Margarita Calderon

MARGARITA CALDERON

My name is Margarita Calderon. I’m a research scientist for the Center for Education uh—Center for Research and Education of Students Placed At-Risk, CRESPAR, which is part of Johns Hopkins University.

In—in my views uh, Professional Development Program for Teachers of Language Minority Students has encompassed uh a realm of things, uh elements, factors uh, different kinds of theories. I think teachers need a very strong theoretical grounding in sociocultural history, uh theories of second language acquisition, of two languages being learning simultaneously and also a lot of theory that begins to look at pedagogy from different perspectives. Teachers of language minority students need to look at critical pedagogy. They need to learn about uh pedagogy of place, pedagogy of peace. Israel is doing some very exciting uh studies on pedagogy of peace that seems to apply so much to um our—our schools today. Language minority students, um African-American students find themselves in school cultures that can relate very much to—not just um what is happening in their particular schools right now, but if we take for instance a pedagogy of peace where in Israel several cultures need to learn to work together. And teacher in Israel are learning about these cultures as Russian students come into the schools they need to know the background of these students, where they have been. And it’s very much what we are seeing today in our schools. Teachers need to know the difference between um students that come from El Salvador or from the interior of Mexico versus students that might be coming from the northern part of Mexico and the differences that exist. Um, in staff development practices, we sometimes tend to ignore the differences ad the background, the cultural capital that teachers themselves bring in. I think staff development has to start with teachers learning in communities. Teachers learn in communities which we call TLC uh do have to do, of course, with TLC and providing that TLC for teachers. Uh, but more importantly it’s also providing for teachers uh or future teachers, a safe context where they can begin to explore their own histories, their own beliefs, their biases, and their attitudes toward uh a multicultural society.

Teachers bring cultural capital to the universities and we need to stop and explore what they bring. Sometimes we do to teachers what we tell teachers not to do to students. We don’t give them an opportunity to uh bring in their—their background in to our own classrooms where we can learn from their experiences, especially now that we have such a high diverse population of teachers. We don’t have to go very far and spend uh a vacation or—or take a course in another country because we have many teachers coming from so many different places in the world that we can have our own microcosm within our own classrooms or within our own staff development workshops. I think for too long we have concentrated on teaching content to teachers instead of uh discovering the content that they bring themselves and also creating a—a context for—for co-instruction of um—of their own cultural capital.

In—in professional development we—we do need a balance of—of theory. We’ve got to look at the latest theories uh for instance, literacy. Reading. Take reading for instance, the way that I learned about reading at the university uh many, many years ago uh is definitely different from everything that we know now about literacy, about teaching reading. And so as theories evolve, I think we—we need to look at new theories but we also have to keep going back and seeing what we have thrown away and bringing that back. When we have a highly diverse um teach—student/teacher population or highly diverse teachers attending a staff development program, we can also learn from them about these theories of—of literacy because they themselves may have studied in another country and they’re bringing in these literacies. Or uh there’s—there’s a lot of learning that can take place within these communities of—of teachers as they—as they share that. So I think staff development, in-service sessions need to have a nice balance of “Well, here is what we’re all about. This is what we want to learn about reading, about uh writing. Here are some theories and these are some popular theories but let’s not forget what we’ve learned from the past or what we might have learned from other countries.” And then let’s add another dimension, let’s add the dimension of discourse, of collective uh dialog where we can analyze these practices and learn from one another and build upon the solid base of—of theory and—and research because the way that may be interpreted in one context would be very different from uh the context where some of these teachers will eventually wind up.

Pedagogy of place um is the context that can uh vary so broadly from—from uh one state to the other. Uh, let—let me give you more of a concrete example. Uh, we were recently observing a school in Nogales, Arizona. That is a place that is so different from any other place where we’ve been and a lot of my work has been situated for the past 10 years in El Paso, Texas. So you would think that El Paso, Texas being a border town would be very similar to Nogales, Arizona, which is also a border town. But we were so surprised to see so many differences, so many contrasts that um we—we were pleasantly also surprised to see that in one particular school, a dual language school, a two-way bilingual school, the whole staff had made it a point to study about their place. They were looking at place names and this is the teachers—the teachers and the principal was learning about place names, about history, about Nogales, uh bringing in community resources, bringing in uh the—the old-timers from the community to share this information. From this collective information, they have put together a marvelous curriculum that goes beyond just reading in English and Spanish but rather reading about uh these histories, the children themselves are recording some of these histories. The high school children are actively involved in videotaping sights in Nogales. They go across the border because it—it is—it’s one area. The way the children talk about this particular small community now um it brings forth the richness of a place that perhaps some of us would have overlooked and never thought as being important. And that’s how I learned about pedagogy of place. It was a—it’s a wonderful experience, it’s a wonderful model and I just wish there were more uh instances where—where young um teenagers have an opportunity to—to really study their community and take ownership of that culture.

