Sunday, September 29, 2013

REFLECTION on Collier's "Teaching Multilingual Children"

I’ve been looking forward to reading these articles since I printed them out last week.  My husband Luis is bilingual, and grew up in a Spanish-speaking household in San Jose, California.  His parents didn’t speak English, and he didn’t begin learning English until second grade.  We had talked about it in the past -- I’ve always been fascinated by his bilingualism, since I can’t speak another language -- and reading these articles made me curious to talk to him about it again.
Luis in First Grade :)

Luis experienced the style of bilingual education promoted by Virginia Collier in the article “Teaching Multilingual Children.”  Due to the large Latino population in San Jose, the elementary school that he attended offered a Bilingual Education program.  His teachers spoke and instructed both in Spanish and in English, and the “eradication” that Collier frowns upon in Guidelines #2 & #3 was never a part of his education.  He was never made to feel ostracized, or wrong, or like an outsider for using Spanish in the classroom.

He also benefitted from what Collier explains in Guideline #6 as establishing literacy in his primary language first.  As Collier says the research shows, “the most successful long-term academic achievement occurs where the students’ primary language is the initial language of literacy.” (p. 233)  She goes on to say that “dismiss[ing] the home language in literacy development places immigrant children at risk...[which] does not recede over time, but accumulates.”  (p. 233)  By learning to read and write in Spanish first, Luis was then able to transfer the literacy skills he obtained into learning to read and write in English.  This enabled him to keep pace with his peers, instead of struggling with literacy in the second language which may have caused him to fall behind.

In kindergarten, it was mostly Spanish with a little English.  First grade added a little more English, and by second grade, instruction was about 50/50.  At this point, Luis’ natural curiosity with English took hold (he remembers wanting to understand what the English speaking kids were talking or joking about -- the group would talk and laugh, but he couldn’t understand what was funny).  The way he had been taught up to that point motivated him to transition, which was nurtured and encouraged by the teacher he remembers as very influential to him.  By third grade, Luis was in an English-only classroom.

I asked Luis if he thought his K-12 experience would have been different if he hadn’t had access to this program.  He said that it’s likely that he would have had a harder time learning English, and thus a harder time with learning in general.  Being made to feel “wrong” for speaking Spanish (and not having and understanding of English from home) could have been discouraging, or made him prone to giving up quicker.  In the long run, his opportunity to begin his school experience in Bilingual Education gave him successful footing to do well in the rest of his schooling.

Talking Point:  The population of Latinos in Luis’ community made funding of a Bilingual program in his school both necessary and possible.  For schools without a high population, yet with some ELL students, the same level of support often isn’t an available because of a lack of funding.  Does the system fail these students?  What can be done to give them similar chances at success?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

QUOTES from Kozol's Amazing Grace

Jonathan Kozol's Amazing Grace was an eye opener for me.  It's not as though I was oblivious to the fact that there are poor areas in the country, but I guess I had never considered just how poor, and just how harsh the realities are to face for those who live in, raise children in, or even grow up in such an area.  Reminiscent of what we've read in other articles, the appearance of "they" throughout this article illustrates how the members of this South Bronx community are most aware of the power/privileges they don't have.

1)  "'The point is that they put a lot of things into our neighborhood that no one wants,' she says."  (p.10)

Cliffie's mother tells Kozol about how their marginalized community has become a dumping ground.  People from other areas come in to dump their junk, the city put in a garbage dump and a medical waste incinerator (both of which contribute to the widespread asthma in the children), and the city relocated homeless families here, putting many sick people and children together in a very small area.  Those with power have decided that it's okay for the people of this neighborhood to live in such conditions.

2)  "'My doctor says, when it comes to the poor, they can't get nothin' right.'"  (p. 20)

Mrs. Washington explains to Kozol that, after an error in the system kicked her off of receiving her assistance, there is a myriad of hoops to jump through to get back into the system.  She is too sick to work to provide for herself, but "they" (the city/state/government) says she is not "sick enough" to receive SSI assistance.  Here, those in power have the privilege to determine who can be helped and by how much.  And even if someone is dying, it is crazy to think that that might not be enough.

3)  "Somebody has power.  Pretending that they don't so they don't need to use it to help people--that is my idea of evil."  (p. 23)

Mrs. Washington's son, David, opens up to Kozol about how his mother doesn't deserve to be so sick and helpless, just because those in power remain at a distance and withhold help from those who are not in a position to help themselves.  This quote immediately made me think of the Johnson article, where he says: "[People] don't have the power to change entrenched systems of privilege by themselves.  If they could do that, there wouldn't be a problem in the first place."  (p. 10)

To Share:  David tells Kozol: "There's a whole world out there if you know it's there, if you can see it.  But they're in a cage.  They cannot see." (p. 24)  He is referring to the people in his community who are stuck in this cycle with no means of getting out.  To me, it seems the best hope is to begin with the children.  Programs like Head Start offer such an opportunity (for Angel Tavares, as an example), yet they continue to face steep cuts.  Why?  If we keep taking away opportunities, how can we expect anything to change?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

About Me

Hi Everyone!

I have never blogged before, and suddenly here I am with two!  (I also have one for another class I am currently taking.)

This is my first semester at Rhode Island College, and it's also my first semester in school in six years!  I graduated from San Diego State University in 2007 with a B.A. in English, and I am now returning to school for my teacher certification for Secondary English through the RITE program.  Becoming a teacher is something I always knew was in my future, so finally getting started on this chapter in my life is a very exciting thing!

Since graduating from SDSU, I have worked as an enrollment advisor for an online university, as a coordinator for a small publishing company, and as a bookkeeper for a construction company -- all very different and interesting experiences!  I met my husband Luis the summer after I graduated, and we got married two years ago.  Moving from San Diego to Newport last summer was a big adventure, as was our first "real" winter!

I lovelovelove to read and devoured many books this summer.  I'm always open to book suggestions.  I also love cooking, the beach, anything Disney, space, and my pets - a chihuahua named Pancho and a tuxedo cat named Wyatt.  :)

Me in a nutshell!  See you all in class.