Sharon Hart: Okay. Sharon M. Hart. I’m a math teacher at Roosevelt High School, and for the last 4 years – and I’ll start my 5th year, I’ve been a math teacher coach at Roosevelt High School.
Well, my interest came in college when I wanted to be um an accountant. Actually I wanted to get an MBA, and I found that the only courses I enjoyed were the math courses. So I put that aside for awhile, I knew I didn’t want to be an MBA and took some liberal studies courses because I’m interested also in language, and in fine arts, and in literature, but I missed the mathematics courses. So I decided that I would take the entry-level math exam and – to – to declare a mathematics major. And I set a certain score for myself, which was higher then the score that the school recommended. Well, I scored even higher then that so I decided, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and declare a mathematics major, I’m going to keep taking these math courses until I take the one that I just can’t handle. That will be my wall.” Well, I never hit the wall and I ended up graduating. But if you would have told me in high school that I would have ended up in mathematics, I would have said, “No way,” because I thought that I hated math in high school.
Well, when I think back when I took my freshman algebra class, I don’t really remember it. I – I know I must have gotten A’s and B’s because that’s on my transcripts and same with the next year in geometry. I managed to get A’s and B’s in geometry, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I don’t remember anything interesting about it. It just seemed like I was moving letters and numbers around. And word problems, forget it. And it wasn’t until I started to take calculus where you have to apply it, you have to apply all the number crunching where I – I saw “Oh, this really means something.” And then – it was interesting. And then all the manipulations made sense because I needed them to solve uh word problems.
Well, when I first went into teaching mathematics I was – I was hired to teach a certain program, uh, Interactive Mathematics Project, IMP, and I saw the text and that was all word problems and that required a lot of reading. And that was the first time – I guess that made me realize I have to – I have to make sure my students know how to read. And when I went for the training, that was a big eye opener because it was very project-based, very collaborative, discovery learning, and that wasn’t the way I learned math. So to even begin teaching mathematics that way, going from a math student to a math teacher, the idea that you read about it, and you talk about, and you do it with things in your hand, that was a big insight. Uh, now I think my other – another major “Ah-ha” has been in the idea of literacy of reading and mathematics, and that has taken a long time. I’ve – I’m going into my 10th year of teaching and if wasn’t just until recently that all of the research that I’ve done, the institutes that I’ve been to have really come together and its – its changed how I even look at a math textbook.
Well, the big “Ah-ha” is – is that we can learn mathematics through reading. Traditionally it’s always been done through doing problem solving and working examples, which of course that’s important, but the idea that you read about it instead of having a teacher show you how to do it has been a big insight for me. I was – I was never taught how to actually read a math text. That’s not the typically pedagogy in teaching mathematics. So to even think of teach – using that as one of my teaching strategies, to have students read a math text, that’s huge.
Well, now I have to say, I’m still in the experimental stage. So this is just some things that I’m just starting to do. Well, the first – I think the primary thing in using the textbook is for me to go through and look at the text. Be very selective about what I want to have them read, and then make sure as they’re reading the text that they can use some of the fundamental reading strategies. For example, good readers, they – they predict, you know, what’s going to happen. They – they kind of picture in their mind what’s going on. Um, they make connections to prior knowledge. They – oh, if they are having difficulty reading, you know, they identify “Oh, I don’t understand what this word means,” and then they look for context clues to fix it, well, not all math texts are that user friendly. So I guess the first step in using a text is to go through and think “Can my students read this using the skills of reading that they know how to use?”