Uh, a critical pedagogy enhances any instructional pedagogy that—that a teacher might have. A teacher may acquire through studying or through observations, and through staff development programs or university classes. A teacher might acquire an ample repatra of teaching strategies. And that perhaps is the simplest part. We can learn to teach uh group investigation, inquiry, training, concept attainment, uh language experience approach. There’s a whole merit of instructional strategies that are very easy to do in a one-day workshop. But I think where we’ve missed the boat is that we don’t go beyond just a set of strategies. We don’t give teachers opportunities to begin to look critically at what these strategies may or may not create within a classroom. And I think teachers need to look at the environment, the schools, where they have been, uh the—the historical biases that perhaps existed in a school and begin to use that ample repatra of instructional strategies to—to help create another context for—for the students. Um, I’m assuming that many teachers will eventually become administrators themselves and as administrators of schools, if they have not had this opportunity um are—are still going to bring in their biases as they run these schools. And I’ve seen that happen a lot on the border. I’ve seen where even Latino teachers uh have such prejudice against the Latino children and Latino teachers that it’s what Freda has always said, “The oppressors shall be—the oppressed shall be the oppressors.” And we see this cycle uh repeating itself through uh many of uh context such as the one’s along the border.

For example, Latino teachers who grew up in certain areas along the US/Mexico border uh were—were punished when they were growing up for speaking Spanish, were told that the culture was um—was no good, that they should become Americans as quickly as possible and by into the American dream. And if they were ever to succeed, they would have to forget about their language, their culture, and anything that was not the American way. I have seen many of these folks grow up with this baggage that they carry throughout these years. And as much as they would like now to—to go back and—and learn the language, feel comfortable about their culture, there is always something that you can tell that is preventing them from—from doing that. There is always something that prevents them from reaching out to the Latino children in a different way then the one that they were taught. And I think it’s going to take years before we—we out grow uh some of these very uncomfortable uh situations that—that are still quite persistent. We’ve done studies along the border and we were trying to compare the culture of a school that was uh—where—where the administrators were primarily Latino and the cultural of schools uh where uh the principals, assistant principal—principals were primarily Anglo, and—and you couldn’t see any differences. Uh, you really couldn’t pin point, you couldn’t tell. There was no way that you could say that there was something here. There was more of a Latino flavor or that there was something that would define this school to be uh run by uh Latino administrators. But that was in the past. Um, I’m happy to say these last few years we’ve seen some—some very exciting things happen and um fortunately or unfortunately the most exciting context are being created through charter schools. So that again tells us something that perhaps the system is not yet quite ready to accept some of these changes that we see the charter Latino schools starting to make. Uh, in San Diego, in Arizona, and Texas, there’s—there’s some uh, wonderful emerging examples of this nice balance of what it is to be an American, what it is to have had a Latino background, and how the two uh don’t have to cancel each other out. That it’s—it’s—it’s great to be uh a little bit of both or one or the other depending on the situation or the circumstance.

I think teachers can examine their own identity early in their career. I wish more universities would do what we’ve heard here at this conference at ARA that uh certain professors are—are now letting their student teachers begin to explore early on through autobiographies, through—not just writing the autobiographies, but sharing and discussing and—and probing in—into their background as to why um perhaps uh I learned to read at uh age three versus uh somebody else who didn’t learn to read until age six. What were those factors? Were our parents working? Was our mother home? Uh, sign—insign—what we would term as insignificant features of our background have—are perhaps the most significant in our development and in our identity and in the things that we like about ourselves and in the things that we don’t like about ourselves. I think teachers need a period of exploration of identity before they get out there and teach. Uh, they—they need to learn to be comfortable with themselves and to—to know where they’re coming from.

