I don’t know there’s two questions. Uh---first we---we value the people that we teach. In a way we---we cherish them, we---we care about how they feel and that provides the environment for a kid to, ‘I can take risks’ before they can ever learn English. I---I don’t think that, uh, teaching them in their---in their language and, uh, as some would say provide the crutch is---is the way to go but I think our first step is---our first rule of thumb is, is it comprehensible. And that’s the general rule, that’s the foundation. And we can contextualize and we do our very best. We try to formulate our lessons and learning so we’re---so they can be successful. So we come all the way to where they are to try to help them make sense out of what they’re learning. But there comes a time when they just don’t---they’re not getting it and so we provide that language support if it’s needed. So we’d say, I think you’re---you’re two questions are should we just teach ‘em in English, um, h---and then how do I feel about these people. Um, these people are my passion; these are the people that I love. Let’s stop.
So, um, for them to feel good about themselves is---is really number one and then for them to learn English is a---is a by-product of that safe environment that they’re it, so.
The uh, boy that’s a---a number of things but I think we---I---I think I try to be intuitive if not just directly ask them what they’re interested in and, uh, what’s important in their lives or what their lives are about and---and in the context of government or economics or U.S. History we can just talk about events and, uh, in those---in those curriculums to see wh---what they already know and what their opinions are about those things. And so I think by having the conversation, them feeling free to have a voice and I think---eventually, and I think is the great challenge to give students choice. But where choice is very difficult in the parameters of---of education in the classroom, and we strive to do that, voice is something that they must have. And, uh, when we read ‘Paolo Freare’ and he talks about praxis, and that’s what our conversations have been about since I’ve been---making my visit here, and that is, there must be some equality in that voice. We can’t have that voice of oppression. We can’t have the oppressor and the oppressed, there has to be a voice that kids come out with. That they feel that they’re being listened to and I’d say that listening voice, trusting them to talk to their peers about something. But there’s---but a---but I say that but there’s so much behind that class discussion. There is so much to be said about, um, having kids talking about things that they’re interested in. That they already are predisposed to have a voice for as opposed to me providing something unrelated, dense, uh, and really not well thought out in terms of the material to negotiate. Where as I think if---if it’s comprehensible, if it’s what they feel is important, if it’s relevant to their lives. If they have voice then I believe that they feel good about where they’re at. I think they’ll feel---content to be in the classroom.
I, uh---I think about what’s relevant, I think about my materials, I think about kinds of text and---and I think of different ways of knowing, learning, and expressing that knowledge. Uh, I think about student centeredness. I---I think about what will be the degree of language support that I provide. I think of contextualization for them. I, uh, I think of what can be the most authentic---wh---experience that they can have. Who’re we gonna write letters to. Uh, one of the great experiences that we had and, you know, writing congressmen and I have this new group of people that are carrying, uh, students, who are carrying---legal alien cards. They were offended. And so we say, what should we do about that. And within a year, or by the next year, those cards were changed to legal residents. And, uh, it was a powerful moment, kids had a voice. So, uh, you say, you know, what do I keep in mind? I---I know that there is a curriculum, I know that there are standards, there’s a framework out there and yet I feel that if---if we can really find out what these kids are about we can begin to check off those standards. I think we’ll hit ‘em but we need to think about the---of course the message. We want to think about the vehicle and, uh, think about how they’re going to, uh, make meaning out of this experience and consider what language, you know, English and Spanish and how the---that methodology is gonna be utilized to---to help them make sense and develop their English, develop their ability to speak and write, use some academic language in English.
To reflect on how I’ve changed in my profession and my craft would, uh---it---it’s actually a---a---it’s been a transformative experience. I’ve a---I received a teaching credential from a university, I think I relied pretty much on, uh, maybe my sense of---or---or just some---some skills in terms of public speaking but not really thinking about the learning process. Not thinking deeply about what’s happening in the kids mind. I think I was very much a teacher, centered and just assumed. I had so many assumptions about what kids would do if I just stood up there and said some things. And those assumptions, uh, never really bore fruit and, uh, as time went on---we’re editing, so----as---as a---as---about eight years went by and, uh, my wife and I were just---we were talking about some graduate programs. And, uh, I ended up going to a---a---a wonderful university, it---it was private, it was a---Christian university, in was the Mennonite of the Brethren in a Fresno Pacific University. And they began to, uh, as they taught there was a unity with the staff in which I was able to, uh, take upon myself a philosophical stance. Just by being a so---just by associating with these teachers and with these, uh, the types of activities that they are engaging us in to their methodology. And it was all based in a philosophical stance that I really hadn’t had, a cohesive stance and---and---and in the sense that I could make an instructional decision based on a philosophy that I had a rational for it and I could---I could predict that some evidence of learning was going to take place. That it wasn’t just a---a chance or a probability but yet I was really thinking through what that activity would look like. Um, and that I really came prepared to succeed because I had a rational. I think---I thought, well if I can---if I can look at the---at the student and consider his interest, if I can give a big picture to the kids and---and another of other points in terms of this philosophical stance then, um, I’m gonna succeed. And each day I---I kind of don’t think it’s gonna be Ok, and it’s not always perfect, but I believe I understand the evidence of learning before I see it. I think it’s gonna manifest itself in certain ways and I can see that by virtue of the rational that I’ve place on---on the activity, or that decision making process. After that, after having a---a philosophical stance, what I found is that I continued to read and had conversations with colleagues and that---it---that---a---new ideas began to layer on that philosophical stance, that we’re looking at literacy now and we’re looking at assessment, we’re looking at lesson plans and thematic units and---and that we started on a f---a fundamental stance of how kids learn and---and what effective teaching is. As the years have gone by, the reading and the conversation have created these layers of understanding which---the decision process is much more rich now. There is much---there is---there is more of a sense of, uh, what---who I am as a teacher and who my students are and to make better decision based on this philosophy. And yet this layering that has occurred, that has made a more profound understanding, from my part, on teaching.