Well, in um – you know, in using the text, if a student – when I’m not – if I am observing – if a student has difficulty with reading the text, um there are a couple things that I do. First of all, I will ask that student to just read the passage to me. And I listen to what he – to how he or she reads the passage just to see if they can decode, if they can even pronounce the words and if they can identify what the words mean. And, you know, I’ll ask them “Are there any words that you don’t understand?” So I want to see, first of all, is it a – I don’t know, I guess a physical problem of just not being able to read? Most cases that’s not it. It’s the comprehension. It’s – and it’s the translating what they read into mathematics. So for – for that, uh to see how students are dealing with the text, what I’ve done is I’ll give the students a – a problem to solve that just requires the mechanics of mathematics like “Solve an equation.” I’ll just, you know, “Put out an equation. Solve for ‘x’,” and see if the students can do it. And usually they can do it. If they – if I give them a piece of text in which that same process is implied then I can tell, “Okay, this is not a math difficulty, this is uh a reading difficulty.” Well, those are – it’s – gosh, when you have a – a reading difficulty, see then – I see – I need to in a way put aside the math content, or the math – not the content, but the math processes and then work on reading strategies. Uh, one thing that I used pretty successfully last year was I just had a checklist of things for students to do. First of all, underline or write down the target vocabulary. “What’s the words that really stand out to you?” Identify what it is that you want to find out. Identify what it is that you want to know from this problem. Identify what it is – what information you’re given. And then from there, “How do you connect your find, your want to know, and you’re given?” Now in English I think that’s called “KWL Charts.” Okay, so how do you connect all of these little charts with what it is – what process we’re learning in mathematics.
Well, in the – I say well a lot. When I had – when I want students to understand a math context, the – traditionally I’ve presented it as a type of problem solving activity. So initially they have to begin reading about something and writing about what it is they know about it. So I guess every math concept, I try to begin with some sort of reading and writing just to get the juices flowing.
Okay, let me see. (Interruption) Okay, well – you know, I’m going to give an example from calculus. I had a – I wanted the students to – I – suppose I want them to understand the difference between continuity and discontinuity of a function. Well, I have a graphic organizer that – it was called a conversation roundtable, so um what I would have the students do is – first of all, as I preview the piece of text that I want them to read, I would give them a real life situation about a function that would be continuous. You know what, I’d say for example, “If you were to draw a picture…” – see, picturing is also one of the reading skills. I’d say, “If you were to draw a picture of somebody’s growth, a child’s growth, what would it look like?” And they usually, you know, draw that, and then I – then I ask them uh to describe in writing what they notice about the graph that they drew, and inevitably they always say, “Well, it’s – it goes on or there’s no breaks or gaps,” and some might also say, “It’s continuous.” So they’ve already – that’s a little pre-reading strategy. They’ve got this intuitive idea of what continuity is. Well then on a graphic organizer, a T chart, I’ll just have them read the text and tell them, “As you read I want you to write down what it is in this text that agrees with your idea about continuity.” So I give them a task to do while they’re reading. So they’ve already – they’ve got this idea in their mind, which is a pre-reading strategy, and then they have a task to do when they’re reading. And they look – they read through the text and they jot down ideas about continuity, and I do the same thing with discontinuity. And then put it up on a T chart. This is a nice literacy graphic organizer, um examples and non-examples. So they write down examples and non-examples. And then to have them describe the characteristics of a function that’s continuous, describe the characteristics of a function that’s discontinuous. So that’s – that’s one example I can think of how I get to – I make the connections. Well, see then when we do the actual math process of – of analyzing whether or not a function is continuous or discontinuous, the actual mathematics manipulation is fairly simple. What’s difficult is for a student to recognize in a problem situation “This is the process I need to use.” So what I do is I – I guess in a way I’m working backwards, is get them to look at the text first and realize “Oh, I need a process to analyze continuity and then we develop – this is the process,” so then later on they see, “Oh, now this looks like I would have to use this process that we developed.”
I found that with bilingual students a really good pre-reading strategy and a pre-math strategy is to put up maybe a target vocabulary word that we’re going to that, the word difference is fraught with difficulties, uh especially for um ESL students. Because if you say, for example, “What’s the difference between 10 and 9?” (INAUDIBLE) Well, one is an even number, one is an odd number. That’s how they’re different. But in mathematics the difference between two numbers could be one subtracted from another. And that’s – oh, that’s the other difficulty I’ve noticed is um – away from – take away from or subtracted from, transposing which number goes in front. And usually what I – what I try to do when I see that happening is – is just run a pattern. You know, 10 – just run the pattern – they do that with division too. If you ask them “What is 12 divided by 4?” they would put the 4 first, the division sign, and then the 12, and just those attentions to details. Well, usually what I do is – is have them describe what they see happening. Describe the process. In fact that’s actually for um – uh all students. To have them describe in writing what math operations they see on the paper. If you have 7 times 3 plus 4 equals x, to have them actually write out the word seven times three, or if you ask them um 4x minus 1 equals 12. What’s ‘x’? And they give you the answer. Well then just stop and say, “Now I want you to write every little step that you did in writing,” and a lot of times that really clarifies for students um the connection between the math symbols and syntax and then what they read.
