizens who wish their children to be educated; send them every day, well dressed, and carefully provided for.  There are always some children that must be helped with food and clothing, and encouraged to come to school, and sometimes must be sent for.  When these children themselves become interested (for usually they are their own bosses), the battle is won.  We should try to make these children happy in school, make them feel that they are missed when absent, and that they cannot learn and keep up with the class when they stay at home.  Punctuality is a great lesson for them.

It is just as necessary for the Mexican child to have an experienced and successful teacher as it is for the American child, and a teacher of this class who has always taught American children will have many problems to solve when she faces for the first time fifty little foreigners, whose ages range from six to sixteen years.  Some will know a little English, but the majority of them will not know any English.

It is an advantage if the teacher can speak Spanish; she will need it in conversing with the parents of the children; in sympathizing with some small child that gets hurt.  Often by means of a few Spanish words one can gain the love and confidence of a child.  Education 252, University of Texas, deals with the Mexican child.  Dr. Manuel, the teacher of this course, with the many interesting books and articles of the course, gives one a wonderful background and great inspiration for the work.

New Mexico is doing a great deal for the Mexican child. The San Jose Training School, connected with the University of New Mexico, at Albuquerque, is a training school for teachers who teach Mexican children.  Nine of these teachers are taken at a time.  They are given three months training with all expenses paid.  Also, a substitute is paid to do each teacher’s work while she is taking the course.  United States Senator Bronson Cutting of New Mexico, who was killed a short time ago in an airplane crash, gave largely of his means to support this school.  New Mexico is very fortunate to have the gifted Dr. Tireman at the head of this school.  We hope to have someday, a similar, and much needed school connected with our university.

In Metz school, one of the largest ward schools of Austin, there are many Mexican children.  These children are separated from the American children to the 1-A grade where they are taught to speak English, to read, and to do the other work of the grade.  These children are promoted to the 1-B grade and are put in the same class with the American children and do as well as they.

The same standard in reading should be maintained for these children as for the American children; viz., that they read fluently, are good oral readers, and get the thought.  Most Mexican children learn to write well, and many of them are talented in drawing and all art work, and what joy they derive from the use of scissors, paper, crayolas, and paste.

THE main thing is for these children to learn to speak English, which should be taught as far as possible with objects and through activities.  Never give the Spanish word first for we do not wish the children to translate from Spanish to English, but to think English.

The teacher of the 1-A grade Mexican children must have material with which to teach.  Her room should be a miniature toy shop.  Many toys can be made by the children, the teacher, and the janitor.  Others may be bought at the ten-cent store for a few pennies.

In Los Angeles, California, a kit of toys is given to each teacher of foreign children with which to begin, and she is expected to add to these.  Every teacher should have a large collection of attractive pictures.

All first grade teachers are familiar with the Bob and Nancy Primer of the Real Life series; so I will tell of some of the necessary objects for teaching this book.  There should be several dolls; one each for the father, the mother, Bob, Nancy, Bill, Mr. Brown and Mrs. Brown.  I found a real cowboy on a pony for Bill.  A few days ago, one of the little boys, an admirer of father, brought several trinkets to trade for him, but I had had so much difficulty in finding father that I could not let him go, but if I can find another one I shall give it to the child.  There should be two ponies, one for Dick, and one for Paint; a cow for Dot, the new baby calf; a dog for Spot; a cat for Tom, and a rooster, hen, and many little chickens; a mother pig and her ten baby pigs.  The children made the baby pigs of clay.  We have a windmill, pig pen, chicken yard, cow pen, a barn, and the farm house; a mouse, the mother bird, and the little bird.  I have pictures of all these characters with their names printed under them. A bulletin board is useful for this purpose and I find several to be a great help.

The first vocabulary taught is selected in order to have children take directions, such as; I stand; I sit; I come; I go to the board; I go to my seat; I open my desk; I shut my desk; I put my tablet in my desk; I put my tablet on my desk; I take my pencil; I write; I write on paper; I write on the board; I write with chalk; and so on.  Have pupils do all of these things; and many others, and while performing, tell what they are doing.  Give daily drills on the furniture, and parts of the room, as: door, windows, shelf, floor, stove, chair, table. At first the teacher touches the objects, and names them with the pupils then later have individual children touch, and name them.  Tach: I run; I skip; I hop; I jump; I bow; I walk; I walk fast; I walk slowly; I walk softly; I walk on tiptoes; I skip to the window; I hop to the door.  Teacher always shows the children how to do these things at first.  Teach: hair, nose, mouth, teeth, cheeks, chin, elbows, feet, head, hands, legs, fingers; in connection with these words such expressions may be taught as: I touch my nose, this is my mouth; I have two ears; etc.  Talk daily about the weather.  Never lose an opportunity for teaching English. Keep a list of words taught and review often.  Much English may be taught through rhymes, songs, games.  Nearly all of the English work may be turned into games.  Dramatize stories whenever it is possible to do so.


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