I began to look at the concept of teachers learning communities, uh TLC’s. Uh, when I was searching for what to do after that marvelous workshop we (laugh) we had terrific trainers come in for one, two, five days at a time, work with teachers, but then nothing much happened afterwards. So we went—we started to look at how teachers could build their own learning communities whether at a school or if it’s uh—if they’re at different schools, finding a place for them to come together. And talk about issues of implementation uh about their own learning of—of all these new concepts. Problem solving, a lot of problem solving, a lot of analysis of their students’ work so that they would begin to look at the impact of these new learning’s on their students and not wait until it was too late until a year after—when the year ended then we would see that “Oh, all this stuff that I learned about writing um, didn’t really um work out.” And we’ve heard so many times, “Oh, cooperative learning doesn’t really work.” Well, what we’ve learned is—when we hear something like that, it’s because the teachers might have had a terrific initial in-service, but there was no follow-up. There was nothing there for the teacher to take this and—and do something wonderful with it, no peer interaction, no peer support. And so these TLC’s are mechanisms where teachers can branch off into different directions in order to continue to grow professionally and personally.

Peer coaching can take um various forms. Um, I like the form where teachers observe each other and give each other feedback. I know that it’s not kosher many times um now to—to talk about feedback, but I still believe in that. Ad teachers fell comfortable if we give them an opportunity to develop those relationships. I think—peer coaching have—may—may not have worked in the past because they didn’t have the opportunity to develop a relationship. They were told to peer coach, you team up with that teacher, go do your peer coaching and nothing ever happened. Uh, the TLC’s can have a component after they’ve learned about each other, after they’ve learned to trust and value one another, then the teacher’s themselves set up their own peer coaching teams and they request the feedback because they know that feedback will only help them to—to grow and develop in directions that they themselves have not seen. So peer coaching cannot be imposed. Peer coaching cannot be designated or dictating. It has to emerge from those learning communities, uh, the same thing with uh teacher ethnographies. Teacher ethnographies uh are what I consider a more profound way of looking in classrooms. Teachers uh can conduct these ethnographies as partners within—within classrooms. And in fact, it seems to work better that way. In uh a lot of the two-way bilingual programs where teachers are teaming uh, there’s a Spanish uh proficient teacher, an English model teaming together and they work together in the same classroom throughout the day, throughout the weeks. This partnership is ideal for—for the ethnographies and for the peer coaching. Ethnographies can be conducted while one teacher is directing instruction. The other can be recording what small groups of students are doing, the interaction between the teacher and the students um, watching children read. There are so many things that teachers can begin to record through note taking. Even through videos. I’ve seen teachers now um being comfortable with videotaping themselves, videotaping their partners and then later transcribing and—and looking at those videos. But the discussion and the analysis happens within the teacher’s learning communities. If they see that other teachers are doing the same thing, it’s—it’s much more comfortable and they feel much more open about sharing what—what they’ve seen. And we’ve seen tremendous growth in teachers that—that opt for these types of activities.

One of example of uh teacher ethnography is uh a project that we had in El Paso, Texas where the teachers believed very firmly that their dual language program was a 50/50 program, 50 percent of the instruction was happening in Spanish, 50 percent of the instruction was happening in English. Uh, but not so—it wasn’t until they started actual recording through their ethnographies recording the minutes spent on English, the minutes spent on Spanish, how they would uh switch from one language to the other that they found out that it was more like 65/35. Of course, English receiving 65 percent. When they stared um matching these results with the students results and also the students perceptions of Spanish and their perceptions of English, they in uh—they could see how they were gently swaying uh the whole status of the two language and the—what started to become a negative impact on the classroom. And so this is—this is one example where—where as soon as they saw that, then they could begin to shift and—and continue to keep tracks until it—it became a 50/50 endeavor.

All teachers can participate in educational reform and uh reform at the schools. Whole school reform can happen and it can happen in marvelous ways if the teachers move together uh through this type of staff development program that I’ve just described. One example of that is uh, of course, the Success For All programs that are developed by Johns Hopkins University. We see these programs um implemented throughout uh various settings that could be defined as—as very complex schools where there are a lot of uh minority teachers where there’s high diversity in student populations, where perhaps 20 percent of the teachers in that school said that they didn’t want the Success For All program. It has—there has to be a vote and if it’s 80 percent positive, then uh we do go into a school and implement the program, which means that 20 percent of the faculty did not want this program to begin with. But as the staff development processes are implemented throughout a whole school, we begin to see terrific changes. First of all, if bilingual teachers and uh—and mainstream teachers participate in the same type of staff development, that brings them closer together. Uh, bilingual programs in the past have tended to separate the teachers and a lot of the staff development has been for either bilingual teachers or ESL teachers or mainstream teachers. Whole school reform models bring them together again. They go through the same training, same in-service, of course the bilingual teachers will receive additional in-service in—in the—in Spanish or whatever the primary language is or the ESL teachers will receive extended training in English as a second languages techniques. But because they’re all on the same note, they’re all in the same boat, learning something new, then that becomes a very exciting endeavor. When every teacher is learning something new, it equalizes the teachers. Yes, there is expertise and there are novices, but within this context that is equali—equalizing everyone, the novice may have some uh techniques that perhaps the experienced teachers never had a chance to look at or vice versa. So—so we see this equalizing factor because the school has adopted uh a—a specific model. Uh, and—and that’s why I’m—I’m a proponent of uh comprehensive school reform models because I think this is an opportunity for teacher to—to learn together if they’re given the time during the day to do their reflection, to do the additional things that we’ve talked about in the TLC’s. In Success For All we require that the schools set aside this time within the day for teachers to come together and—and do the kinds of things that I’ve been describing. And I’m not sure if all models do, but I certainly recommend that they do.

