Nancy Cloud at Rhode Island College, a the Fienstine (?) School of Education and Human Services.
When I refer to the term enrichment, as in enrichment education program for language minority students, it stands in contrast to compensatory education models that have been traditionally used for language minority students. In fact most of the funding that exists for language minority students comes, a, in response to the fact that it’s considered that, the fact that they don’t know English is a, some type of barrier for them in their educational process, and that they need compensatory mechanisms for the learning of English. Enriched education programs, on the other hand, view what they bring to the school as a resource, and a, want to capitalize on the diversity that they bring to school in terms of their, the rich linguistic back-backgrounds that they bring. And also, the, a, cultural competence and capitol that they bring to school and to use that, not only in their own education, but in the education of other students. So, it’s a departure from the idea that the student should be in school a, learning English and um, having um, compensation for the fact that they do not know English. It, to turning it around as they bring this rich, rich resource to schools, that the other children can benefit from, and that it’s an opportunity for um, all children in American schools to leave school with a, the knowledge of a language other than English, cross-culturally competent, and still, with rich academic, a, learning. So enriched education models set their sites on um, more than just academic learning and the learning of English. They also want children to leave with the knowledge of a language other than English, full proficiency, in a, language other than English, and also with a cross-cultural understanding and cross-cultural competency.
A, enriched education (interruption) is different than a foreign language.
Wha-a-what would happen with enriched education is that there actually are three different models of enriched education. One is foreign language immersion, where language majority kids could learn a language other than English, and this would take place in communities where language majority students are the predominant population. There are not enough speakers of a language, other than English, in the community for those children to be a part of the program, they’re just not there. Um, there also could be developmental bilingual education programs where there are communities, say, at the border of Texas and Mexico, many, many, language minority students are living there. There aren’t that many language majority students living in their community, and therefore a developmental bilingual model would be used for those children to become fully, fully proficient in, in both languages, their home language, and English. And the third model is where you have a mixed community, enough speakers of a, both languages present in the community to offer programs with both language groups participating in the same programs serving as resources for each other, and that is the dual language program. So, it goes far beyond the notion of a foreign language, taking of a foreign language, learning a little bit, or even, the old notion of foreign language, four years of a foreign language. These programs aim for a, completely developmental approach, beginning in the very early grades, sometimes as early as pre-school, and continuing throughout the educational experience of the youngster through high school. It’s possible, so, the students would all leave with very high levels of proficiency in cross-cultural competence, and they would use the language, not just for language development, but also for the learning of academic content. And this is a new emphasis of the American, a, Council of Foreign Language Teachers, but, um, it’s fully incorporated in the enriched education models.
Ah, there are several features that we would want to be looking for when we’re trying to decide: is this an enriched education model? And the most important of those features is that enriched educational programs aim for additive bilingualism, full proficiency in two languages. But they also attempt to integrate the learning of content with the learning of language, and it’s very purposeful. And, so, it would be very, very careful planning of integrated language and content learning throughout the program. There wouldn’t be six separate classes that you would go to for language, instead it would be fully integrated. There might be some classes in which the two, um, groups of speakers of the two languages have classes apart from each other so that their needs could be more fully met, but the emphasis would be on integrating the students as much as possible, and on the integration of the language learning and the content learning. Um, there’s several other things that are very important. One is that the programs would have very high standards in terms of the achievement that students would attain, both in their academic content areas and also in their language learning. A, also they would be fully integrated into the school, not isolated programs down the hall. And so these would be programs that would be equal to, if not superior to, other programs in the building, not some type of second-class program, um, compensatory program in the building. They also have to have very high levels of parental involvement, because the parents are making huge commitments to the program because of the, the, the developmental nature of the program. Students must make a long-term commitment to the program because they cannot learn in a few years, a, the expectation is they will be in this for the long haul, that they’re not just signing up for one year or two year experience, that it’s, it’s part of their full educational experience, K-12, at least K-8. And therefore the parents have to know what they’re committing to when they in. The teachers and the administrators also have to make this type of commitment to the program. It’s a very intensive kind of program, and the skill of the people involved in the program is a, very extensive. They have to be of strong content specialists, they have to have full proficiency in both languages. So, it’s a, a huge commitment on everybody’s part and yet the, the overarching and most notable feature is this desire for students to leave school with full proficiency in two languages, and also with very deep, um, cross-cultural understanding.
I think that there is currently tremendous appeal of the enrichment education model. Because as the language minority communities grow in the country, there is a feeling of wanting them to be fully included in the school, and also wanting to benefit from what they bring to the school. But the current reality is that: we’re making this switch from running a lot of pull-out ESL, or even full day ESL programs, over to trying to say: wait a minute, couldn’t we be doing even a more um, enriching type of education given that these students are in the community and in the school. And so people are really drawn to the enriched education model. I’m seeing tremendous shifts in districts who’ve previously viewed the students as kind of a liability: ‘oh, they’re gonna hurt our test scores. Oh, their-they are not achieving like the other students are. Oh, we need all those special resources from them,’ to turning the-it around to ‘wow, we have the-because these kids are in our school, now we’re gonna be able to really facilitate the language learning of all of the students, and to benefit from them.’ But we’re in that transition right now, and some communities are, a, that have had more long-standing relationships with their language minority communities are more rapidly accessing this enrichment model, then are the communities that had-have not had the opportunity to think of how they might be able to do this yet, and therefore are not progressing as rapidly over to this. But it’s coming from several directions, a foreign language, educators are starting to say: ‘let’s do more K through 12, a, second language learning.’ And even there’s a shift from using the term ‘foreign language’, to using the term ‘world language’, that’s a big shift in thinking. A, no longer viewing a, other languages that are present in the world as somehow foreign, but rather viewing them as a world language, just like English is a world language, and our kids should access these world languages, have competence in these world languages. But, I’m not claiming that there are large numbers yet of the dual language or, especially, the developmental bilingual programs, or the foreign language immersion programs, but I really, really believe this is the wave of the future. I don’t see how we can escape it, the global economy, the economic forces are gonna drive this, just the diversity present in the United States is gonna drive this. We’re gonna get to the point that we’re gonna either have to accommodate the diversity that’s present in our schools and benefit from it, or completely repel and reject the reality that we’re living in.
