Scott Strong: My name is Scott Strong. I’m a 6th grade teacher, uh core teacher.
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about your class.
Scott Strong: Uh, I have uh 30 students uh pretty well split, 15 boys and 15 girls and it’s a 6th grade class here at Cherry Hill uh Elementary. Um, this year I have uh—a little different. I have uh seven—uh eight ESL students in my class, which is different for me. I haven’t uh had that before and so I was kind of interested in how I was going to do this. Uh, it’s a good class. I think uh pretty well I don’t have any discipline problems and getting along pretty good.
Interviewer: So how’s it been with the ESL students?
Scott Strong: It’s um been interesting. I’ve uh—I went through a program called the uh Associates Program with—through BYU and uh Alpine School District in which we talked about the moral dimensions of teaching. And one of those uh dimensions was equal, you know, democracy in our classroom and equal access to knowledge which was uh quite a um not only interesting but it opened—you know, interesting to me but a learning experience in which that I see the necessity of having all students having an access or having opportunity to receive a—a knowledge or an education. And I found that this year is kind of um—in working with them uh it’s actually physically draining almost because it’s hard to work—I have to spend a lot of time with them—uh with the ESL student or with the student that doesn’t speak uh that much English. And so it—it’s been uh kind of interesting—like it wears me out a little bit. In fact, I have to spend a lot of time with them. I have to make sure that…
Interviewer: What kinds of things have you done with them?
Scott Strong: What I’ve done—I’ve done several things in my class. I think maybe one that’s got—that’s made me more aware of what they’re coming from or where they’re from is called um—called an “I Am Poem,” in which they answer different questions on how I feel. Um, I pretend uh I want to be something and they have to fill in the blanks or fill it—give me a poem. And this is a poem that I tell them I’m not going to share with the class unless they give me permission ‘cause they—not only my ESL students, but all my students get a—a feeling of um—that they can share that and not be offended or made fun of. And so I—uh that’s one thing that’s been really good and I can find out a lot of information from uh—from the student on how they feel about uh themselves and the world around them. So that’s been one real good strategy I’ve used. It’s called “I Am Poem.”
Interviewer: Have your ESL kids come in with fairly proficient English skills?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jessica and Aleenie) Uh, it varies. It varies. I have one student this year who’s been in America three months. She comes from uh Brazil and she is picking up English uh quite well. But she didn’t have any—she had no English at all uh prior to my—she may have been here about uh I think 30 days before she got into my class. And so—so there’s very little English there. Uh, that’s—that’s the one who had the least amount. The others understand uh and it varies. And some I can speak like this. I can speak uh and they’ll understand me. Others I have to slow down and uh give them a chance to figure out the words and uh understand what I’m trying to do and explain the thing. It takes more detail. And I found—also I found that some students come with uh more of a desire to learn English or get uh—to advance quickly on that. My little girl from Brazil that’s what she does. She wants to learn it and she’ll try. Whereas I have one student that uh—I had her older sister last year and she came in from Mexico and they’ve been here now just—must be their second year in—in the United States, but they’re really shy and they wouldn’t try to speak English. And so I know—in talking to, let’s say Jessica instead of Aleenie, uh I use a—I can do different things. Uh, Jessica who is shy and won’t try it, I found that one strategy I’ve used and it worked out pretty good, I try to speak Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish myself, but they see me starting to try to learn some Spanish words. They get a kick out of either my accent or—I have a lot of fun with them and I found that that really opens her up to try to want to speak English and try different English. And so I found that really works well with uh—with Jessica.
Interviewer: Tell me about Jose Flores.
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Uh, Jose, yeah. Yeah, I had an interview with him. I uh—I try to (clears throat) do that with other students but I sat down and asked him some questions and I found an interesting thing. I thought he was from Mexico because of his accent and his uh English is not as well as an American student and stuff. So I thought he was from Mexico. But it was interesting to me to find out that he was born in Los Angeles. His parents are from Mexico and uh—but Jose’s lived in America his whole life. Which he’s about—he—he just had a birthday. He’s 12 now. He’s 12 and he just had a birthday. So I was surprised to find out he wasn’t right from Mexico. But in the inter—when I was talking to him uh I found out his um his mother doesn’t speak Eng—English yet. So he’d been all this time and his dad speaks a little bit and the only thing that’s spoken in the home is Spanish. There’s Spanish and—and that’s what—and that’s what written there and everything. And I’m not sure about reading actually with the parents. I—I assume they can read Spanish. And so that was kind of interesting to find out about Jose. And I found out he doesn’t uh—he doesn’t read Spanish to well and so—he reads Spanish about—about as well as he does English. He does a little—reads English a little better then Spanish. But we sent a letter home and I had him read the Spanish letter to me and he was hesitating on that. And then he mentioned, “I don’t reading—I don’t like doing this.”