Well for every one of those teachers there’s probably 20 to 35 students that are being affected by that teacher. And because people are teaching it doesn’t necessarily mean that---that we are really putting kids on that pilgrimage to thoughtfulness. And I would say education is a transformative experience. We don’t have valid, worthwhile experiences in our---in our lives and be the same people. When we have an experience in life that, uh, we value, it changes who we are. We have different habits. And how can our kids have a transformative experience in school. How can you go through four years of school and continue to be immature in so many areas in life? And we know that we cannot teach kids everything there is to know but we want them to be curious and we want them to be thoughtful. We want them to be, um, respectful of other people’s opinions. We want them to have informed opinions themselves and to think of thoughtful support for those opinions. And so you say, why would it be important to have a theoretical or a---or---philosophical stance? It’s to help kids to develop their thinking. When they read, we want them to think when they read. And when they think they learn. To go through a reading assignment and not do anything with it other than just read the assignment and respond to some questions and then move on. That’s criminal behavior. That’s a total injustice to a kid of what they could possibly be later on in their lives. But if we can talk about those ideas, then let them grow, let them mature, let them see things, especially as a teacher models, they’re in---I mean---the teachers have had those experiences of learning, why would we deprive our kids of learning in those same natural, curious ways. So the practice oftentimes, um, is way up there, ahead and the theory is coming from behind, but we have to find a way to move that theory up to the practice. But I will way this, that once somebody has a sound, philosophical stance and they truly believe in it, that they really cannot just do the, uh----the traditional, the transmission, there’s something about their conviction. They know something and if they know it they can’t just go on a do something that they don’t believe in.
What is the evidence of learning and---I’ve spoken of that in terms of---even, uh, predicting what would happen in our class. What does that evidence look like? What does the classroom have that manifests the evidence of learning? And, um----maybe if we think first of all of having our children and of---‘They Say the Darnedest Things’ and we think how---how did---how did they say that? Or, you know, I can’t really go into too much dene---tail now but I think we can think about we can think about how our kids development of language occurs. We see how they have done things and we are thinking about how they’ve processed and it’s quite similar in the classroom. I mean it’s a human experience. W---we could be just about anywhere in conversation and see how people have, uh, made sense out of things and how they’ve---how they’ve learned something. Of course we have to look at our own personal experience as well. W---we can look at our common beliefs. We can look at theory. We can even look at, uh, what other people do but ultimately we have look at ourselves and think, how---how do I read. How did I learn things? And so in the classroom I believe it manifests itself in a---in subtle and then obvious ways. The questions that people have, the curiosity, the fertile soil of wanting to know and---and when a kid wants to know, to be in that mode of inquiry, which I think is very challenging and I---and I’m talking about an ideal situation, but let’s look at the ideal and try to move in that direction. And oftentimes well, inquiry is a student choice, what is it that they want to know? If we can somehow maneuver ourselves, manipulate or be intuitive enough or to organize ourselves and orchestrate in a way that kids are saying---are being exposed to things and then saying, I want to know more about that. And then for us to give them some way to continue that investigation, well---that’s the obvious. To hear somebody ask a question, to hear a response from that question and to have somebody give that---that legitimate, sound support for an opinion we’d say there’s process all over that. But there’s some other things too that we see. That, uh, when you scaffold and you’ve, uh---and you’re preparing, um---to---that the kids to read, let’s say a---a challenging piece of text---let’s---an expository piece, and, uh, the conversation has been engaging, there’s been some opinions and yet when that article gets passed out there and you see those heads go down and it’s silent, I call that evidence. Uh, that’s real text. It’s---it’s hitting a real authentic. It’s hitting that person in a way that as they’re reading that, I believe and I believe the conversation or the reflection afterwards bears this out, there’s construction of meaning taking place. They are not just reading that for me. In fact I’ve learned that kids may do something for you, but they can’t sustain that. They have to do things because they feel it, they understand it and under those conditions when they’re that---when you have that construction of knowledge then you have these wonderful reflections. You have these wonderful com---um---comments made or a class debrief or a small group discussion, and you hear those comments and you think, they are making sense out of this text because it has something to do with them.
How do we get, uh, how can we have confidence in doing something different, that we haven’t done before. And uh---and break away from that controlled, behaviorist model? Uh I---I’m sure I’m a behaviorist in---the---at times as well. Uh, but in being a behaviorist I’m really trying to plan a lesson that I’m gonna hook my kids. So I’m not being a behaviorist in terms of being prescriptive with my instruction, I’m trying to get them to behave because I feel like I’ve done---I’ve prepared a lesson that will just really fascinate them, hook them, make them curious, uh, give them some that they can have an opinion about. Uh, I suppose I’ve taken some risks, uh, but it’s not, you know---I don’t know if this is gonna make sense. It’s not a risk (microphone noise) for me wh---with my kids. I mean I’m---I’m---these are not my peers and it’s a---if I take a chance I don’t think I am---I’m not gonna be embarrassed, um, I’m not gonna be afraid, I am just going to try something that I feel works and then I can look back at it later and begin to analyze it. Um---for the teacher that’s involved in the transmission model I would just say, um---look at the learning. Look at the facial expressions of your kids. Um---I forget my train of thought. --------- What do you tell s---what would I tell somebody who is involved in the transmission model and really doesn’t see any other way? And I would say we---let---let’s look at our kids and see if it’s comprehensible to them. And---and have conversations but I will say this, whatever I do with a colleague it’s the exact same thing we do with our students. There must be the spirit of kindness. There must be the spirit of cooperation. That there must be----friendship and trust and so when we begin to talk of those things then, uh, we don’t preach we just say, this is what I’ve done. And we just can’t be afraid to think of something new and think of new ideas. It’s very common for teachers to say, I’ve been teaching for 20 years and that---everything has come and gone. And yet, um, if anything we need just to have faith in the learner and find out a way that learners---that students can learn. And that might mean that we have to work a little bit harder to go beyond what is the, uh, provided study guides for the textbook. And---it takes a little work sometimes to find those driving materials.