Ah, as I really think about it, I view the United States as at a critical crossroads, both internally and externally, with the rest of the world. Because I think most Americans are aware of the global economy and the forces, externally, that are going to, a, make it desirable for a, citizens of the United States to have cross-cultural competence, and to speak languages other than English, just for our own economic survival, and the benefit of our nation economically. But there are also the internal diversity that we have that’s present that’s unique in the world. The tremendous diversity in the United States, and we’re kind of at a critical crossroad of either viewing that as a resource, and benefiting from it, and viewing the children who come speaking languages other than English, as offering something to the full and rich education of all children in the schools, or rejecting the diversity that’s present in our nation and trying to homogenize everybody, and not benefiting at all from the resources that children and families are bringing into our communities. So I think that enriched education models capitalize on both this external need that we face as a nation, and our internal resources that are present in our schools. And we’re not there yet, but especially in the urban centers where we have tremendous, tremendously diverse student populations, they’re more rapidly jumping on board to try to move to enriched education models rather than viewing the kids as some kind of liability. Viewing them as a resource, knowing full well what the, what the children offer to the community, to the schools. And I think that the other communities are not that far behind, even if the children are not present, they’re aware that their, the students in their community, let’s say it’s not that diverse, still those students have the same need to participate in the global economy and to have this, the competence, the linguistic competence, the cross-cultural competence, and so that’s where the foreign language immersion programs, let’s say, of the developmental bilingual programs, might a, assist in attaining um, these educational goals.
When I think about a developmental focus in terms of the education of students, for me it encompasses several distinct features. The most important of which is that we, the starting places that we use to educate students. That we really fully investigate where students are at in their content learning, in their language learning, and take that, a, developmental approach, both in terms of their, a, cognitive stage of development, their linguistic stage of development, their social-emotional stage of development, a, their cross-cultural stage of development, every aspect of functioning in terms of the goals that we would have for students would be analyzed to try to take the appropriate starting place with students. And it would also project out in the long term, well, where do we wanna be in five years, where do we wanna be in ten years, it wouldn’t take the short term view of let’s hurry up, how quickly can we have you functioning in the English. Instead it would say: what is best for your overall development at, as a human being in terms of your psychological well being, your emotional well being, a the linguistic competence that you could have in five years if we were planning for it, the academic development that you could have in five years if we were planning for it. It’s a very long term view with short term steps, so you have to really understand child development very, very, well and linguistic development very, very, well. Literacy development very, very, well, cross-cultural development very, very, well. And you have to have a sense of your goals: where am I trying to get, and then you have to know how to accurately assess and where are my learners, where are my learners. And all of us are faced with very diverse groups of learners, so it means that we’re running differentiated classrooms because our learners are at many different places. And even if linguistically, let’s say, they were all at a similar place, a, this week, by next week they won’t be, but in addition to that, they won’t be at the same development place across the different skill areas. So, a, teaching from a developmental perspective means, that you understand the development of each of these aspects of um, learning very, very, well, and also that you know how to cultivate the development to the next stage. In other words that you know how to teach in stage appropriate ways, you know how to take a student from here to there, and you’re actively planning how to get there and you’re in it for the long haul. You’re communicating that information across the grades, um, there’s good communication across th-the um, the different professionals working with students in a given year, so that everyone is really functioning from that perspective, to get the most a, rapid and complete and um, extensive development possible in each of the areas that you’ve set as objectives.
I, I think one of the risks when students come to school and they’re perceived as somehow different, linguistically different, culturally different, um, ability different, it could be any difference that they bring into the school. We tend to focus on that difference, and we’re concerned about it, and we should be, and we wanna be responsive to it, but then it ends up dominating our thinking, in terms of how we’re programming for this student. So then the fact that the student doesn’t know English, is not yet proficient in English, becomes the most important think in our minds. And we lose site of the fact, sometimes we lose site, we don’t mean to, but we lose site of the fact that there are all these other very important aspects of functioning. And also, we tend to neglect the, the, the role, in child development, of the respect that needs to go for the child’s native language, for their native culture, in their overall development, to not respect the learner and their family, for them to feel somehow that this is a, this is a matter of shame, that they should be somehow, sorry that they are speaker of another language, that they a, come from a cultural background that is different than the majority of individuals in the community. This can is-be detrimental to their self esteem, to their learning, and we know that as educators, that we need to support learners, respect learners, um take what learners bring, honor it, use it, but sometimes we don’t do that because we’re so worried about what they don’t have. And then we’re not following a developmental focus any longer, we’re more into this compensatory remediation mode, and so I think it’s always good to think as um, as a developmental educator, what is in this child’s best interest. And actually the more diverse the learner is, the more we have to grab hold of the developmental perspective and say, let me think holistically about this child’s development. Let me not focus on one learner characteristic to the detriment of others, and let me think about every aspect of this child’s functioning and, as if I were their mother of father. The kind of education I would want them to have if they were my child. And one of the things that interests me, a, work as a former teacher, a middle school teacher, and working with teachers all the time, is that we always call the kids our kids. But sometimes we don’t program for the kids as if they’re our kids, and of course they’re not our kids, but we have to think of them as if we were their parent, what we would want for them. And the most important thing we would want for them, is, um, that they be respected in our classrooms as total people. And that we plan for them in developmentally appropriate ways so that their full potential is realized. And that we’re not so worried about one aspect that we forget about their overall development. I know that sounds like platitudes, and, um, but it-it-it’s very important to back to that perspective because when we think like developmental educators we always make very good decisions. When we make political decisions we make very bad decisions, and unfortunately in this field a lot of the decisions are made on a political basis. What is politically expedient, what is-what we can fund politically, what the legislature might want to fund this year for students, what kind of books and materials we might be able to buy, rather than what students needs are.