Oh, I have to say that I don’t too much bring in outside materials. (Interruption) Yes. (Interruption) Well, you know – really I think that in a way there’s – unless its out there and I’ve never heard about it, I think there’s probably a (INAUDIBLE) of supplemental materials. (Interruption) I think supplemental texts are equated with worksheets, and if you ask for math supplemental texts, basically that’s what you get are just worksheets with tons of problems on them.
Well, because it – in using a worksheet, and especially the ones that I’ve seen, there’s very little connection between the process going on on the worksheet and the situation in which they’re going to be using that process. You know, students love worksheets. You give me a worksheet, I’ll be quiet, I’ll be a good – they reward teachers for giving them worksheets because – especially in the math classrooms with most of the worksheets I’ve seen – you don’t have to do a lot of reading. You just crank out the answers –and not that that’s not a good thing. Of course it gives you practice in the process. But without understanding the relationship between concepts and processes, and facts, and skills in a problem solving context, your math is not going to take you very well – very long.
Well, in working with academic literacy, the teacher coaches, first of all, had to define it. And once we defined it, you know, and reading research about it, we realized that it’s really hit and miss in classrooms. In some classrooms it – it goes on, in some it doesn’t. Like in my math classrooms, if there were any academic literacy going on it was very hit and miss because I didn’t know enough about it to know why – I didn’t know what I was doing actually and I knew – I knew that need existed, and that’s what we all came to the conclusion. We realized this need exists but we didn’t know, first of all, how to even identify the lack of it and then how do we implement it? So I guess the – I guess that was one of our big insights. And – oh, the other thing that I noticed – that we all noticed is how – how ignorant we were of academic literacy. Gosh, you know, once you start researching something and seeing what it really is we realized we sort of had the wrong definition all these years, and – and not only us, but maybe there’s a lot of teachers out there that just didn’t know what it is. And if you don’t know what something is, how can you implement it? How can you use it?
Well, uh we realized that reading is a set of behaviors and skills that can actually be taught and learned. Um, one of our um articles that we read talked about some of the myths that teachers have. Um and I know I use to – I thought some of these things too. What is it that – in high school its too late to teach academic literacy, that its easier just for teachers to talk the text and not actually have students read them, that we want to keep students engaged and make it fun so we make sure whatever text they read is always fun and engaging and we never give them the tools and develop the skills to read challenging texts. And so when they have to read challenging text that’s dull and boring, they don’t know how to do that. And – so those were some of the issues that we had to address is that, “No, our students have to learn how to read a text as difficult as Shakespeare.” And yes, my students are going to have to read about the quadratic formula, and they might not think that’s fun and there’s not a lot of bells and whistles, but in doing this reading um process, we’ll give them the skills. I guess that was the other thing, is realizing, you know, in any (INAUDIBLE) we can actually give them the skills. Um, you know if I can talk just a little bit about reading. When you think about how we learn things, um we – usually we – we see how somebody does it and then we – we try to do it ourselves or we ask someone to show us how. Like I was thinking when I first learned how to sew, it was my Grandmother. She showed me how to sew and she set me up and I did little examples, made doll clothes, and then she helped me out, and then I just kept practicing. Sometimes I would have to rip the seams out. Well, we learn through what? Observation. We practice. Usually their scaffolded um guided practice that helps us and we practice. We make mistakes, but we fix our mistakes and then we just keep on doing it. Well, reading is a skill that actually you learn the same way. Except, when somebody reads how do you watch somebody read? Doesn’t it look like this? So how can students know what’s going on with this reading process? And a lot of students have the idea that it’s some magical thing that some kids get and some kids don’t. And so to even let students know, “No, this is a set of behaviors and skills that you can actually learn how to use in reading is – that’s huge.” That was huge for me to realize that. And so, I guess, part of our emphasis with academic literacy, especially this coming year, the teacher coaches have developed a program of academic literacy that all the 9th graders will go through for – for 1 semester, and that is making that invisible reading process visible so that they learn the skills on how to read. Not – not just read uh – it’s weird. It’s like there’s reading and reading. But do you understand what I mean? Academic reading is where you can access the content of a – of a piece of text. Sorry I went off on that, but it’s my…