One of the things uh we’ve been trying to convince schools and school districts and everyone um of the—is the importance of um teachers coming together in their TLC’s during the school day. We require it in our Success For All models but it’s been very difficult to get other schools, other districts to—to do this. Uh, teachers can’t stay after school. They can’t come on Saturdays. Uh, they work hard enough as it is and uh the pay isn’t the great so why are we doing this? All the other professions allocate time within the day. Um, just look at lawyers. What do they do? First thing in the morning they have their TLC, they sit around the table with something nice to eat and they do problem solving. They talk about what they’re going to do that day, what they’re going to be doing that week. Uh, hospitals do the same thing. All the professions have within the workplace, within the workspace time allocated for—for this coming together. And so I think we need—we need to set that up. Uh, there—there has to be a presidential mandate or something that says teachers are professionals and they deserve time out during the day to—to do this.

Success for all um is called success for all because it does try to promote success for all students. Uh, it is a whole school program and we feel that everyone in a school has to be relentless about insuring success for every child. Uh, if a child needs tutoring, there—there is that tutoring program. There are tutors. Uh, we—we request that at least eight tutors be trained in a school so that there is—there are enough adult bodies to—to handle um the—whatever the load might be. And we want early intervention. We don’t want to wait until the end of the year to see how many kids have fallen through the cracks and then we start the tutoring. It has to happen the first eight weeks of school. Uh, that’s why the student’s are assess every eight weeks to see where they are, what progress every child is making at every single grade level and—and looking at some potential uh problem cases that we need to take care of as adults, not that they are the problems, but rather what is it that we’re not doing right that we need to do. Uh, it may that a child needs glasses, isn’t getting—getting enough sleep. Uh, there are a lot of non-academic issues that also have to be looked at. And so a family support community, which consists of not just uh the—the teacher, but also others in the schools, counselors and um administrators and some parents get together also systematically every week to review certain cases that might become potential um problems and so the early intervention has to take place immediately. And—and that’s why we think that insuring Success for All is not just an instructional strategy, but it’s—it’s also looking at the whole child. If this child—if uh the children need to develop their reading and their writing in their primary language, then by all means, they do that first. Uh, there are different types of bilingual programs that have the Success for All programs in it because we have some transitional bilingual, uh two-way immersion bilingual. Whatever the school decides that they want to do, that’s fine, but if it benefits the students to learn to read in their primary language first, then by all means do it. Uh, after that, then there is a process for transitioning them into English. So that there aren’t barriers created in a school or at least we try to anticipate all the different barriers that there might be there for—for any child and um that’s why I—I whole heartedly believe in—in what Success for All is—is attempting to do. Not that it’s perfect yet, we have five more years of development and we’re still working out the kinks, but I think we’re getting there.