One of my concerns as a person who has a background in special education and also second language education, I’m very concerned about the students who a-are referred to as special education for two reasons. A, the first is that some ch-times children are over identified as needing special education services, when in fact they do not. A, the-their needs are being misinterpreted because, a, teachers are unaware of um, specific aspects of their functioning in, and in this point, what I’m referring to is our definition of proficiency. When are children proficient? If we say, gee, kids are proficient when they speak English, and then we view that there must be something else going on if they can’t read the textbook, and they can’t answer questions in class, and they can’t write essays. Well gee, they speak English fairly well, something else must be going on. It’s, it’s really, in this case, and inadequate definition of what proficiency is. And this is where Jim Cummins and others have been very instrumental in helping us tease out the difference between social English and academic English. And so one cause of children being over referred to special education is an inadequate definition of when children are proficient in English. And so what we wanna remember is: children are not proficient in English until they can perform in grade level material in reading and writing, in English, on a par with their monolingual age-mates. OK. And that will stop us, maybe, from referring kids to Special Ed, because we’re saying, erroneously to ourselves: oh, this student understands everything, it can’t be English. And yet they’re not performing well when it comes to either standardized tests, or reading and writing demands in the classroom, they’re not performing well. But we also run the opposite risk of kids not being identified early, a very basic principle of Special Education is, is early intervention. Because if children have disabilities, the sooner we reach them and we respond to their unique needs, the better off the, the students are gonna be. I’ve worked in many districts a, or with many districts, where they actually have policies, you cannot refer a student for three years. That is absolutely against the law, there is no such a, requirement. These are local initiatives that are set up, they’re set for good purposes, people do not want students to be over-referred, so they set certain moratoriums, give the students three years. The truth is, on day one, when the student enters a district, if we can identify their disability we should, and we should get them the services that they deserve. We need to monitor how many students of limited English proficiency use, students who are second language learners, are being referred to Special Education so we can notice it. And we also wanna look, when we think of Special Education, we wanna remember programs for the gifted and talented, and make sure that our English language learners are also getting referred to programs for the gifted and talented students. So there are many, many issues that are involved. I think most educators are aware of the requirements on the assessment side that they must assess in culturally responsive ways that they must assess in the native language of the student. But then these same demands go out the window when it comes to instruction and unfortunately we get in these either-or positions: well, either they’re gonna served by bilingual ESL services, or they’re gonna be served by monolingual special Ed services, when in truth, what we really need is the complete integration of services where if they have a special education need, yes, that need must be met. But their language and culture needs don’t go away, and therefore a program must be completely integrated, a, meeting their three primary learner characteristics. The fact that they have, a, language other than English in their background, the fact that they have a cultural background a, that we must respond to and um, create instruction which is very culturally responsive. And in addition we must accommodate their disability and have um, instruction which helps ameliorate their disability um, so all of these are concerns. A we should expect that we will have the certain proportion of our students who speak languages other than English in Special Education, we, we should expect it. It’s just unfortunately um, a reality that some children are born with cognitive impairments, with a, physical impairments, neurological impairments and therefore, certainly among our English language learners we’re gonna expect that we’re gonna have kids like that. Another very important consideration is: distinguishing between kids who have mild disabilities and kids who have moderate and severe disabilities. I think it would be a, very rare that a school would miss children with more serious disabilities, they’re not missed. But what probably is missed is their need for culturally and linguistically appropriate a, programming a, on the other hand, the students with the mild disability, that’s where we run the risk. That we’re confusing populations, that we’re not appropriately serving populations. Which of those kids should get, say, Title One Services? Which of those kids should get Special Education Services? Which of those kids can be served in inclusion settings, be they bilingual ESL, dual language, um, mainstream classrooms. There’s so many choices of how we would educate students with disabilities where they have mild disabilities, and remembering a, as we must as educators, that probably in most states, sixty to seventy percent of kids identified as having special education needs, have mild disabilities. Have, um, speech and language impairments or have learning disabilities. So, most of the kids we’re serving have mild disabilities, most of those kids should be in inclusive settings, and yet the hallmark of a quality program for those students would be that their three primary characteristics, learner characteristics, would be met. That their language characteristics would be met. That their cultural characteristics would be met, and the-their ability backgrounds would be addressed.