You know, the idea of academic literacy and mathematics for so long seemed mutually exclusive. There’s not a tradition in our culture to – to use literacy in – in teaching mathematics. If I can just digress a little bit, there was a study done uh as a follow up to the uh – the TIMS Report, the 3rd Annual Mathematics Skills. It was done across country. Anyway, a team of video tapers – video tapers, they videotaped – oh gosh, 100 – oh, 151 8th grade mathematics classrooms – no, 231 in (Interruption)
Well, there was a follow up study to the TIMS Report, the latest TIMS Report, where a team of researchers videotaped 231 8th grade mathematics classrooms in the United States, Japan, and Germany. And what they wanted to do was just compare pedagogy and – and get a feel for the mathematics culture in those 3 countries. And they did find differences, but you know some – a similarity I found, is there was no mention of reading. There was no reading of math text as a part of the instructional strategies. So when you talk to math teachers about reading and mathematics, the general reaction is “Why? We don’t read in mathematics.” So it’s – in talking with some of my colleagues, it’s been a real revelation to explore. How do we read in mathematics? I guess numbers one, “Do we read in mathematics?” And math teachers will say, “Yes, we read word problems.” And then – to then explore the idea of “How do we help our students successfully navigate the text of a word problem?” And once again, if you talk to most math teachers they will agree “Yes, we need to develop strategies for reading word problems,” and actually most of the strategies are pretty much the same. I mean – and you plan um what you’re going to do. You examine the words. You know, you – the – find out what it is you want to know, what information are you given, what can you use to find what – what you’re given. I mean that’s pretty – that’s a pretty common assessment of how we deal with reading. But the idea of having the students read the actual math text and that’s how they’re going to learn the math content, that’s just unheard of. People don’t do that, at least not to my knowledge. Maybe there are some people doing that. But, you know what, if they’re doing that it’s very well hidden because I read about this stuff and I haven’t read about teachers that are using the math text as part of their instructional strategies. So I am working with a team of uh 4 other algebra teachers and this next year we’re going to – in fact, we’re going to – we’re meeting in 2 days to plan um lessons that will actually get the students reading the math text. And part – the reason we want to do that is – is 2-fold. Number one, we want them to, you know, learn the math concepts, but number 2, we want to strengthen their reading skills. Because if we can strengthen their reading skills then when they face those dreadful word problems they’ll be able to access what they know. You know, it’s kind of ironic when you think about it – um I don’t know if you’ve looked at very many standardized math test – tests, but if you look at the type of – of questions, the processes are usually always embedded. Only about – oh, I – I’m just guessing. Maybe about a quarter will explicitly state the process to use and about, oh, one-third – two-thirds to three-fourths – here I’m talking like a math person um will have the process and skills needed to solve the problem implied, even in a really simple, little, one-line, one sentence that students have to read. And this is the interesting thing. They could probably read every word of that sentence, understand what it means, understand what they’re asking for, and have no clue about what math process to use. Well, no wonder. Traditionally we just do process, process, process, worksheet with all the processes, and never – and we assign word problems that we – and I’m talking for me. I’ve done this in the past. I assign word problems that I’ve already shown them the example of how to do. So, once again, they’re not accessing really the text on their own. What they’re accessing is “Oh, Mrs. Hart showed us how to do this problem this way.” But they come to another process that might have a different arrangement of words, use the exact same process, and they can’t access it. So that’s – that’s the challenge that I see for math teachers and to even – to even realize that that’s our challenge is very foreign to what math teachers traditionally have been trained in.