How is Learning Edge a---a literacy p---program affected me and my teaching? Um---I think the question is, and if we ask ourselves this question, who is responsible for teaching reading? And, uh, some will say it’s in the elementary school or it’s in an English class and yet my responsibility is to help my students think and to be able to process and to have deep thoughts and to, uh---to construct meaning, to construct meaning in their own lives. To look at a---their world view and---but be able to look at other people’s world views. And so how does a literacy program like Learning Edge affect me? Uh---it gives me a vehicle to access text, to help my students to access text, to think---to read, to think, to re---to construct that meaning, to have that thinking going on and that motivates our conversations. That mot---and---and then ultimately it changes who we are. The thing about Learning Edge is we---as we look at a text I think it gives us some tools to consider. That we want to look, first of all, look at ourselves and say, why am I reading this? What’s my purpose? Which I think has a lot to do with our reading rate and, um---and a---well---how---how we approach a text ourselves. To look at the text structure which will help us to understand what digenre (?) of this text, the author’s purpose. Is this a persuasive piece or is this a---an expressive piece? I think it’s important for readers to be able to able to determine that. It---if it is, uh, let’s say a text structure that’s expository or hierarchical then we would say, um, maybe this is a persuasive piece or an informative piece. And so we’re---we’re beginning to look at the text in a more strategic way instead of looking at all text, all the same but yet we can get to that author’s purpose. Which I think then we begin to interact with that text. And so---to me I see Learning Edge as what is seamless to the curriculum that I have. My curriculum is to teach these people about U.S. History or Government or Economics. That’s fine. But we’re gonna learn that through reading and so I need to have a way to help kids access text and for me that’s Learning Edge. It’s not a separate curriculum. It is simultaneous and that’s what would make the class successful. That’s what makes learning happen. I think most kids really have a challenge with looking at text but as we scaffold, meaning bring up that background knowledge to conscious level, as we begin to model what we do in Learning Edge in the reading process and then give them an opportunity. And all the while having a piece of text that’s interesting to them and that can really drive them to want to negotiate what that text means. I feel like they’re equipped with the tools to have understanding, so. (Truck noise) I think the one thing it’s just---our goal is---is that it should be seamless and it’s what, uh, we help our kids do to learn. And then when they leave here I think it transfers. They become better readers. They see themselves differently.
Who’s responsible---whose responsibility is it for literacy? I certainly feel that it is mine. I cannot teach my curriculum effectively without those, um---without my kids being good readers. If they are good readers and they can access text, then I teach my curriculum. If they are not good readers, if they cannot access the text then I haven’t ach---I---I---I don’t achieve my objective. Um---literacy is thinking, I mean reading and thinking. So how many times do we give the kids a worksheet and they look for that word or that phrase in the question and they go through their text and they find it and they write it down. And we say, is that learning? And we’d say, I’ve actually done that before with nonsense words, uh, students are---are good at finding the answers but it’s not about finding the answers, it’s about making sense out of text. And so if my kids cannot construct meaning out of text then they’re not learning. The process is---I think in Learning Edge is, uh, enlightening, it’s---in fact I think it’s simplified. I think it helps---I think it’s, uh, it’s cruel not to do it because kids will look at text and they won’t get it and then maybe they don’t get it as they go throughout their lives.
Language is this medium that we use to convey ideas. When that medium is not understood then there isn’t, uh---we cannot begin to cons---you know---construct that information. And---the, uh---I had a very interesting experience; I took a wonderful course, a little narrative. It was a---it was called, ‘The Linguists for ESL’ and we, uh, we listened and transcribed conversations and we were looking for evidence of learning. But it made us so sensitive as a class to word choice and what are we saying to our kids. Um, Prasher talks about comprehensible and put---Plus 1 but oftentimes that comprehensible input could be Plus 20, and so kids are lost. W---I think that’s why we need to learn in a social setting, that a student can work with another student and they can bring ‘em along in that language acquisition. You know we---we talk about, uh, the Regotski’s, Zone of Proximal Development and it’s very much like Comprehensible Input Plus1, but really what Regotski is also saying is that before you can really take somebody from one point to the next, that there need to be a social-cultural, uh, likeness where a kid can make sense of that environment, make sense of the content and then they can make that progress, do that thing which they cannot do by themselves but can with the help of somebody else, and then eventually by themselves. But the context of all that teaching takes place in a social-cultural-linguistic environment. Sometimes linguistically my bilingual students struggle if it’s that English. I will contextualize, I will, uh, use the video clips, the comprehensible text, uh, that’s a whole text. I will---I will use other students. I’ll try to put their learning in a context but then there comes a time when---they’re just not getting it and oftentimes in a---in a very difficult academic setting then we’ll---we’ll provide some of that language support. But in the midst of all this we are looking at English text, we are, um---negotiating that text all the time and usually socially. So I certainly, uh, cannot---I need to be aware of my English. I need to be aware of my word choice. I need to be aware of the appropriateness of my language. Um, I need to model it in that way but I also have to---have activities where kids are able to negotiate that meaning. It’s quite challenging. And we’re not just negotiating---well my words, but that text that’s in English, and so----I don’t know if I’m answering your question in terms of language, how does language play a role?