A, sometimes it’s very, very hard, and I really appreciate how sincere teachers are struggling with teasing apart these issues, it’s very difficult. And this is where collaboration can be extremely helpful. Collaboration with families, collaboration with members of the community who really understand very, very well the community. One of the things we look for in identifying kids with disabilities in bilingual populations is: that the disability presents itself across settings, and across individuals. So if we, it is a truly a case of a child with a disability, we should be able to investigate with the family, and with the friends, with community members. “Gee, do you se-tend to notice this when Jose is, a, inner-acting with you, do you tend to notice that Jose has these kinds of difficulties?” And if the-they’re really things that Jose is bringing into the situation, if they really are intrinsic disabilities that are, exist within Jose, then Mom should notice it when we ask. And a, Dad should notice it when we ask, and friends a, Jose’s friends should notice it. It should really not, a learning disability doesn’t appear at school and disappear at home. And so it’s really something that, if we’re unsure by asking very specific questions, asking about specific behaviors that we’re noticing and saying: ‘is this something that you’re noticing? Is, do you, does this impact on Jose’s performance at home? A, when you ask Jose to do chores do you have to repeat the directions, does Jose have trouble following what you’re asking? A, does Jose a, ask you to repeat what you said?’ These kinds of behavior that you’re seeing at school we should be able to ask at home where the parents have similar concerns and know they don’t. And in addition, if you need cultural informants, the cultural informants are all around you, it’s rare that you would have only one family in a community of a particular cultural background. And this is also where technology can be extremely helpful, because of the inter-cultural sites where you can go and ask specific questions. I really urge teachers to take advantage of these instant communication systems. The resources are there, to go on-line, to a, go to the area clearing house on languages and linguistics, you go to the National Association for Bilingual Education, to go to the inter-cultural resource centers to do searches on-line, to invest, to ask questions, to investigate with others. And to ask cultural informants: would you consider this to be this a normal, typical, cultural behavior or no. This is somehow a behavior that I should be paying attention to because it is outside of the norm, and might be a manifestation of a disability. But it is hard on teachers, and I , I want to acknowledge that, because we can only come we-our own cultural understandings to the table, and evolving into cross-culturally confident beings is a long process and it only happens by these questions and investigations. A, by the same token, I would like to say that most people are very open to providing you with the information. I have never had a person say to me ever when I asked a question: ‘oh, that’s a silly question, oh, that’s a stupid question, oh, I don’t know why you’re asking that, why don’t you know that you’re a teacher,’ most people are very, very anxious to provide this information. They’re thrilled, the students are thrilled to be asked about their cultural backgrounds, parents are thrilled to provide this information to schools and to teachers. So it’s not a difficult conversation to engage in, and if you’re nervous you’re asking personal information you can always preface the conversation with: ‘if I’m asking a question which you perceive to be too personal, of which you don’t feel co-competent to answer, please just tell me and I’ll try another source.’ And so um, I think it’s very important to not mistake behavior, to not decide that a behavior is just the cultural difference. To investigate, is it a cultural difference, and to not make any assumptions, to investigate every idea you’re having in your head, to just confirm it. It only takes a little bit of effort to confirm and make sure you’re on the right track. That you’re making the right assumption.
Sometimes when I have been working with content area teachers, I , a well, let me back up.
A, the greatest experiences that I’ve had with content area teachers in schools, is one where we have continued interaction with each other. Because what I find is that content area teachers feel a, somehow they’ve been made to feel that the specialist is the one who knows about English language learners, and that they’re not as important to the picture. As th-the ESL, or the bilingual teacher, when in fact, e, e, e, in, taking the case of elementary schools, um, they are the child’s primary teacher. And I think in a very big ‘ah-ha moment for some content area teachers is when they realize: ‘I am the child’s, I am probably the child’s most important teacher, because they’re with me, I am the third teacher, they’re in my third grade class all day long. So what, in the certain sense, they go out for one period to the ESL specialist.’ And in a certain sense in that kind of pull-out model, now forgetting about enriched education models where they might be in a, fully integrated language learning and content learning environment, if we forget about that model for this second, and just think about: content area teachers not working in enriched education model. Content area teachers working in a more traditional model where the students are primarily with them, and leave for special services, either Title One reading services, or um, ESL support services, who is the child’s primary teacher? The child’s primary teacher is the content area teacher. And when teachers grab hold of that moment where they say: ‘I’m really important in this child’s life, it’s really im-it’s so essential for me to understand second language acquisition, for me to understand how to work with culturally diverse learners. I need the most information, because I’m working with that child all day long. I’m thrilled that there are specialists in my school, but they’re icing on the cake. I’m really the bread and butter program for these students.’ And in a certain sense sometimes they’ve even been angry: ‘gee, I was left flat by my teacher preparation program that did not get me ready for the diversity of students that I’m working with. Why did they only give me very limited preparation, maybe a, a lecture or two about second language learners when, especially teachers working in urban centers, that’s everybody I see. It’s hard to find students who aren’t second language learners, or whose parents aren’t second language learners, or who aren’t the second generation in families where a language just one generation ago was very predominant in a family.’ So when content area teachers have that moment of: ‘gee, this is really critical information and I should have been extremely well prepared.’ They use that anger, let’s call it anger, they use the anger, use the a, they want to advocate for themselves, and if the information is offered, they want it, because they understand it’s critical to the delivery of services. Not only that, once they start thinking about, let’s call it, linguistically modified instruction, they begin to realize that there are many students in the classroom who need the language interactions, in instruction, to be modified. That there are many students who need the vocabulary level to be modified so that they can comprehend li-lessons. That there are many students in their classroom who need the readability of materials to be controlled, so that students can comprehend instruction. That there are many students in their classroom who need the written output demands of homework, class work, to be thought about. What am I demanding of students in terms of the language level of this assignment? When they start to realize: ‘hey, language is a feature I should be thinking about for every body in this classroom. Not just language minority students, but every single student in the classroom.’ And in the, in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s and even ‘60’s in the United States, we took it for granted that everybody brought the same language abilities into school, that a, students were linguistically homogeneous, it probably wasn’t true then either. But now, with the rich linguistic diversity present in American classroom, we’re all so aware of that linguistic diversity, but we’re not yet planning for it. So I think there comes an ‘ah-ha’ moment with content area teachers where they realize: ‘I’m not just construction languages to have content objectives. Every lesson that I instruct has to have language objectives for students, and not just the technical vocabulary, but any aspect of language learning that students might need, but more, more than that, I must control the discourse in my classroom so that I am speaking to, to all students in ways that they can comprehend, and I must request responses of students in ways that makes it possible for them to be full participants.’