You know, I let my students know that their work is valuable to me. And right from the beginning I will collect their papers and read what they wrote. And I – I tell the students how much their writing – their description, their justifications are important to me to see because it lets me know what’s going on. Uh, you know, I have my students take a certain type of notes – Cornell Notes – and I have the model for them and that’s one of the things right away I train them to do. (Interruption) Well, basically its just a way of taking notes to where – uh I have them draw a line about one-third of the way down the paper and so I outline “A, B, C…” – what it is we’re going to be covering, the main points of either the text or the lesson. And so they put down the main points of the lesson and then on the other side at the end of every lesson is what I call the “Review, Clues, and Questions Column,” and then I have them for each part, “A, B, C, or D,” writes at least 1 question that they could answer reading their notes. So they learn that they have to take notes – that they can go back, you know, 2 months from now and understand what they – they wrote. And then – um, the – usually when we – the class meets again, I’ll have them ask each other their review clues and questions just to double check that they’re taking good notes. But what I tell the students is – and then I’ll collect the notes once in awhile. I said, “This gives me insight. This lets me know what you know and I – if I – if I don’t know what you know, how can I help you? If I don’t – if I can’t see the process then how can I help you fill in the gaps?” And I also point out, “If you go to a tutor, this lets them know how they can better help you.” And um – you know, a little scenario is, if – if you’re on “Survivor” and, let’s say, you have to write down the notes on this and answer these questions and then a year later you’ve got to be able to go back and explain what the lecture was on, and that’s how you’re going to survive, you know, make sure that you can read it a year later. I have to really tell that to my calculus students because as we prepare for the AP exam, we have to go back to things we studied at the beginning of the year. So that’s – that’s one way I let them know it’s important. But see there again, I ask students for feedback every year, and they always like – they like the organized notes, and they like – they – they often like – well, they like things that are organized. Um, and then – I make it part of their grade uh because I value student work. I – I just don’t like the idea that student’s spend time doing a problem, writing it out, and then it doesn’t have any importance.
I think one of the uh – the frustrations between piloting new ideas is you – you have to be patient, wait for results. See, I’m waiting for this year’s standardized test results to see “How well did the students benefit?” And also, when my students were in my Algebra II class last year go onto their Trig class I – I’ll keep in contact with – I always do that, keep in contact with the next level teacher and find out how they’re doing, and um – you know, most of the time I get positive feedback that the students really are benefiting. You know, I had a personal benefit um not too long ago. What – last year toward the end of the year…
SHARON HART PART 2
Sharon Hart (part 2): Well, gee, I was – I don’t remember how old I was when we went to one particular camp – why I don’t remember – it was, I think, Lakeport up there, and it was beautiful. That’s all I remember. It was like out in the forest. I don’t know what the agricultural theme was there. I just remember that it was very beautiful. My mother would ask us to clean the tables before the men would come and I remember that I could barely reach and help her wipe them, so – and I knew she had to cook, make them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So it was quite a bit of cooking she would do for these men. Spanish – I remember we spoke a lot of Spanish, and a lot of kids think it’s very funny that I – that I’m – I tell them that I repeated kindergarten. “How could you repeat kindergarten? That’s the most easiest class in the world?” Well, I just didn’t have enough English to go onto first grade, and my mother must have sent me younger then the rest of the kids and they figured, “Well, another year of kindergarten is not going to do her any harm.” So I figured that that really helped me. Plus, I loved my kindergarten teacher. I’ll never forget her name. Her name is Mrs. King. And I thought, “Wow! How wonderful! She must be married to a king, Mr. King, you know.” And she was a very wonderful woman, elderly woman, and what would impress me the most is that she was so happy to see me every day, so I never missed a day. I just loved her, you know, and she’s always in my mind constantly, and she was just the perfect teacher for me.