Well, um---that is a good question. Of course I pose this question to all my students in terms of, what if a student just came over and knew only Spanish, uh, what should we do? Should we just have them speak in English, would they learn it faster? Or should we do bilingual and they always say, well we should just---we should just let them, uh, hear English, they’ll learn English faster and that’s what they want. But then they always say but it, of course, there should be maybe another student to help them understand when they don’t get it. Which is really the essence of bilingual education. We don’t come out and, uh, talk in Spanish, we will oftentimes preview what we’re going to do, but there is a---an element of suffering, I guess, but if it’s in an environment they---that they feel safe and that they’re willing to work in, then they’ll negotiate that English text. And so when I---when I decide, I really don’t decide ahead a time that I’m just going to use Spanish or---or English, I, uh---I think of the research, I think of the methodology of, in particular, preview, view and review. Where I really---I guess I do make a choice to do as limited English as possible and then the---whe---when those challenges arise, when those moments of incomprehensibility arise, then we want to negotiate that meaning and perhaps in their first language, if I cannot contextualize it in any other way. It’s---it is easier just to go into their language but I have to be sensitive to say, uh, are we learning how to say it in English. You know, who---Julio Morales, last year, I was giving some preview in Spanish and he just said, ‘Mr. Cleveland, in---bit of a broken English but pretty clear, why are you talking in Spanish, we can speak English.’ And so we just took a little survey right there and---and how they felt. And when should I be talking English and when should I be talking Spanish. And they felt that, uh, they knew that there were some in that class that had very low English skills but they were willing to help those people. And so I---we moved over to a more English but we just had to negotiate that, I had to know who my audience was and what their intentions were. So they felt comfortable using that English even though it was broken and---and those who hadn’t---had a less language ability in English they received support from the other students.
I look at the, uh--- (coughs)---the---the wholeness of the text. Uh---I feel that in a textbook, oftentimes ---it---um---it’s fragmented. It can say something about immigration in one particular chapter and then it continues the conversation of immigration in the next, or maybe three or four chapters later. And because we teach thematically, uh, we feel like that’s a real benefit because we can take kids, uh, through the theme, through history, and we’re dwelling on this one idea. And, uh, there’s always kind of a---a big picture that they have. So when we choose text having a---having a whole text, having a wholeness in terms of a whole idea and that, uh, it can make sense, it’s not fragmented and in the context of thematic teaching the text makes sense. So first, to provide a text that’s whole. To, um---to provide a text that has some contextualization in it, that----um---the pictures or the quotes and the captions are---are lively and they come out and that’s something that we can talk about. Uh---I sometimes think they’re the print of the text. Sometimes when you get a 10 font print it just adds to the density of it all and it almost seems insurmountable to be able to make meaning out of that text, so maybe a---a---a bigger type. To use historical novels which----the narrative has built into it already a---a wholeness, they understand narrative, they understand story. And to bring in that kind of a text I think is helpful. So when I look at what I’m gonna bring in I think, uh---how dense is it? Is it whole? Is it contextualized? Are they familiar with the structure? Have I talked to them about expository text? Have we worked with text, narrative and expository? Do they understand the idea that with expository text there’s a big picture and, uh, that big idea, that thesis and that there’s supporting detail? And you get that out of articles, um---versus let’s say a textbook that’s just giving you a little bit a---an informative clip that we’re trying to find the context of it all. But again---so I’d say those would be the things, the density of ideas. The, uh, whole it---the contextualization of the text, the readability and-----so forth.
There is a risk, I suppose, if we are behaviorists to put kids in groups thinking that they might go and do something that they want to do other---different than what we want them to do. How can I, uh---be sure that learning is going on in these talking activities in our group work? It’s a---it’s oftentimes driven by the material itself and the topic they were talking about. So, uh---if you scaffold correctly, if you bring that, uh, if you bring their---background knowledge to their conscience level, that prior knowledge, to have some opinion about it. They can have conversations about that. Uh---you scaffold, you model before you present a piece of text but whatever you’re presenting, we’re gonna hook them with an idea. And we think that that idea is what’s going to, uh----it’s going to encourage them or motivate them to continue to negosh---to---to negotiate. But in terms of---of getting their interest, you know, it is the text but it could be a little video clip. It could be a---a---a song, um---something that they’re already familiar with. And as we scaffold our way up to and build up that background knowledge and we’re ready to talk about a piece of text then we want to, uh, make sure that it’s interesting. As we talk about s---you know we were doing slavery and we saw a video clip and we heard a story on cassette and we read a couple of brief little articles, um---there was some music, there was some poetry and the kids just couldn’t believe that it was this bad. And then we introduced an article on reparations and they were ready. They had their opinions about slavery when that reparations article came the heads just went down. And after they read the conversation emerged. And so I feel that we can have confidence in kids that they’ll talk if they are talking about things that mean something to them.
How do we, uh---see that individual accountability with kids even though we’re working in groups? Well---we can be in groups and be working as individuals too. And our reflections are always individual, uh---shared reflections. And then of course that might alter what they think and they can add to their learning. But I look at a---as they, uh, construct meaning out of text---I mean we can have assignments where we’re reading articles or---or the textbook, but when we are doing activities in which we’re looking at the main ideas we see learning when the language, when the written languages is in their own---home voice. And so I---I’m looking at, not something that’s been copied out of an article; I’m looking for the---the readers text. Uh---they read a text but they also make their own text. And every time they read an---they have to make sense out of it, they process, they make their own text, and so it can be in conversation. It can be in their reflections. It could be in, uh, how we work with an article. And so there is that individual, but the group work is what gets them to dig a little bit deeper, maybe think different thoughts. It really expands their thinking. So we’re not always looking at a collective product but rather we’re looking at a way to enhance an individual’s thinking and maybe push their thinking a little bit deeper. And then we see that, then in the reflection and we look at, ‘what else have you learned?’ And then we continue to write. And I think that bears evidence in terms of individual learning.