Well, believe me, I can tell you, there’s only about one of two people who care. I shouldn’t say that, everybody cares, when the issue is framed, but there are very few people who can frame the issues for the board. And the-they’re actually thrilled that I can, yeah.
Where there was such, because when I was on the Teasel (?) Journal there was such a fabulous article, I think it was in an issue at-that I worked on with Linda Newlavene, in 1997, and it was so fabulous, and I think it was from Great Britain, but a, someone went in to content area classrooms and saw how the teachers were framing, why ki-they thought kids were having difficulty in the class, and their assumptions were so wrong. When their assumptions got corrected, they, what happened for the kids, was so fantastic, because they didn’t understand what they weren’t doing right for kids, and it was like this discourse management that I was just talking about, they didn’t know how to govern the discourse to let kids be full participants, and once they understood that, it dramatically changed their view of the kids, the success of the kids. It was fan-it was such a fantastic; it was very educational for me to read.
We also have a problem that many people are not writing, and some of the quality of people who are writing, it’s a shame (coughing) we send them back for rewrites. And they never get it (sent back in), well, no, they never can correct it. It’s, they need mentors, there need to be, buy how do you do that? Do you drive to New Jersey and sit with someone; you know what I’m saying? It’s like really hard, anyway.
I was so happy to see as-I was working in New York up until the current year, and I worked in New York for, oh, probably fifteen years. And right before I was leaving, tha-the state education department, under Carmen Harris Hogan, created a document where one of the things that they did (phone rings) was extremely helpful in dis- oh, is that gonna get in?
One of the things that happened in New York State in the past couple years is that the state education department under the direction of Carmen Paris Hogan, framed a document where they, they helped differentiate among the types of learners who are, um, in that state and still federally referred to as limited English proficient, our English language learners. And what they did was, they thought about kids who come to school knowing a language other than English, but in fact they enter school as pre-schoolers or kindergartners or first graders, and, so, by the time that they complete school, they are ready to be held to the same high stakes testing and standards as any other student because they’ve been in the, in the pool of students right from the beginning. They’ve had plenty of opportunity to learn English; everything should apply to them equally as to any monolingual English speaker. A second group of students that they differentiated was: students who come to school at later ages. And there we might need to make um, a differentiation of how we’re gonna assess those students, perhaps allowing them to perform in their native languages on the high stakes test, thinking about the fact that, perhaps, if they come as tenth graders, they have not been exposed to the U.S. curriculum, that is a big problem. Because they’re being assessed as if they’d been in the U.S. educational system, and in fact they have not. They’ve been in Uruo-Uruguay, or they’ve been in Korea, or they’ve been in Japan, they have not been exposed to the U.S. curriculum sequence. So we have a content issue with them, we can adapt the language for them, but we still have that content issue. A third group is posing some very significant problems for U.S. educators. And that are students who are coming to your schools, speaking languages other than English, but not having had continuous education, and in some cases, any significant academic preparation. Unfortunately because of world events, we are getting more and more students, especially in the urban centers, who have not had continuous schooling anywhere. This group of students is posing tremendous challenges to U.S. educators; no matter what grade level they’re entering. Of course the earlier they enter school the more we can respond to their needs. But even, I would say, in second, third and fourth grade these students pose challenges to U.S. educators because we presume that by those grades students have been exposed to initial literacy instruction, these students have not. That students have been exposed to initial numericy instruction, these students have not. And sometimes it’s forgotten, these students have not learned the conformity expected in schools. They have not been socialized to spend their day, all day long, in school, sit in a chair, travel from class to class, and therefore all of these adjustments, the adjustment to li-school life, a which is a big adjustment at later ages. “I’m sixteen, I’ve never been to school, I don’t know how to work a locker, I don’t know how to go from class to class, I don’t even know how to sit in the chair all day long in a school, and I certainly am not used to having to raise my hand in class. I don’t know any of the behaviors you’re expecting of me. On top of that, when I turn my head and I see the other eighth and ninth graders, I see them fluently reading, I can’t read at all. Who’s gonna teach me to read, where am I gonna learn to read, where am I gonna learn the skills from first through seventh grade that I haven’t learned? How are you gonna give that to me in a middle school as an eighth grader? Who’s going to offer that to me?” And this interfaces with the issue of special education in that, unfortunately, some of these kids start to be perceived as having disabilities when, in fact, these special education laws and legislation provisions are very clear, that children who have not-who have not had educational opportunities are never to be mixed up with students with disabilities. Because the cause of their academic deficiencies is not that they have a disability, but rather that they have not had the privilege a-of an education. But, I don’t, I want to acknowledge that schools are not designed, they’re not expecting kids fourteen years old, twelve years old, eight years old, who’d come to school having never been in school. Having never had any academic training, so, this is the tremendous challenge for American schools. Now in some situations, especially the large urban centers, they can actually create magnate schools and schools within schools and create special programs because they have sufficient numbers. What do you do if you are in a school and you have three kids like this, five kids like this? You are in a district of seven hundred kids, you have ten kids like this, but they are at ten different grade levels, what do you do to accommodate students like this? And this is a, an extremely challenging kind of student, but a student that we must find a way a, to address, and this is again where long term planning can be very helpful, deciding from the get-go that we’re gonna have a long term plan for these students, not a quick fix. Not a: ‘oh, well let’s figure out what to do with them right now and then next semester we’ll figure out what to do with them again, and the next semester we’ll figure out what to do with them again.’ But deciding when they enter: ‘gee, here’s a really, a student with a really a-typical background, what are we gonna do for them so that we help close the gap over time. Where can we give them the best educational services? How can we provide additional supports and services for them? Are we gonna use tutors, are we gonna use par-professionals, are we going to put them in u-a class with a smaller class size? Uh, what kinds of special services are we gonna use?’ And it has to ha-the program has to have coherence, we can’t be sending them to twenty different services and it never adds up to anything.