I think it would be trying to express what I wanted. Some of the kids would make fun of the accent, and they would say, “Why do you talk funny?” And I would say, “Funny? What do you mean?” The concept just wasn’t there. But I think it would just be trying to make myself clear with the teachers. What I wanted, what my needs were. And it was hard for me to even speak to the teachers because all the moving, and I was very shy, and as long as they put me in the corner and they kind of forgot about me that was fine with me. Just – and I would do assignments so that I would – she would – I would please her so that she wouldn’t bring my attention to everybody else, and that was just fine with me. Because as soon as you felt comfortable in one school it was time to move to a next one and that was the hardest part for me. Finally when we settled in Gilroy, I went to a junior high there and then I finished the high school. The high school – just when I went into high school, just about all my friends – well, my girlfriends, were married. I couldn’t figure out, “Why would you want to get married at such a young age?” And they had kids. So I was kind of a loner in high school. I had a few friends here, but nobody where I could really hang around with. I had other interests, you know, big ideas. And I went to my counselor, and I mean to me he was like the almighty. “He knows everything. He’s going to set me on the right course.” But back then women were looked at, “Well, you’re a woman and your future will probably be marriage and have children,” so when I expressed my interest I was interested in drafting or microbiology. And drafting was out of the question because they gave those classes only to boys. Biology, well, that was only for the kids who were going to college. So I was like, “Okay, then that means that I’m not going to college.” But he said, “Well, here, let me help you. I’ll give you the classes you need.” So I took bookkeeping, record keeping, accounting for 4 years. I took cooking for 4 years. I took art for 4 years, so – but I figured, “Well, he knows what’s best for me and this is going to really help me in the long run and so I never complained until – I mean, back then you figure – well, you have so high – well, in our culture we have this high respect for educational, you know, staff members, so I never questioned them and said, “Well, you know I – well, I’m not going to be happy with these classes but I’ll take them because you recommended them. You are my counselor and who am I to say otherwise.”
Yes, yes. (Interruption) I never – no, now. Now I think about it and I get angry. And so when my daughter went to high school and I said, “If there’s a class you want and they give you the run around, no. You ask for that class. You tell them, ‘No, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you I want this class.’ And if it gets to the point where I have to come in and talk to them, you let me know.” Because I wanted her to take, you know, her – I wanted her to be part of herself and take action for herself, an independent woman,
you know, liberation rights and all that. And yes, she did. She had to fight for her class, and I was kind of afraid of that class because I knew the teacher and I said, “You’re going to have to hang onto his every word otherwise you’ll flunk the class.” And I think she just passed her with a ‘D’ because I was in one of his classes and so I wouldn’t be embarrassed, so she just barely passed it, but I was proud of her. I was proud of her for asking to have that class. “I demand it. I want it. I need it." (Interruption) This was
Chemistry. (Interruption) Yes, yes. Because it was a college required (INAUDIBLE) class and so – she knew she needed it and they saw her, and they said, “Well, she’ll probably get married and have kids,” you know. But no, she knew what she wanted and she went after it and got it, and I wish that I were like that, or that my mother had implemented that in me when I was at her age. So I’m very proud of her. Very proud of her.
’72. (Interruption) Well, you – now that I think about it, not even the teachers would ask me “What are – what is your future? What do you see yourself in the future?” I just felt like I was part of a group, you know, where “Just get them though high school and that’s it, but don’t ask any questions.” I didn’t find high school hard at all. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t very happy in high school and I did miss quite a lot, but I was able to recuperate when I went back in there. And I’d say, “Oh, you’ve only done this and oh, sure, I’ll catch up right away.” So I really didn’t see my potential. I just thought, “Oh, that’s easy. I can pick it up, you know, and carry on.” And it’s disappointing that the teachers didn’t see it and tell me, “You know what? I know there must be a problem at home or what’s going on? You miss a lot of school but you are able to catch up, and that tells me you’re smart.” And I never heard that word either. “You’re smart. There’s a lot of potential in you.” Because I figured they saw me – myself as a Mexican woman, a young woman, who’s bound to just follow her traditions and get married, and have 10 kids, and which I only ended up having one. (Interruption) Yes.