I---again the---the---the learning environment, uh---but I wanna expand it bigger, to the high school that I work at, with a 60% population Hispanic and I think it’s, uh---30% Asian, a sprinkling of, uh, South East Asian, uh, Indian, Korean----uh---African American and some Anglo and, uh---I don’t think they think about their color when they walk in. I don’t think anybody does. And because of that I have found such a unity, I think they enjoy being around the mix. And so you ask me, ‘how is the interaction?’ I feel like it’s a school culture. I just feel like they---they care for each other. We’ve had many conversations about this and what’s happening in, maybe, some other part of the country, um---where there have been tragedies or we hear about some racist remark. And then we ask, ‘have you ever been anyplace where you thought about your color?’ And there are some places, but what we realize is that they don’t think about their differences when they come to Roosevelt High School, it really is home to them. And so I would say that most of these kids, though they have cultural differences, are driven by similar issues. So if we’re looking at, um---if---if we’re looking at American History and we want to look at those founding documents, um---of course we have to come up to the what we---start---uh---in the---in the present and we want to look at, uh, should it---should, ah, youth be tried as adults. Uh----they’re all in on the conversation. And again it has to do with the materials that we’re looking at. You know the death penalty or---or, um---looking at, uh---gun control, you know, with the events that have been happening in our communities, they have a void, they wanna say something. And we find that they can all understand at that level in terms of the current issues. And then we go back and look at the documents and say, ‘what is the implication for learning about the Bill of Right, or looking at the Constitution, or reading those lines of equality in the Declaration of Independence. I think they think alike. I think they share more common ground and that they’ll---we think they---they are different. Uh---they are. And maybe they go home and speak a language that’s different, but their thinking deep thought about who they are in the community as well and I think it’s a shared experience.
My first course that I took at Fresno Pacific University, I was taking a course from Bonny Freeman, and it was a cross-cultural studies language acquisition course. And one of the assignments was to do a case study on a second language or an English learner. In my class I had a student, uh, named Tom. Tom Sokan and---or Soccasokan and we called him Tom, and his, uh---and actually others that are very close to him call him Bones and maybe if I tell you this story about him you’ll understand why. But uh---I had the opportunity of speaking to Tom and asking him if I could visit with his family and to learn their story of coming to America, but also their education story and what kind of experiences in their schools and---and was, uh, school meaningful to them, could they understand and how they developed their language, uh, over a---these last several years. And Tom being the primary focus. So I, uh, I spent an evening over there, I was there for about four hours. It was quite interesting because in this area it---this might be lengthy is that Ok?
This was a family that, uh, came from Cambodia and were living in---at the south end of town into an---in an apartment complex and it was like a little Cambodia. What was interesting is we---as we spoke, of course these were refugees who---fleeing the Cumarouge and Polpah, and yet there were also other people on the other side that were tired of killing and they were the killers and wanted to come to America as well. Which of course the---a dynamic there that you think about, uh, what are those conversations like amongst those people. Stella, uh, was---a, a young mother who was going to have her first child and she, uh, with about three months to go in her pregnancy, was, uh, removed from her home by the Cumarouge and then went on to that march into the, uh, countryside. And this was a woman who only knew city life, who was educated, who was tri-lingual, who, uh---was now having to survive in some way. She had her baby, as many mothers had babies, and, uh, told me all the really scary things that happened as they lived in these---in these uh---homemade camps of theirs and how they would work in the fields and would be given a spoon of rice for lunch and just---not enough to live on and so the children began to die. And yet the other women were quite upset at Stella, Tom’s mother, and said, and---as---as she told me, ‘why your baby it---live and our baby die?’ And she would just say, ‘I don’t know.’ And yet she knew, she would go along the river, it’s a tender story, (tearfully) and she would pick up, uh, frogs and small fish and---and---and little, uh, creatures in the river bottom and she would prepare that and---and put that in the little baby’s mouth. And the boy has always been skinny and we relate that to a---his birth and his beginning. And uh---and then they tell the story about how, uh, the Vietnamese came and---and they were able to, uh, make their way to---to get a notarized passport to go to another part of the country and then from there to cross, uh, through the forest into Thailand. And of course what the great experience for me was, was to talk to somebody with this kind of courage. Who came to this country and just said, uh, I am going to function in this society. And she got her drivers license in six months, I mean, this was a---the---this was an ambitious person who knew ambition from their---from their background, from being in the city, from being a---a college student. And so she didn’t want to slow down and she actually went on to Fresno City College and got an AA, but realized it was very difficult, uh, to work and to go to school. And, uh, her husband of course had been killed by the Cumarouge and so here I am in their apartment and seeing how they lived. To see, uh, where the children study, to see where they---that there was not a dinner table. Uh---I came over on another occasion and to follow up and they had dinner for me and they laid down a plastic mat and we had a chicken curry with potatoes and toast and---and Sunny Delight and, uh, some fruit and we were sitting Indian style. And a-------that this---this is the life of my students. This is where they study. This is the---this is the language that they hear when they come to sch---I mean when ---when they go home. And so when they come to school, who is my audience? Who are my students, uh, what are their lives like? And as I investigate them it’s a--- (tearfully) it’s not like mine. (You can edit this) It’s not like my life, and uh---I---I’ve become a little bit sensitive to that---that voice that I have of power and n---realize in the need to a---to hear their voice------ and to a---to listen and then to ask questions and to, uh, to find out where they come from and what their experiences are and---and let that be shared in class. And let the others, uh, understand, let---let the Latinos tell the story and let the Southeast Asians tell the story. Let---let the---the young Hindu boy, who comes in with the