One of the problems for teacher educators in trying to address the needs of students with limited formal schooling is: that most a, teacher educators who are preparing, let’s say students for secondary education programs, are not expecting that there would be any initial literacy instruction going on in the tenth grade. Therefore, teacher educators themselves, in secondary education programs, often lack the knowledge that’s necessary to give to their students of: how do you give initial literacy to a fifteen year old? What does that look like? And, it they are well versed in literacy instruction, they’re imagining that the only issue is second language literacy for students who already are literate in their primary language. But they’re not envisioning that they’re doing for people who have never learned what those squiggly lines on a page are, how do you make that comprehensible to them? There is no orientation in most secondary ed. programs towards the knowledge and skills the teachers would need to work effectively with students who have, a, limited formal schooling backgrounds, it just isn’t there. So the challenge for teacher educators is: ‘I have to educate my self.’ And not only that, is initial literacy instruction as we do for kindergartners and first graders, is that the model that we should have for secondary students? Is, is that the kind of instruction that we’re gonna offer to fifteen year olds that don’t know how to read and write? Who have never learned to read and write? Or is there a significantly different approach that we would use with the young adults, and adults, who are not literate in any language. And so, I think that this is a, in my experience, this is a significant weakness of secondary education pr-teacher education programs is that: because the typical kid is by that point literate, that there isn’t this expectation that a secondary ed. teacher would be engaged in this kind of work. And in fact it’s a complaint of secondary ed. teachers: where am I gonna get this training because my school didn’t offer it, I don’t see courses for secondary ed. teachers to help them develop initial literacy instruction in secondary ed. students. So, there’s a gap here of: where am I going to go to get this support, and secondary a, teacher educators working in secondary education programs, tend to be content area specialists or they tend to be a, um, developmental specialists, a spec-adolescent a, young adult specialist, they’re not really specialists in these initial um, literacy sequences and it is a gap. And I think the same exists in adult education, that: how do you work with pre-literate learners. This is a gap and, uh, and if you are working with a pre-literate student, you don’t just need one lecture on how to work with pre-literate students, that isn’t going to carry you anywhere. And just saying ‘oh gee, did-a-there are these students who are not readers and you’re going to have them in your classroom.’ That doesn’t take you anywhere, this issues oriented type of instruction. You need the bread and butter: ‘what am I gonna do? What are th-the instructional sequences I’m gonna offer this learner? What does look like day after day, day after day? What is the richness of the instruction that I must offer this student? What is the detail I need to know?’ And so the-this-the teachers that are gonna work with the pre-literate students, the st-students with limited formal schooling, they need substantive preparation in how to work with those learners, not just a smattering of a little bit of treatment. They need substantive preparation, and the challenge for teacher educators is to give them substantive preparation in how to work with pre-literate students.
I think in the case of limit-of students with limited formal schooling are, a team approach is very beneficial, especially in the secondary education level or the secondary grades, because each specialization is very needed. Having a literacy specialist, having a content area specialist, having a second language specialist, having someone with cross-cultural understanding, and it might au-every person at the table might have that understanding. I’m not presuming that each of these are discrete, many people might possess more than one of these competencies, which would be wonderful. But I think that a-lets say I’m a chemistry teacher, and I-I’m fantastic, I’m a wonderful chemistry teacher. But I don’t know how to teach reading; I don’t know how to work with students who don’t know how to read. And I’m expecting that students can read the chemistry textbook. How am I gonna take a chemistry textbook written at the ninth of tenth grade level and make that comprehensible for a student who doesn’t read and write at all? I, I don’t know how to make that bridge, I don’t know how to bring that to the student and yet that’s the task. So if I could collaborate with a literacy specialist where I could say to them: ‘look, this is what I’m trying to get across, can you help me create modified text, entry level text, that a se-a second language learner with limited literacy skills could maybe reach out for and start to use. I want them to access literacy, I don’t wanna do everything for-through an oral mode.’ The student needs to do things through reading and writing, but it has to be developmentally appropriate, it has to be stage appropriate to where they’re at. And there aren’t enough hours in a day, nor do I have the background to be able to construct that text, that’s a full time job. So if I could ha-be working with a literacy specialist, someone who would devise the reading material and the writing assignments for my student that would support them, and then if I could start to see that material and understand how to present information, it would help me tremendously. And I’m certainly well versed in collaborative learning approaches within my classroom and a cooperative learning approaches, so I certainly know how to pair students to give each other support to get that student who doesn’t know how to read and write together with other students who can help explain things to them. But I don’t want them to be a totally dependent learner in my classroom. I want them to be an independent learner in my classroom, and I also want them to grow through my chemistry class, to become a better reader and writer, it is one of my goals. So, if I can get this team approach together, then I can make all those things happen better then if it’s all on my shoulders. That I have to not only teach fabulous lessons so the kids get the chemistry concepts and learning that I want them to get from my classroom, but also accomplish the a, literacy goals that they could accomplish through my subject area, and also the language learning that they could accomplish through my subject area. So, it just would motivate me more to try to reach out to that learner, and it also would um, facilitate my work if I was part of a team, then if everything was on my shoulders.
