I’m Richard Kimball, a Spanish teacher. Also direct a migrant program in the summer. I do not have very many ESL students in my Spanish class but from time to time I’ll have a few in my class. So most of my experience is uh uh language uh uh oh gosh LEP students. What is that . . limited English proficientcy students is in the summertime.
I started with language minority students, I was looking for a summer job and there was an opening with the migrant program, a summer migrant program, that we have in our school district and uh I have an an indorsement in some different areas and because I speak Spanish they hired me and then later on uh the possition came open to be director of the program and so I moved into that possition and I’ve done that for several years now.
I’ve uh this is an interesting story um when I was uh in uh a boy scout aged student there was a group of students that were are boy scout came that were from the uh they were mostly Hispanic students and one of the kids saved my life and so I’ve always had maybe a special feeling uh towards the person that saved my life and and where I grew up in uh in a state where they speak a lot of Spanish I’ve just had friends that spoke Spanish and so I’ve I’ve always felt uh just and I also I served a mission in a Spanish speaking country. So I just feel pretty comfortable about it.
One of the assignments that we had in the ESL course was to interview some students and there was a studetn in our school, the father works here in the area in a dairy and as I interviewed the student originally they uh mentioned that they didn’t want to stay here in the United States that they’re only here with their family and they hope to go back to uh to Mexico. And uh now that student’s been here for several years and it looks like they want to stay here for more years and having to have the opportunity to interview this student and get a feeling for what he wanted to do in life and then to just to talk to him in the hall ways and he also was in my in one of my classes that uh I was able to kind of understand days when he we maybe a little bit depressed and days when he was feeling good and we just talked and we shared a lot of things.
It helps me to get to know the studetns personally uh having having oh let me start again…
As you understand the culture you get and insight to their personalities and their values in ways that if you didn’t know the culture you wouldn’t under stand where they’re coming from.
We had a group of students that uh would come into my room and we’d play the guitar. We would show each other different things that we knew how to play the guitar and ones of the students I would probably say was the type that would probably get into trouble from time to time and when you know some of their the way the act and you get a feel for their interests I believe I I had a little bit more empathy for them and try to create ways to help him succeed but if I didn’t’ know his personality traits or didn’t know his culture I might just write him off and say the guys too tough to work with.
Some of the uh I don’t want to use the predudices I think a lot of people in the area don’t realize that they have preconcieved notions for example unfortunately in our school there were a group of studetns who were assigned to an ESL class simply because they their skin color was different and they happen to hang out with the other studetns that were uh had limited English proficientcy and even though other classes would have served them better they were they were put into those uh ESL classes and so sometimes I feel that people have uh well they have they they don’t realize that they are acting on precon---preconceived notions and they you really have to be careful with that. You know inspite of the fact that I have uh lived in a foreign country for several years, have in-laws that are from that are Hispanic, I still feel like I need to keep checking myself over and over again to see what what my um biases are and where I’m um where I’m somewhat prejudgemental.
The resources that I’m afraid are not tapped very well are those where you have a group of people who speak a foreign language and they rarely get an opportunity to interface with those studetns that are learning a foreign language. Uh good example uh of using a resource as well would be to have those students be in an AP Spanish class or maybe in a AP French class what ever the case maybe and they can interface and talk with those students that are trying to learn the language. Uh there are so many cultural, beautiful cultural uh . . . that sounds weird . . .cut.
There are so many students that have uh a wealth of cultural experiences and ideas and uh that aren’t tapped into. For example a studetn that may have come from a war torn country, El Salvador, Guatamala, uh maybe areas in southern Mexico where there’s been a lot of conflict, a lot of times the teachers don’t tap into that kind of knowledge. If they don’t know where the person’s from, if they’re not aware of the kinds of troubles they’ve been through, uh they uh as you study revolution or you study different governments uh freedom to vote uh in a government class, those kind, that kind of information would be uh would bring the class alive. So there’s there’s a lot of information that I think they they should tap into.
Probably the most difficult academic challenge for uh an ESL student would be learning US history, learning um technical terms in science courses, math doesn’t for for hispanic students that’s not necessarily a difficult area if they haven’t studied math however before coming to the United States that would be very difficult but uh the language math language is very similar between the various uh languages. Uh so it’s the social studies, history, US US history would be an extremely difficult for a person to do well in unless they had a tutor if they had some one to help them understand. There’s so much that we take for granted that we hear and we see on television or hear on news reports that they would not have an idea what’s going on. As far as socially uh all to often in the schools hear in Utah, ha ha. All to often in the schools I see the um language uh language barriers, you’ll have the dominant culture uh they just take of what their needs they know what they need to do and they just go their way and they don’t include those from other countries, those who speak differently, those that look different and I think that it takes a you have to really make that a a priority. You have to think about ways that you could include them and some things that you can do are to include um studetns in the AP classes. Uh I know of one teacher who has um teaches an art class in Spanish and she has uh and it’s taught only in Spanish and so those studetns who have advanced Spanish skills and the Hispanic studetns are in the course earning the credit that’s really a beautiful concept to do that.
Uh treating a student equitably would be the idea of finding out what their needs are and doing what ever you can to meet those needs to help them reach the goals of the school. Treating them equally would be teaching speaking only Enlgish to them like you would other students and there’s uh or treating a person in a wheel chair the same ways you would a person that that could walk. You know the idea of accommodating uh the needs of the students is very very important and trying to find out how to best meet their needs to help them meet the goals of the school meet the goals of the district, it’s it is critical.