Interviewer: How long has he been here at Cherry Hill?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) How long have I been here?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Uh, Jose. Uh, they moved here from Los Angeles (interruption) Oh, Jose’s been in here at Cherry Hill uh—this is his second year. He came about the middle of last year. So about 18 months uh total I believe so. Uh, but he’d been in Los Angeles. And I asked him why they moved from Los Angeles which I thought was interesting, he’s—they moved up here because they felt like it was a little safer, the environment, and also he kept mentioning about the pollution—the air pollution and uh his dad could find a job here and that. So that’s why they came from Los Angeles to here.
Interviewer: So he went to school in Los Angeles?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) He did. Yeah. And I asked him about his schooling in Los Angeles. Uh, uh, he didn’t go—I said, well how—I was thinking he went to a Spanish-speaking school but he didn’t. He went to a English speaking or a bilingual school and—but he didn’t go to kindergarten. He didn’t—he skipped kindergarten uh ‘cause he said he had to stay home and there was nobody to tend him or he had to tend somebody. But there’s nobody to get him to school. I got—that was—there was nobody to get him to school for kindergarten so he didn’t start until the first grade. But I’m not sure of the school district or—in—in Los Angeles. I’m sure it was uh a lot of Spanish spoken there. But he has a—an accent so I didn’t suspect—so it was kind of interesting to find out that he was born in the United States and not Mexico. His early education was probably in English.
Interviewer: His early education was probably in English.
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Uh, yes. Uh-huh.
Interviewer: Well, uh what kinds of strategies have you used with him?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Uh, I try to uh—I try to have him associate—uh, Jose is a fun kid. I like—Jose—and he’ll like to joke around. He likes to talk. He’s not inhibited or anything and he likes to talk, as a matter fact, maybe uh too much in class. But he’ll—he’ll uh—has a great big smile and he—he’s easy to speak with. I’ve tried to, in his writing and everything; I’ve tried to get him to do different things. Uh, he’ll write in English. He writes everything in English. It’s uh—spelling and everything needs to be worked on like uh many of my students but uh the strategies I’ve used, uh I try uh encourage him to read out loudly in class which he does and I’ve tried to uh put him by any students that could help him out and which he—he’s willing to help any students and—and receive help from other students.
Interviewer: How—how are his reading skills?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Uh, they’re good. His reading skills are—our—our social studies book’s a little difficult for him uh on that. And he pretty well—uh, he reads well as far as.
Interviewer: Is his reading on grade level?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) I think he’s on grade level on that.
Interviewer: Uh, what kind of things does he do well in your classroom?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Uh, socially he’s good. He—he gets along with the kids well. He does um—his math is good. He does good in math even in the problem solving. He do well—he does well in that. Uh, but if we have to do some things in social studies, uh study guides and stuff like—he doesn’t—he doesn’t like doing that. He doesn’t do well in social studies. He doesn’t do well in—if he has to like memorize some terms of—like for health terms or uh, uh some science terms uh he doesn’t do well on that. But the math he does well and he does well in reading. His spelling is low. His spelling is really low.
Interviewer: So you would say he’s pretty much on grade level.
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) On the reading, yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Math and reading?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Mm-hmm.
Interviewer: What are your major concerns about him?
Scott Strong: (referring to Jose Flores) Um, my concerns for Jose? Uh, my main concern is um maybe work at home as far as uh—I mean, he has a great family—I mean his family gives him support—are a loving family. But I—I was concerned about the amount of work he does. When he goes home he doesn’t have time for—to do his work, his studies or anything or even play because he has a job and goes out and solicits and sells newspaper subscriptions. And I asked him, “How long do you do that?” And he said, “Well, I could leave about 4:00 and get back about 8:00 and then he’s tired. And so I’m concerned about him having to work every day after school and not having time to play after school or uh to do—to be with the family that much. I was a little concerned on that. In school I don’t think there will be a—my concern in school—I think academically he does well and be able to do—to advance and um socially he gets along well. He’s not a—the whole class doesn’t associate with him and go play with him but there’s a—nobody dislikes him and they like him. He may play with—there’s about two or three students in the class that he plays with.
Interviewer: Tell me about Madara Roy.
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy) Now Madara’s a little bit different personality. He’s still a happy um boy and—and the students would probably associate or do more things with Madara then they would Jose. Madara is uh a student that uh will be here now—I’ve had him for three months in my class and yesterday or—no, it was today, he left for Mexico. They—he was born in Mexico and his family is from there. And now he will be gone for three months and I won’t see him for three months. And he’ll be back in February—he said the end of February. So maybe two—well, December, January, February. And uh that’s kind of a way the family’s done that. He has two younger brothers in our school and they’ll be gone for—like three months so we’ll have to pick that up and so there’s a big—and I’m not sure—I asked him if he’s going to be going to school down in Mexico and he said, “Probably not.” He said he probably won’t be going so…
Interviewer: Is Spanish his native language?