To me it’s like going to the moon, when man even thought about going to the moon, “Oh, that’s an impossibility,” and they did it, and they came back. So to me this is big. It’s very big. I got the job with the school district by accident and its like it was my true calling, and unfortunately it came later in life. I’ve been like a Jackie instead of a Jack – a Jackie of all trades. I’ve done dental assisting. I took my x-ray test and I have the x-ray license. I worked for a company and I was purchasing agent for that company. I was going up the corporate ladder and I was going to be assistant manager for that company when everything just turned around and we made this last move, which was to the valley. And – otherwise, I don’t know, maybe I would have stayed there. But I – when I got this job I started at the elementary level and it was just so much fun. And you get this – I don’t know what you call it. I would say like a big high, an ultimate high, when you’re helping a student and they just look at you and their little eyes sparkle and they say, “Oh, I get it.” And its just like, “Oh, wow…” – its like, “I just created a miracle here.” It’s just this energy that comes with you and its like “I want to do it again, and do it again, you know.” And I started off as an ESL instructor there, and – I thought it was kind of funny because they say, “Well, here’s the book, teach.” And I’m like, “Okay, I guess I’ll just do my own thing.” And basically that’s what I did and they were very impressed. They liked my method of working with children, and I’m patient. Especially with little ones you have to. And so that really worked out fine until my daughter went to high school and there was a necessity for me to move up to help her and guide her at the high school level. There were other things going on and that opening just happened at that time. And I figured the Lord said, “It’s time for you to make a change and go to the high school.” And so I went to the high school in ’91 and I’ve been there ever since, and its like um – it’s a whole new world, but you see the need is so great. These are young men and women that are going off to the world and they have no idea how it is out there. And you try – you try and make that clear to them and they still don’t see it and you just hope for the best. But when they do see it and they come back, and they come back, and they come back, and they come and see you and they say, “Thank you. Thank you.” And you’re like, “For what?” “Oh, thank you just for opening my eyes,” you know. “If it weren’t for you who took the time to talk to me I wouldn’t be a teacher. I wouldn’t be an engineer.” And I’m like, “You know, if I had somebody back then, you know, to tell me that…” – at – at – “for me you have potential,” you know, I don’t know what… – you know, I wouldn’t be talking here to you obviously. But it is very rewarding when they come back and they say, “Thank you,” you know.
At my work site or here? (Interruption) Oh, they still have a little bit ways to go. My main concern right now is Special Ed, for these kids who come in with no English and – because I can speak with them and I can more or less figure out where they’re at, you can tell there’s a learning problem, but because we have no bilingual help for the Special Ed, you have to wait until they learn English to go into this program. By then it’s already too late. You just hope for the best and teach them their survival skills, and hope that that will help them out wherever they go, but otherwise they do not. They eventually drop out because they cannot cope with the requirements that is – that’s needed to graduate, and that’s the hardest part for me to see. And they say, “Well, it’s the language. It’s the language.” Well, I’ve done an analysis, my own analysis in the – in their language, and I can tell you that its not – it’s not going anywhere, but because I don’t have that degree, you know, I feel powerless, and it’s frustrating to see that. But eventually I hope that in the future that will change otherwise the kids – they seem to emerge into classes fairly easy. We have the low achievers, we have the high achievers. We have a girl that we are very proud of right now. She came in with no English, a very high achiever, and now she has an internship for NASA up here in Mountain View after she graduated. So I was like, “Wow! She can do it, others can do it too.” They just need that person to say, “Miho, move on. You can do it,” you know.
Oh, it’s giving me a lot of confidence. I feel that it’s giving me a solid foundation to keep going on. Not having these classes when I was in high school and being so far – well, all these years that I’ve – that I haven’t been in school, it’s a wonder that I’ve done – what I have done so far, but I would say that working at the high school has helped me a lot because you are there as a supplement person for these kids, so you have to be there during lecture time. You have to be there during the instruction time. So I’m just – I’m learning just as they are, so that way I can help them, but at the meantime I’m helping myself. But, oh, this program, it’s going to do wonders. I know its going to make a bigger difference. It’s going to give me that – for me to have more confidence in myself that I can do it. And when I see the progress that I’m doing and the approval from Bobby, I think, “Oh, wow, I think I’m going to make it.”