Oh that’s that’s an area where we really need to uh we need to get um we need to pay attention to that. In our area one thing that we’ve done just to to get a foot in the door is too invite the parents of our migrant students to a dinner at one of the schools and the children and the parents come and there’s a little program it’s usually towards the end of the summer. The students performs for their parents. The show their completed projects and it’s a good way to get the parents to feel like they can come into the building and they can be part of part of the education process. However we haven’t included a lot of the of the uh ESL students parents in planning programs uh although we do send home information to them. I don’t feel like they they’ve been afforded a a voice in the uh in the political process uh nor have the had an opportunity to be on on commities. Uh all the steering commities, guiding commities, that the schools have. Uh I don’t see any of the of that population being represented and that’s uh that’s a really problem.
We have a very wonderful person who goes out to the homes of the students. Uh she gets to know the students personally. Uh knows the the home environment, knows the relatives, uh gets to know the families really well. She comes back to talk to myself, the director of of the migrant program. She’s told me what uh what classes the studetns are interested in maybe where areas of groups of studetns have uh catagorically uh failed the class. What that would mean to me is there’s a teacher who is not accepting the the the our Hispanic students, isn’t making uh accommodations for their needs and so what we’re doing in our program in the summer is we’re offering a course for that particular class. We’ve found a qualified teacher who who does very well with the subject matter and we’re going to see to it that those students pass that course. Uh restated your question again.
Advocacy that is um recently I’ve become more involved politically uh and uh to be an advocate is to go out and talk to people and to teach them to help them see ways to improve uh any any kind of situation really and uh to be an advocate for an ESL student is to go out or your way to take the time to go out of your way and do something to help that student or that segment of population and there’s so many injustices that are happening that it’s uh almost uh unconsiousable, how do you say that word, help me with that, let me go through that, unconsiousable, no . . . .let me start that again.
There are so many people um . . . .
There are some many, there are so many injustices that uh that the ESL students face that it becomes our our responsibility. Uh uh it’s a moral obligation that we have to go out of our way to help these students. If we don’t, no body will unless there are uh maybe some unfortunate currcumstances that that we certainly with to avoid. Um ask the question one more time.
Uh in in uh our daily in a daily situation I remember one students came to me, uh the one that I, we’re playing the guitar with, he came to me and he said hey there’s these kids that are picking on me and if if uh if these guys keep doing it I’m going to go get my friends and we’re going to come down here to the high school and we’re going to have uh some real problems and I was assuming that he was going to contact uh that there would be some problems with gangs in our high school and so we just I just quickly went to the principle, the principle quickly got a hold of the student that was creating the problem for my friend and uh uh the person was suspended. But there’s a lot of things that we we uh we need to kind of go out of our way to to help the students. Perhaps another example would be to find, when when you see these students coming into your building just realize uh that they’re just like uh any other person. They they need some friendshiping they need uh they need support they need us as teachers to say hello, to ask them how they are doing, to take a special interest in them.
You know it’s it’s really hard to change uh uh a pattern in a district when you don’t start at the top and work down uh probably the most important thing that I could ever do is some how find a way to get uh the uh the superintendant or the assistant superintindants to find the time to take the ESL endorsement because the ESL endorsement really opens up a persons eyes to see what what they have been doing wrong and what they can uh do to improve a program and if you have the people on top that uh aware of how and ESL program should be run then it’s usually is is uh easier to get that change to take place. So uh but since that’s not the case in most districts probably um gosh what do you do? (LONG PAUSE) Uh in our district what we have put in place is we have a director of the ESL program and that person spends a lot of time talking with the assistant superintendant of instruction and she does really well with uh with out program. I have had uh uh vary shape uh difference of oppinion as to how the program should be run in the summer time and as I’ve explained um how there’s been a conflict between myself and the assistant supperintendant of instruction, she has come in where she has gone through the ESL program she has supported the ideas that we have and it uh so our summer program I think runs in a much better program thanks to her.
Um I would I would suggest that a person finds out who their local representative is who their local senator is that they take time to write letters that they watch the news papers. I know in our in the United States now there seems to be uh this English only pro—uh push and in our state that seems to have been pretty strong recently. Fortunatly it’s been defeated the last couple of years and it would be really it’s it’s just so important to make your voice known to your senator and representative. A person who thinks that education and politics are separate uh have no idea of reality is. Politics drives what we do in public education and so it’s so important to be involved with that if you want to make a change on a big scale get somebody into congress that understands and believes the uh good educational practices. We have a lot of people in in uh leadership positions in the state and in the nation that uh frankly don’t understand what uh good educational practices are.
The ethical and moral responsibilities that that we have to ESL students, ESL students are the same as we would have toward any individual that needs maybe a little extra hand and help up the the challenges that they have in a in a situation. Uh a person that carries you know like if you’re on a hike with with somebody that’s got a really heavy uh backpack you know you just reach down and help them up a little bit. The person that doesn’t have much of a challenge you don’t need to watch out for them nearly as much as those that are carrying extra burdens and responsibilities and it really is in our best interest to help all students and uh I I think that we have obligation to not only help our children with in our families but also the entire community and that’s what that’s what public education’s about helping all the people in the public.
When I when I think of the uh when I was back in Washington, D.C. and I was reading about uh T—Thomas Jefferson, he uh I believe had a clear understanding of what would make the United States great. We need to have uh well educated population and we were all immigrant to the – all all of those who speak English are immigrants to this country and uh so none of us should feel that we um uh this isn’t coming off at all. Uh so all of us are immigrants to the United States except for those Native Americans and we need to include each other and help each other to become educated and I I believe that it’s that patriotic thing to do if we look at the founding father’s that that uh set up this country, that we help each other and that we educated our children and we can truly be a a free democratic society.