turban, let him tell the story. And then let’s kind of negotiate what’s meaningful to us, what’s important to us and let some of that voice come out. And it’s a great time for us to uh---to really---learn about each other and it is in the curriculum. We are looking at current issues of immigration and past immigration, but we can make those connections to the curriculum and to make it meaningful, we just have to look at their lives, and so for me to look at Tom, look at their mother. And I’ll---I’ll just tell you a little vignette, a little narrative about this. There is love between he and his mom. Uh---they saved each other’s lives. She without the baby, the baby without the mom, I don’t think they could have gone on, and yet there is a close bond and his---uh---there was one day when Tom was walking down the road and here comes his friends in a stolen car. And they were going to show somebody something. They were gonna get back at somebody and they had a gun. And---and he just started thinking, what is going on? And he made up an excuse and his excuse was, I told my mom I’d be home by 4 o’clock. Huh, and I thought, uh, you know, who thinks of their mom when they make up an excuse. Uh---I---I suppose kids who---but he loves his mom, and it was so evident in that relationship as I visited on those occasions. And so it’s just allowed me to say, I can’t stand up and deliver. I need to think about the ideas, the curriculum in terms of the materials that I teach and the method as I go about helping these kids make sense out of what we’re learning, and then just always trying to make it relevant. But we can’t do that unless they have a voice, so uh, ah---it just changed who I was, I can’t be the same person.
We’ve uh---we’ve talked about, uh, of course create and having a philosophical foundation, that we always have to come back to that one when we make our decisions. We’ve talked about our audience. We’ve talked about kids that go through the game of school with that textbook and---and yet the need to---that whole literacy need, I---we’ve covered that. Um---we talked about---we maybe we---lesson planning, thematisizing it, maybe more explicit about that---- (interrupted)
I---I think as I speak to theme and lesson planning I’ll be specific about my philosophical stance and probably real off those seven points---as consideration. (Yeah) and though it’s not Kreeg, I think what they’ll---they’ll (interruption) I---I was going through Kreeg today and looking, I thought---this---the---this of course is more specific and yet I’ve just kind a---have a working relationship with the other, but this---I don’t see any contradiction between those two. (Interruption)
Um---we’ve talked about philosophical stance and how that is---it---how that---and also how materials and that stance are a driving force in my decision making in terms of a---ins---a---in terms of instruction and---and um---and I’ve also mentioned that we have been working with themes. Um---we find themes to be very comprehensible, that we can take, uh, let’s say, uh, immigration is the theme and bring it---uh---starting, you know---uh---get my train of thought---I’m gonna go back---.
We have a---I---I’ve talked about a philosophical stance and how that affects my decisions in lesson planning and how to make things comprehensible to kids. I’ve also talked about layering and how we have a stance and yet how we’ve learned other things that fit into, uh, that philosophical stance and how it affects our decision making. And so---we---maybe I could speak more explicitly about that stance and that as we begin to think about a lesson and choose activities, we want to choose activities that---that are within the stance and so, you know (background noise) (interruption)
One of the most important things is, as I approach a lesson plan, is to again, as I said before, consider my philosophical stance. Um---when I’ve had conversations with colleagues about, uh, activities that we’ve done, uh, one of my colleagues would ask, well why did you do that? What was your philosophical stance for doing that? And that’s a tough question. It’s---it’s pushing me to think and I---I need to consider as I make those instructional decisions where the evidence of learning is gonna appear. And if I don’t have a vision of that ahead of time then I---it really is taking a bit of a gamble. And so as I began my studies wh---wh----one of the uh---a---or at least the stance that I had as I began my studies was that we---that we teach whole to part (clears throat) just make one comment about that and that is, especially as we look at second language learners, there---there needs to be a context for them. I mean it’s---even the---the English, fluent English student who is learning a lesson and then there is the part, can be some---there can be some confusion. But if they can kind a understand where they are on the road map, if they can see the big picture of where we’re going, then it’s---it becomes more possible to negotiate that meaning. But if we start with those parts and we---and we’re just kind a moving along, it---they make it the big picture eventually. And that might be---even be a strategy, but you have to be confident that that big picture is going to be thrown out there and that they’ll be ab---able to understand it. But I’ve found that we want to tell the kids what we’re going to be doing, what’s the big picture, so that they can begin that thinking process and bring that background knowledge to the surface. So we looked to, uh, teach whole to part. We want to look at student interest and we want to do things that are activities that are student centered. Uh---we want to get away from the teacher but go more into the curious student. And so when there’s that curiosity we believe that it’s student center, or it’s student interest, and then to have those activities that are---that are student centered. (Background buzz) We want to look at authentic experiences of the reading, writing, listening and speaking. (Buzzing) When they (buzzing)---when students say something, uh, maybe they’re saying something, and having talked, just because of me, and I think I can tell the difference. But we want to look at talk that is either problem solving or addressing issues that are relevant to them. We want that authentic talk, it’s wonderful to hear. And it’s really what makes you feel good at the end of the day. Oftentimes when we meet our colleagues at the end of the day we’ll say, I had a really---a good day. And a lot of it’s because that talk or that reflection, that real writing where they’re saying something that they believe in and it---whether that’s the reading, writing, listening and speaking, we want to engage them in that authentic experience, but we want to engage them in all of those types of experiences. Then we want to consider the social learning. We want to look at that comprehensible input plus 1. That gradual learning because somebody knows a little bit more or, I shouldn’t say gradual learning, but that incremental learning where somebody knows something a little bit better and can explain. Now---I would have to say that we need to understand who our clientele is, what we’re talking about, that we just can’t say, do groups. And then it just---it happens. It needs to be more thoughtful than