Limited formal schooling is-students with limited formal schooling a, who are coming to school at later ages, are definitely behind the eight ball and efficiency is very important in terms of their education. So when I’m doing initial literacy instruction, I wanna power pack the instruction. I wanna integrate the literacy instruction with their other learning, rather than having them read initial literacy text that has no relation to the academic curriculum, I don’t have time for that. Those kids don’t have time for that. We’re hardly gonna be able to make everything happen that we need to make happen with a, the time that we have. They’re twelve years old, they missed all of the grades before, ha-I’m running and running with them to try to play catch-up, so I don’t have time to a-and the luxury to give them additional sequences of instruction. I, I have to have an integrated approach to instruction. So if I’m the chemistry teacher it’s best if I could integrate the literacy and language learning through the chemistry learning, bring all of that together, the power packet, so that I do as much as every instructional minute as possible. And when we’re teaching language and literacy, there’s always some content being used, so if I’m having them read about bears, or I’m having them read about life in the U.S., that’s my content. But do I have time for them to read about life in the U.S. when they’ve missed all of those years of schooling. Why not learn to read around chemistry, which is also one of my objectives, rather than life in the U.S. which, while maybe I could justify that; well yes I want them to learn about that, but do I have time for that? So there’s a functional efficiency question here: how can I get the academic learning goals for this student together with the language and literacy goal for this student, how can I bring those together and power pack every minute and make it work to the full advantage of the student. Because I don’t really have a second to waste with this youngster and it’s also a case where I’d certainly wanna consider um, all kinds of extended schooling arrangements: extended school day, extended school year, extended school um, a, weekend schooling. I have to extend the opportunities given to the student because they’re already been cheated. And I, no matter how hard I work, no matter how I power pack the curriculum, if they come to school in the sixth grade and they’ve mis-missed six grades, K through 5, how do I make up for those lost years. I can power packet, but I still can’t get enough to happen in the remaining years to make up for that time. So that’s where the school a-officials and the teachers and the parents and the community have to come together to say: well wait a minute, this kid has already been cheated. How much are we going to make this student a victim? How much are we going to victimize this student? How are we going to make up for the fa-the loss that they’ve already experienced through no fault of their own, they’ve lived through horrible conditions that created limited access to school, a war, um poverty conditions, trauma, disruption, how are we gonna now make up for what the losses they’ve experienced and try to equalize their educational opportunities. Some of it has to do in the-within the curriculum connections that we’re gonna make, some of it has to do with extending them more opportunity, the opportunities that they lost that we’re trying to give back to them through extended day, extended year, extended a, week.
It’s very hard when you’re working with limited formal schoolings to not view them as a liability to your program. It’s very hard to-to not throw up your hands and say; oh, how am I gonna ever get this child, where am I ever gonna start to bring this child up to grade level. And it pushes into a mode where we’re already starting to lower our sites for the student because we’re so worried about them just catching up. So it’s, it’s really challenging to teachers to say: how will I continue to maintain extremely high expectations for this student. Really, I think it helps a lot to say: gee, this student has been so cheated, who knows what they might have been able to accomplish if they had been extended the same opportunity as every other child in my classroom? Who knows what gifts they might bring to the world if only the gifts that they have were fully exploited? So, the mere fact that they have been cheated up to know should not limit my sights for the student, I need to start to view that: if only they’d be given the appropriate opportunities to grow and develop, they might surpass any expectation I would have in terms of what they might accomplish. And I think that all of us have e-have children that we’ve worked with who have absolutely amazed us. And we need to write their names on little cards and paste them to the wall, and not, and use them, hold on to them and say: well, maybe this will be another Gorge, maybe this will be another Mikaella, maybe this well be another super star like that other super star that I had that I could have never predicted that they would have achieved everything that they-the-that they did. Um, because of their, their, their limited starting place was so worrisome. But it is critical that teachers have extremely high expectations, because the kids have sensors, built-in sensors, they know exactly what you think they’re capable of, and especially kids who are very sensing kids who are always sensing: do you like me, do you think I’m gonna make it, do you think I’m gonna achieve, do, do you think I’m doing well? They’re sensing from you all the time, they really ar-even your unspoken movements, your glances, your looks, it-it’s so essential to their performance. And the other children are giving messages to the kids in the class as to what they’re capable of. So I think it’s important to be honest with kids and say: OK. This is your starting place and I acknowledge it’s kinda scary, isn’t it, where your starting place is, because you can see, you’re not blind. You can see where the other kids are and you can see where you are. We all acknowledge where you are and where the other kids are, but don’t give up because we’re a team. We’re in this together, we’re gonna make it, and I have every confidence that you’re gonna make it. And is it gonna be a lot a work? Yes, it is, but you’re not alone, and I’m not alone, and, and so we-wi-we will make it and we’re not gonna let you down, and you will achieve. And periodically can feed back to kids where they are now, what progress they’ve made, this is where portfolio and authentic assessment is very helpful so kids can take a glance back and a glance forward. Gee, look where you were just one year ago, look where you were and look where you are now. And that should give you hope for the future, I know it does me. I, I just have really high expectations for where you can go because I see where you started and where you got in the time that we’ve been working together.
