Claudia Ramirez Wildeman

CLAUDIA RAMIREZ WILDEMAN

Originally I’m from Guadalajara Hale? School, Mexico, and uh, in 1972, we immigrated here to, in fact East Los Angeles to be uh, umm, real uh, specific, umm, and now were sited in Pico Rivera, California. Yeah.

I would say umm, Chicana? umm, I consider myself that way umm, that’s, yeah.

Umm, to be a Chicana? means that umm, I have two identities, umm, that I have a Mexican culture, that is also means, that I’m also umm, American, umm, it’s neither here nor there umm, that’s what it means to me, yeah.

Okay.

Right, umm, I guess my process of acculturation umm, begins with my family. Umm, they set a framework for me to umm, see things around us as we, you know become members of this community, the United States. Umm, they allowed us to see what was good and what was bad, and what was good for us as Mexicans, what was bad for us as Mexicans, in terms of religion, umm, cultural beliefs and values. Umm, so they’re the major umm, influence in terms of how I acculturated, right. The other part is umm, just society, right. So, that through school, through people I meet, umm, the media, all of that, umm, has a lot to do with how I acculturated in umm, has created a path for me for becoming Chicana?, in the end, right.

Yeah. Perfect.

The difference between acculturation and assimilation is that acculturation means that you integrate to cultures, umm, assimilate uh, means that you give up one for the other umm, maybe in my case Mexican culture for American culture whatever that is here. Umm, when I think about my process of acculturation in particular is that uh, I feel that I’m wedged between two worlds. That uh, while I do keep uh, a very deep sense of my culture within me, umm, that I still feel that there’s this feeling of being wedged between two worlds, that—that I’m neither here nor there. It’s—can be very difficult, painful, but strengthening in a lot of ways.

Umm, teachers can uh, make this process of acculturation or of adaptation to a new culture umm, uh, for their students umm, by umm, validating their students cultures, umm, ways of learning, ways of seeing the world, and that could mean umm, talking about these issues in the classroom, umm, it could mean inviting parents to work in the classroom, to integrate what it means umm, to—to be a—student and that means my parents, that means bringing in what I see in my world umm, that means listening to music, umm, that means umm, bringing in artifacts from the community to make learning umm, meaningful, and it can—the student can also—the teacher can also make umm, classroom learning umm, a process of strengthening umm, a students sense of self umm, or his cultural identity stronger, if the teacher does what I just mentioned. Umm, strengthening is the key.

Un Hun.

In the past that I e—even now, actually.

Yeah.

Umm, as a child I umm, was a mediator between umm, the outside world which is American, and uh, the world of umm, of our home, which is Mexican. Umm, the way I mediated was—that meant a lot of things—that I translated between; let’s say storeowners and us. Umm, filled out papers you know, from you know uh, class or school, umm, uh permission slips to immigration forms. Umm, uh, and still now as an adult I do the same thing. I literally umm, make bills out for my parents. I call; make calls umm, to set up appointments. A lot of stuff, and a lot of that umm, has made me uh, understand umm, their position as umm, immigrants who have not fully become integrated in a lot of ways. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to, but it’s a process that they’ve found difficult as adults when we first immigrated so, here I am and my other siblings umm, mediating two worlds and while it can be stressful, again it can be strengthening in a lot of ways for me.

I think that umm, acting as a mediator between these two worlds for my parents umm, gave me a sense of confidence umm, to uh, confidence to be in the world outside of uh, our home. Umm, to be umm, proud of what I was doing to add to that sense of, I can do a lot of things. Umm, probably in terms of language development it did a lot in that area, because I had to find ways to make sense of what I—my parents wanted to say, umm, uh, and to make that clear to the person we were talking to, so in terms of language and literacy, I think that this kind of mediating role that a lot of immigrant children, I think, are involved in, is important. So.

(deep breath)

Having two senses of self really uh, because I live in two worlds and two cultures umm, can be a resource, is a resource, and I’m seeing that everyday, and it’s a resource because umm, when I enter new situations, both in the classroom umm, with college students or young children, or adults, I can adapt quickly, and I can take a new perspective quickly and umm, and see the story of people, really. Umm, so it’s definitely a resource.

(music in background)

Oh, yeah.

Story.

I was telling my students that you’ve got to want the story before you make…

(laughing)

So they’re always…

Umm, as a college professor working with the student teachers who are both now working in the field, and preparing to work in the field, umm, I always, always, umm, tell them and remind them, and urge them to want to know what the story is behind a new idea, a new student, a new situation. You’ve got to want to know what the story is, so that you can understand what’s happening in the present. As teachers, that’s what we’ve got to do to be effective. Definitely.

You might have gotten them somewhere else. So.

Okay.