that. And then we need to consider the materials we use drive those discussions and our topics. Then we need to give that first language support. And if there is a kid that just isn’t getting then---getting it, then we want to look at a student that might be able to help them understand. And, uh---it could very well be a language that nobody else speaks, but we need all the more to think about making it contextualized and get away from the transmission model. Again, being sensitive to that kid. If there are two kids that speak that language or another kid that can help them understand, well then all the more reason to learn that social setting. And then we want to have faith in the learner. And that just isn’t some idea that we had because we like to say, have faith in the learner. It really means that because I believe they can learn, I do everything I can do to make them learn. Not faith in the learner like, come on you should get this, I know you can. But rather faith in the learner that says, I’m gonna choose the right materials, the right methodology, I’m gonna scaffold, I’m gonna model, I’m gonna find a way so that it can be comprehensible to them. Under those conditions we might say, well all kids could learn that way. And if that’s what we’re saying then why aren’t we doing that? That philo---this philosophical stance provides for me a rationale. I think it puts me in a socio-cultural-linguist view of learning where a kid can only learn according to the theory of their world. And I’ve already learned in talking about Tom, and that is the theory of the stu---of my student’s world is very different then mine. But if I include them in the process, if I include them in the conversation, then that gets me a little bit closer to h---making things comprehensible for them. And so as I look at lesson planning, those are a number of things to think about. And I wanna make my best decisions based on who my audience is, so I can see that evidence of learning. Now here’s a key thing that I think is about the philosophical stance and that is this; many people come in and talk to us about activities or strategies that they can do. When they do that strategy and it doesn’t work just right, they’re going to throw it out and say, phew-yeah, I tried that, that didn’t work. And yet that’s not what we should do, we should understand why it didn’t work so we can make appropriate adjustments. We could try it again or we might test it against our rationale or against our philosophy and we’d say, there’s a reason why it didn’t work and I’m not going to do it again. But oftentimes we get into a mode of doing what somebody else did or we hear a---a scholar come and they share these activities. But those activities, unless we understand what makes those things click then we’ll probably just throw them out at the first time they don’t really make sense to the kids. But if we can understand wh---because of our philosophical stance about how kids learn, then we can make the adjustments and make those activities really work for us.
Well, if I could add one thing to this and that would be teaching thematically. And---for U.S. History it works and for---for me in terms of looking at, uh---well our themes are, um---immigration. What’s an American? Looking at those Founding Fathers and that colonization and that period of time. But it just works all the way up because it’s those documents. It’s the ideal. We look at the---the values and the morals that we have, that’s what we believe in today. And so it’s actually quite fascinating to look at how we are looking at those documents today. It’s a living government and so that unit really comes alive with contemporary issues. Then we want to look at the presidents and the reforms that have taken place. But the most fascinating, and I think this is really something to think about in a---and I can think of one concern that I’ll share after I make this statement, but we look at history from the perspective of the people. We have an African-American unit, a Latino unit, Asian American, Women and Indian, and there are other groups we can include and we want to develop those. As one Asian student said, her name was Somei, she says, ‘Mr. Cleveland, if we s---if everybody studied history like this we would appreciate each other.’ We’re looking at the strengths of these groups of people. We’re looking at history from their perspective. And looking at the challenges they’ve had to overcome and when we do that, that takes us right back to our founding fathers, those driving documents that we have in our U.S. History class and we review the values and the morals that we have in this country. We know what the ideal is, everyone can say it but we need to be able to---affect that change ourselves and say, we can see where the weakness is or we can see where we’re---we’re---we’re---we’re not doing things right but I can, individually. (Buzzing noise) As an individual I can address those issues and we can begin to make change. But all over there is process and thoughtfulness and we really want to develop those habits of thoughtfulness and as we look at the lives of these groups of people it becomes fascinating. When we have panels of Asians, in our class, and we ask them questions and their experience, everybody is all ears. They really are learning and taking it in. And so we want to have those experiences where they can appreciate the contributions of all groups of people. To look at America in terms of it’s diversity. (Buzzing noise) And---to---to look at America in terms of it’s di---if it’s diversity, the---that richness that they bring, uh, when people come to this country. And that is our history and we feel that when we follow those themes it’s a great conversation. But also to know that somebody comes to class one day, they come the next day, they’re not guessing what we’re gonna be doing. We’re moving along in this theme and there’s always a context, there’s always a big picture. We’re not going from one chapter to the next, jumping from, uh, you know---the flappers to the TWA or, not the TWA, but to---to look at the flappers in the 20’s, and the Roaring 20’s to the uh----you know, the---the stock crash or, you know, these things that are all in that same chapter and we feel that, you know, it’s not connected to anything. And this way it become connected and the kids can come to school knowing what we’re doing, that big picture. Ok.
Before I answer that question I’m gonna go back as I said (interruption) the---there---a caution. And that is to look at American History in a most negative light in terms of those people who are the dominant group, or the dominant language. And that we can see that they certainly that the conflicts that we’ve (buzzing) um---when we look at American History there is a concern that we’re looking at all the negatives and how those negatives are being dealt with and how the over---coming the challenges take place. And so just to keep that in mind that we also look at the bravery and the greatness and the great events that have happened by those people who have been here for many years. Who are the western Europeans? And so a caution, that we begin to look at the---all the good and, uh, and---and to value all people. And so that was a concern of one of my students so I bring that up.