There is one issue that is very paramount in my mind as I work with teachers and, and I would say that I have this concern whether I’m working with ESL or bilingual ta-teachers, of content area teachers, or special educators. I’m concerned about this: anyone who’s working with students and that is that they be very learner centered in their teaching. Because, yes, you’re teaching subjects to children, but it’s those particular children that should guide the instruction that you’re giving. So one of the things that feels like a personal issue to me, in working with teachers, is that: teachers not construct lessons around grade level expectations, or around subject area expectations. When kids learn about chemistry, by the end of the chemistry course they should know ta-da, ta-da, ta-da, ta-da. Yes, that’s true, but who are you kids and how are you gonna bring those understandings to those kids sitting in front of you. And so a concern that I have is that teachers celebrate who their learners are, respect who their learners are, know who their learners are, because you can’t teach anything but children. You can’t teach a subject in a vacuum, you can only teach subjects to specific individuals of children, which means you have to have deep level knowledge of who those children are. What is their proficiency in their two languages? What is their knowledge and background and experience related to the subject that you’re trying to teach them? What is their interest in the subject that you’re trying to teach them? How motivated are they? What is their starting place? That is crucial to being successful with those children. And I think teachers joy in teaching is also tied to a full understanding of who the children are because you can’t really be happy with your teaching unless you’re successful. And therefore: in order to be successful you have to know who your kids are, very deep level. Uh-I would say: take a month, the first month of school, find out who your kids are ve-in a very systematic way because the whole rest of the year is dependent on a full level understanding that you have as to who those kids are that you’re trying to teach. The more you know about them, the better you’re gonna do. And, differentiating among them is also important. How individual children are different from each other and how you’re gonna bring those skills and concepts and understandings to those individual children sitting in front of you. So, I think when you do learner centered instruction, it makes life a lot easier on a classroom teacher, it really does, because then you’re saying: well I always try to find out who my learners are so if my kids have disabilities, well I’ll find that out because I’m always trying to find out who my learners are. If my kids speak languages other than English, well I’ll find out, cause I’m always trying to find out who my learners are. If my childre-if my children or my learners have other cultural backgrounds and they bring different a, life experience and background knowledge to my classroom, well I’ll be finding that out ‘cause I’m always trying to find out who my learners are. So if you fully, fully investigate who your learners are, and the you say: OK. That’s who my learners are and this is what I’m trying to teach, how will I best bring those two things together. Then that’s where the success lies in teaching, in my mind, and it also means the diversity is not a problem, because you’re trying to find those things about any about any kid who’s sitting in front of you. And, so, if you approach the classroom from a learner centered thing, which by the way, in my view, would mean, that your lesson would always start, not with the goals of the lesson, but a full description of who the children are. What is their literacy level? What is their language proficiency? What is their conceptual understanding of the lesson that you’re trying to teach? That would be right in your plan. When I go to see teachers in the field, I don’t wanna see a lesson that start with: this is a third grade lesson on the American a, on thi-on the Civil War, on American History. I don’t wanna see that lesson. I wanna see a lesson that starts with: these are my learners; this is who is sitting in front of me. These are the groupings of students that I’ve made because of who’s in my classroom. And because of the literacy level of my students, this is the text that I’ve selected to support them. This is the way that I’m gonna teach the lesson to them. This is the way I’m gonna develop the language that they need before we get in to the concepts, because I know what experience they bring and what experience they’re lacking. I can’t make sense of a lesson that just starts with these road objectives as if it doesn’t matter who sits in front of you. The lesson will proceed: if I’m teaching in a rural area or I’m teaching in an urban lesson-a urban area, same lesson doesn’t matter ‘cause they’re both third graders. I would say: shame on you, because it does matter because the children sitting in front of you are very unique to the setting that you’re teaching in and you need to understand that uniqueness to be affective with them. Experienced teachers sometimes don’t have to think about this overtly because they know it in their heart, in their gut, in their soul. But it’s still being planned for. So, I’m not saying that it has to be conscious, that you have to write it all down if you’ve been teaching for twenty years, but you have to know it and you have to be teaching to it, and you have to be able to explain it to me: why you’re going this way because you know who’s in front of you. And you have to be sensitive to changes in your community. If you’v-if you’re a twenty year veteran, are you sensitive to the changes in your community. How the children have been changing over time. Maybe the way that you taught twenty years ago was extremely successful and you knew so well who the learners were, but what about today. Who is the public in the public schools? Who are those children, who are the families you’re trying to interact with, and are you designing instruction to be affective for who today’s learners are? And do you even know the full range of kids in front of you? So, I think knowing the literacy level, knowing the language level, knowing the background knowledge, knowing the life experience, knowing the cultural understandings that children bring, knowing the abilities or disabilities that children bring, the gifts, the talents, the special proficiencies, all of that is central to designing high quality instruction. And so, I’d take it back to that one term: learner centered instruction is critical, in my view, and, yes a teacher has to have deep level content area knowledge, but without the learner centered knowledge, without the developmental understandings you’re not gonna be effective.