There’s a lot of uh crisis mentality um syndromes out there. I think schools are reacting because of state mandated tests and so many issues, standards—the whole standards movement has created a crisis mentality in many of the schools. So what the schools typically do is uh go out and buy the first uh model that happens to come by and try to impose it on the teachers, on the students, whereas it may or may not fit the school context. Um, and we see that the schools uh are making mistakes year and year after year. Whereas, more deliberate planning, more of a sense of what their community is really like would help many of the schools. Uh, for instance, there is this wonderful school in Hawaii—in Hawaii and they spent two years studying all about their community, all about the student population that they had, might have. Um, many of the teachers are Hawaiians themselves and so they were bringing in issues that related directly to what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go. So I began to—to see this as um—as that pedagogy place, uh as a critical pedagogy because they were not at all happy with what had been, and they needed to move onto something else. As they began to—to meet uh a very frequent basis, a once a month, but then the meetings became more and more frequently. They also developed my sense of the teachers learning community because they began to—to bring in things to explore, articles to read, research to download, so it was communitive learners. They were looking at different models; they were looking at different issues that related directly to their school. It was a rural school and—and uh, um very different from the schools that you would find in—in Honolulu. So once they found out about themselves and who they really were and who their students were, then they brought in uh a model and they brought in “Success For All,” uh lucky for us. But the way “Success For All” has been implemented in that school is very different from what’s “Success For All” looks like in other schools, in California or in Texas. Uh, they still adhere to uh all—the theory, the pedagogical grounding, the instructional strategies, but uh it has its own flavor and those kids are succeeding like never before. It—it’s the star school in—in Hawaii because of—of the achievement level of everything that they have gained, of everything that they are doing. But they did it the right way, what I would call the right way. I’m—I’m uh—I’m bias that way, that I think you—just like what I had said earlier that teachers need to find out their own identity. Schools need to know their own identity and their identity of their teachers and their students. Once they’ve—they complete that stage, then some real thorough investigation of what is out there, so that once they adopt a model, that—that means that they are thouroughly convinced that they have totally bought it and they apply themselves uh happily.

Cooperative learning works for language minority students because um language minority students need that interaction. They—they need the discourse, uh learning from peers. It—cooperative learning helps to create a safe context where they can share, learn from each other and not be put on the spot. So, the—the safety net is created through—through cooperative structures. What I think teachers need to—to also take a look at is what is being learned within those cooperative structures? Uh, granted that the kids feel safe and comfortable, they like working with peers, and uh, they—they have an ample opportunity to develop vocabulary, strings of discourse, through osmosis, if not through study. But, what are they learning? What is the content of the cooperative structures? Uh, we know that there are models that have been um empirically tested, like um CIRC and BCIRC, Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition, the Bilingual Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition. Um, it took five years to test those models with experimental and controlled students measuring during those five years, uh not just the academic aspects, but also the—even the children’s attitude. The youngest uh, uh being first graders measuring their attitudes toward school, toward reading, toward learning, toward their peers, um and, of course, in measure of language proficiency. So—so we looked at the whole student and—and compared that to uh 500 students in controlled classrooms to see the effects of—of a model such as this. Models such as this have greater potential in um helping the students move faster through—through their um, uh—cut. Empirically tested models are probably the—the only type of cooperative learning that we can say with certainty is going to work for language minority students or any—any students. I know that there’s a lot of techniques, a lot of strategies out there and uh until they have been tested through very rigorous methods, I’m not sure if they’re going to be helping or if they’re going to be hindering the learning process.

And in thinking about strategies that work for language minority students or ESL students, uh I think the field needs to look at those that have been tested rigorously. Uh, those that have been tested with experimental in control classrooms, it—it’s not just something that students might—might enjoy or that the teachers might like to teach, but what is the research behind this—this technique. Components building has to be another major aspect of ESL instruction. If we have one component, how does that match with another one? If we are—for instance, if we’re teaching the language experience approach, how does that match with um, uh direct instruction or something else? So, how do teachers pull together different components, different strategies and techniques, and what is the affect of that? A components testing uh doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It’s not just uh, a hodge podge of strategies throughout the week that is going to help the student, but rather the careful orchestration of these models. And in some cases we may have to leave some out. And in some cases we may have to bring a few others in. Uh, reading is one of those that perhaps has not received enough attention in the ESL classroom. Uh, I’ve interviewed a lot of ESL teachers and they didn’t have the opportunity to take courses in uh, in teaching reading, or teaching writing. So we see a lot of oral language development, we see a lot of awareness of the reading structures perhaps, story telling, teachers reading to students, but we rarely see the students reading themselves or being taught how to read. Uh, learning to read is a very complex endeavor. We can’t just give the students storybooks uh or—or simplified books and then think that that is reading. I—If there is one particularly area in second language acquisition that I think we need to pay more attention to, is definitely merging the art of reading with the ESL uh component.

Well, I think in essence the most important thing for—for teachers to um learn today is how to work in communities with other teachers. Whether it’s at the university, pre-service, or in-service at development. As teachers work with other teachers to solve problems, to learn how to learn, to um develop curriculum, to implement curriculum, whatever the endeavor is at that moment, if it can be don in community, then I think we have better chances of—of learning and becoming proficient in our craft then if we attempt to do it by ourselves.