Umm, immigrant children’s umm, experiences often times are not validated, included integrated in the classroom. Particularly by teachers of course, as they are the first ones that te—students will encounter. Umm, and they’re not validated in a number of ways. Umm, one, we assume that, or teachers assume that, the curriculum must follow a certain linear uh, way of learning, umm, one set of knowledge, umm, and umm, that’s not going to work. That’s just not going to work, and because we have such a diverse and new student population umm, we’ve got to find new ways, new layers of understanding about how children learn about umm, how children umm, interact umm, with the teacher and other students, how children umm, develop identities, and how children are struggling to find their identities. As immigrant children who are entering into a whole different world, umm, and so, teachers have to find ways to integrate, to include, to encourage umm, children to umm, learn in new ways, yeah. I didn’t like that, but…

If children, in particular, immigrant children are not umm, finding that their experiences are umm, knowledge base or uh, ways of knowing are not included in the classroom by the teacher and others, umm, there’s a process of resistance that are—that happens and that resistance means that the children are umm, finding ways to umm, to reject what’s happening, what’s or—or more specifically not happening in the classroom, and so that resistance becomes a way of umm, of—of protection for these students of umm, maintaining sense of self and so that resistance umm, can happen in a number of ways, where children completely just reject and don’t participate, umm, where they become umm, umm, distant, angry, I think. So, we’ve—we’ve got to figure out uh, ways not to have these children—children of these backgrounds umm, enter in this kind of process of resistance of resisting umm, learning really.

(Man talking in background)

As a child and umm, and even now as an adult umm, a strategy of survival for me when I begin to feel umm, umm, oh, when I begin to feel umm, frustrated with having to live in two worlds again, umm, I—I’ve come up with a way to deal with that, and that is maintaining silence, and that means that in the classroom, as a graduate student for example, I wouldn’t participate, I didn’t know how. Umm, I was unsure of what I was going to offer. Umm, as a child I remember that umm, because I couldn’t speak Spanish in the classroom, umm, I of course couldn’t speak English as well, so that I had to be silent umm, and I think I just carry through that—that strategy of survival which—which is all it is umm, even now, so I think children umm, find ways to survive. To deal with umm, a new situation, uh, find ways to deal with learning a new language, and the many—and for me that means being silent.

Umm, the silence that I talk about as a survival strategy umm, in the case of let’s say umm, young children can be interpreted as a umm, sign of—of lack of intelligence of laziness, of umm, not willing to learn a new language, umm, of resistance in the negative way, umm, but I think that if we try to see what the story is we’ll know that it really just is a survival strategy, and a part of learning a new language, yeah.

Definitely.

Okay. Umm, the silence uh, I’m talking about as a survival strategy umm, as a way of umm, maintaining umm, a sense of self and—and to protect oneself is very different from the silent period in second language acquisition where umm, a student is uh, becoming umm, uh, familiar with a new language, is picking it up umm, just orally from the teacher, is figuring out ways of understanding, and this would be the first level of—of a second language learner, and given that, the teacher would need to umm, offer children in this level of silence, of first level of second language acquisition, umm, offer children to umm, to listen, to have opportunities to observe, to see modeling from the teacher and other students.

(deep breath)

Mestiso?, Mestisa?, uh, my understanding umm, has to do with umm, uh, blending of two cultures, umm, races, umm, I don’t… that’s all. Okay.

Yeah.

Oh, okay.

I don’t, I’m not, I don’t know about that one.

Oh, five to five.

I know, that’s why, you guys.

Just look at whatever.

(laughing)

Un Hun.

Okay.

Okay, all right.

In the dissertation work that I umm, conducted, I observed children in a two-way Spanish Emersion classroom, where you have uh, native speakers of English, and native speakers of Spanish interacting, learning, in two languages. (music in background) Umm, what I looked at was how the students second language, and that could mean, or first language, and that could mean Spanish or English for the kids, how their second lang—or their first language acted as a resource in learning the second, so that for the Spanish speakers, I wanted to see how their Spanish helped them to develop the English, and for the English speakers, I looked at how their English helped them to develop the Spanish, and in particular because this classroom was organized in a way that promoted learning as in a community, learning as a group and—which was learning centered, umm, it was an ideal situation to see how language in fact, or first language in fact act—acts as a resource in the second language acquisition, and we found exciting results. I say we because the teacher and I did both, so.

(chuckle)

Okay, can I think about it for a second?

Okay, yeah, yes.

I think that uh, for students who are umm, preparing to be teachers, and those who are already in the field, what I think is important for—for them to understand and to integrate in their understanding of what it means for them to be an educator, is that you have to be prepared to work with students, communities, school communities, umm, to prepare children to be successful (horn in background). Now…

(chuckle)

Can I…

Oh, the students, or the new teachers have to be prepared enthused about umm, willing to help students be successful. Now that means that, umm, we’ve got to be willing to integrate student experiences, umm, to integrate new ways of knowing and learning, now it’s not just about wanting to do this, and to embrace diversity (car motor in background) it means that not just tolerating, but it means to really umm, integrating, umm, we’ve got to want to see what the story is for all of our children. Umm, it’s not something that—it’s not an undertaking, that’s just going to be smooth. It’s going to be bumpy, and it’s going to change, it’s going to evolve. Uh, but we’ve—we’ve got to have umm, the sensitivity and the willingness to get in there, in the trenches, and take care of business. Umm, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be rewarding in the end. I hated the way that sounded, but oh well.

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