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy and Jose Flores) Yeah, it is. Mm-hmm. Yeah, he speaks Spanish. His mom doesn’t—speaks no English and so the only communication I’ve had was uh—she did—uh—no, I haven’t met his mom personally. I have not—she didn’t come to SEP or the parent/teacher conferences. Jose’s I did. I talked to Jose’s mom through an interpreter. A person came and helped uh communicate. But uh Madara’s mom I haven’t—she just had another baby and uh—about a month—three weeks ago they had another little baby and so the—I know the three boys and the little baby they’re gone, and the mother. And I assume the father is going back to Mexico. But Madara gets along well. He’s uh friendly, uh a little quieter then uh—then Jose. Um, he’s very concerned about doing well in school. His academics are uh, uh good. He does same as Jose. He does well in math, uh, his writing uh, most of them are complete sentences and he—he speaks real good English. He speaks very good English. And so there’s really not any accent or anything and understands pretty well everything I say.
Interviewer: Where did he grow up?
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy) I’m not sure. I know he’s been—been in Cherry Hill—I know they’ve been here uh two years. But I’m not sure where he grew up on—on that.
Interviewer: Does his mother speak Spanish?
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy) Yeah, she speaks Spanish and that’s what she used at home.
Interviewer: OK. Well, what are your concerns for him?
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy) Um, well my main concern is where this break in education between uh United—starting here and then trying to pick everything up three months from now. So I’m concerned of what he’ll be missing right then. Uh, he has been coping with that pretty good, you know, as far as his writing and reading. He’ll miss out on a lot of uh technical things and things in science. But he did—he just asked if he could take a math book and he’ll be finished in the math—working along in the math book by himself on that. So he’s pretty well self-motivated. He uh—he has a concern uh on—I also do that little poem, the “I Am Poem” on where he described about—talked about himself. And he mentioned in there some thoughts that uh he feels that he’s different and he—but he wants to succeed and his desire is to become a scientist. And uh socially he—I say he’s really good and uh he—he learns to play chess. We like to play chess. I have a chess tournament in our classroom. Uh, he—he did win that the last—last month and so he did really well on that. And so his—his mind is working really well. He has a sharp mind. My concern is just the little break right here in the school year.
Interviewer: Will he take reading material with him?
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy) I don’t know what he took with him. Uh, didn’t ask for a reading book, but I’m not sure. But I know of the math…
Interviewer: He did take the math.
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy) He took the math book. Mm-hmm.
Interviewer: So both of those kids attend well to instruction?
Scott Strong: (referring to Madara Roy and Jose Flores) Yeah, Madara does better then Jose. Jose will be—he can be distracted very easy. Jose will be distracted quite easily and I have to keep him pretty well at the front of the room uh so he’ll stay focused in on the—on the teaching instruction. Uh, Madara there’s no trouble with that. Jose is easily distracted.
Interviewer: If you were going to speak to teachers of—that were learning how to teach ESL kids, what would you say to them?
Scott Strong: Let’s see. What would I tell teachers that are going to teach ESL students? Um, I think they’ll develop—well, I have a concern for them and actually a love for the student. I really do. It’s—I went through uh a little um, um play with—with some other teachers in which we divided our group into two groups and we—one portrayed a—an alien uh society from the other one. Each of us had different traits, different—had come from different cultures and then we were taken one or two at a time from our culture into this other pretend environment in which we did things that offended people and we didn’t know what uh—what we were doing and uh really became uncomfortable because we didn’t know what the people wanted even though we—Amer—you know, uh just other faculty. And then we—we couldn’t get back—wait to get back in our own culture. I think we need to develop a sensitivity for the ones who are coming into a new culture. And if we had it—if we—if we could feel that or if we’ve ever had that sensation before of being out of our own environment, make sure we realize that those students are in that same thing and have a—uh have a concern for that. Make them—make them feel at home and try to—and some things that may seem real minute or simple to us, they don’t understand and make sure we uh have that uh—give them a chance to understand that, a chance to fit in. So I—that’s a big thing there.
Interviewer: So what’s been your biggest challenge?
Scott Strong: Uh, the biggest challenge is having the—the 30 students in my class and my biggest challenge being to devote enough time for instruction and to—to tell the ESL students which—it does take extra time to explain that and yet working with the rest of my class on that. So—I have 22 other students uh that uh—that I have to work with but can’t devote that much time to them. So my biggest concern and biggest problem is—is uh the time in the classroom when you’re giving the instructions to those, make sure they understand it yet not shunning the rest of the class. So that’s been a struggle for me.
Interviewer: Great. Well, thank you so much.
Scott Strong: But that’s about it. I think that’s uh—like I say, I have—I have developed that uh interest in—in the ESL students and uh I think they—they all have uh like I said, an equal access to—to knowledge. (interruption) It has been a thing where—it is uh—it does take you phys—you know, physically drains you to try to work with that that much and so—but I think they have a—a wonderful—they’re wonderful kids and they want to—they want to succeed too.
Scott Strong: All right.