What is the value of having a collegial relationship? Um---it’s what pushes me to think differently and I have a colleague who is forever reading and introducing me to new ideas and there is this, uh, construction of knowledge that takes place between the two of us. We---we have become such good friends, uh, as a result of these conversations and that in most any setting whether it’s social, outside of school, we find ourselves coming back to this idea of h---how kids learn, how can it be more effective. Lit---literacy issues, how do kids make sense out of print? And I admit we talk about what in the world is going on in other classes and, uh, and we think about how we could address those issues. In our own classes and in the conversations with our colleagues. I do believe I am in a---in a mi---in a minority. I, uh, find that when I talk to administrators, they’re not asking me, ‘what went well today?’ ‘What didn’t go as well as you thought should of and wh---what could you have done to make it better.’ ‘Tell me about your successes, tell me about your challenges,’ and I’m not having those conversations. Um---they---m---maybe it’s a time commitment that they have but administrators can---they can be principals and vice-principals but what we find are managers and we need the leaders to---to lead the conversation. It has to start at the top and it has to come down and so that principal that comes and talks to me and says, ‘uh, what a ballgame the other day.’ He’s not being a leader. If that---if that, uh, principal is saying um---‘boy I think we’re going to lose a couple of sections and, uh, she explains to me who might, uh, be losing their job and we’re just talking about things that are happening around us and that---as if that’s the most important thing then, uh, then we have managers. But we need leaders who are thinking about those ideas. And if we have ideas just like our kids have ideas then we go forward. We---we want to take those risks, we begin to go through our---a transformative experience ourselves, we become converted. That conversion of course, uh, becomes stronger and stronger as we see kids taking risks in your classroom and show that evidence of moving forward and thinking and being thoughtful. Um---but I do have a dear colleague, but I admit I have a friend that came up to me who went to another school and almost cried when she said, ‘I’m so happy to see you because I can’t talk to anybody.’ And I would just say, we have to have those conversations but I---I’m convinced that they want---that people want to have the conversations and I’ve done a couple of experiments and I go into the lunchroom and we’re chit-chatting and then I just throw out, uh, ‘what’s really worked for you in class?’ ‘Have you ever seen---has there been something that where they---just---you felt like it took off and the kids just ran with it and the learning had a life of its own and you weren’t trying to force the learning but you were just kind of following, just letting the learning have a life of its own.’ And boy there were three teachers there and one after the other talked about the wonderful experiences that they’ve had. And maybe it takes more energy to be positive but, uh, because other conversations are quite negative about some administrator, but that doesn’t do us any good. But to maybe turn the---turn the conversation to something positive. I think teachers want to share, I just don’t know if they know how to engage. Um---it’s like our students, maybe they don’t know how to talk because no one’s asked them what they think. And I think teachers can be very much isolated in that way, so. Professional growth, changing as a person, thinking deep thoughts, you need a colleague.
It’s the other side, it’s the human side, it’s the, uh---edit it. We’re better to air on getting burnt ourselves then to air on the side of offending a student. The ‘be careful with our sense of humor, with our sarcasm and, uh, be sensitive to gender issues as well.’ You know certainly racial issues but gender issues and, uh, just watch ourselves in terms of what---being funny. Because, uh, we just don’t know where that kid’s coming from and it really is the---I mean if I’m a male, as I was, uh---we were having a conversation today, I am in a sense a fath---a father figure. When I consider that, uh, only 27% of the students in my school are with their moms and dads, so where are the models of motherhood, where are the models of fatherhood. And there’s more mothers---there are more models in motherhood at home, but it’s the fatherhood. And I’ve had kids say, gosh wh---why come to school, I get yelled at home, why do I want to come to school and get yelled at in school, why would I come? We were reading in an article about how one third of the Latinos drop out. And so we read the article and the kids said, you know---one kid said, Mr. Cleveland, they could invest 618 million dollars in this problem to get Latinos from dropping out, but I got a---I got so---I got an idea and it doesn’t cost anything. If the teacher wouldn’t roll their eyes at me when I ask a question or tell me that either I wasn’t paying attention or, uh----uh----or it was a dumb question, you know. We---we can---we---we can’t take that kind of a stand. We---what we---maybe we have to get burned but I think that we will win our kids over if we are kind to them. And I have seen and been in situations where there’s been that expression of kindness to, uh, tell---you know we teach who we are and when we have faith in the learner and we do everything we can---uh---I can remember on one occasion we had a wonderful time where we---where another teacher and I presented 90 minutes of what would be like entertainment. But we involved the kids and we had live music and so many different activities. And in the end we did a chorale read---a reading and a Quaker reading, with these kids. And the teacher afterwards said, I want you to know you’re all important to me, I care for you deeply. He may have even said, ‘I love you.’ I’m trying to remember the exact words and then the kids left the classroom. And as---there were four of us that were involved in this presentation, there was some instructional aides, assistance, uh---BIAs, Bilingual Instructional Aides and, uh, the other teacher and myself---and we were just saying, ‘what was it?’ Do---you know? But that experience we had, it was so wonderful. And one lady says, ‘I’ll tell you what it was, it was the spirit that’s what it was.’ And the kids could feel confident that they are in a safe place. So let’s do---have caution and let us be kind. I mean this might be the only business where we can actually mistreat our clientele and get away with it. It’s really absurd and unheard of. We need to be able to be sure that these kids, whether they like us or not, we have to be tender to them and be sensitive to their feelings. They can have a bad day but we can’t, and uh---so any way.