The first day was really intense. They – I felt like I was being bombarded with too much information and I thought, “Oh, no. I’m in the wrong place. I’m never going to make. Two weeks? That’s like – oh, no, no, no,” but she kind of slowed down the next day. And I think what she did was give us the whole picture of what we were going to do for the next 2 weeks. And little by little with her instructions, it’s an eye opener now. I see what she was trying to do. I really liked how she was teaching us how to get the main idea, the subject matter in a whole article, whether it be a simple article, a book, you know, a chapter, and get your ideas off of that. So that’s really going to help me a lot. I really needed to really, um, build up my note taking skills. I tend to write too much. I’m afraid of leaving anything out that I really should put in there, but she has simplified it to the point where it’s just easier to make it much clearer also. You don’t have this – these notes where its – you’re rewriting the novel or rewriting the article. You’re just putting the main points, things that need to come across, and not be boggled down by other information that you really don’t need. So I see a tremendous change in myself and I really like what she’s doing there, and I can see the other change in the other women in there and they’re just – it – you can see it. It’s just building your confidence in – in yourself, and you say, “Wow, you know, this is really going to help. I love it.”
Oh, yes. (Interruption) I think it’s easier for me to express myself in written – the written language. I still have struggle with certain words with an accent, and the Mexican comes out eventually, you know, and I need to concentrate on the certain blends of the words. And like I said, helping at the high school has really helped me a lot. And I can tell a difference with other people who are – they speak English perfectly, but the accent is still there. I’ve had these years to kind of – not that I want to get rid of it, it’s just that it’s – you get Americanized and it eventually just flows out. I’m proud of the Spanish that I speak being born and raised in California, but I learned – a lot of my Spanish came from my older brothers and sisters who came from Mexico. They weren’t born and raised here. They’re older, and when they immigrated to the United States, that helped me to – to build up my Spanish. So when I do speak to adults and they’ll say, “Well, what part of Mexico are you from?” And I’m like, “Wow! No, I’m not from Mexico. I’m from California.” “Wow, really?” They’re surprised, you know, and – because I don’t speak the Spanish that – of – from California. Um, I forget the terminology for it, but (Interruption) Yes, yes. But we try to make English words into the Spanish words, and uh – so I try to move – remove that out of my vocabulary so I won’t give myself away.
You know, we have discussed that quite a bit and I – I feel sometimes that I’m torn between 2 worlds. Because of my background I’m expected to be a certain way, but because I was born here I’m also expected to be a certain way. I’ll get static from the Hispanic culture where it’s like “You should know the background. You should know how to make the models. You should know how to – you know, all the ethnic foods. I don’t. It went with my mother. You know, I was just – I wasn’t interested in that so it went with her. So they look at – they look down at you if you don’t do that, you know, or – or if you know the terminology of certain things, but then I’m – on the American side is “Well, yes, but you born here, and you were raised here, and you are more American then anything else,” and so I use it to my advantage. I’m American when I need to be and I’m Hispanic when I need to be so I can work with my kids. You know, it helps out with my kids. I know the background. The Spanish, “Oh, yes, the (speaks Spanish),” or things like that and you see their little eyes – eyes, they bright up, and they want to talk to you more and you’re the person to talk to. Then I go over to the American side, “Oh, yeah, I know east L.A.” You know, you give them the slang and so that also brings them to me, so I use – I kind of balance both. But personally – it’s funny because they say, “Well, what are you?” “I’m me. That’s it. I’m me. I can’t explain it. It’s just, I’m me.”
Probably I would say the one that made the impact is what Bobby sees as the speed reading and getting the main idea out of everything. Where you feel pressure to um speed read if you have many classes and you will have many subjects and you can’t spend too much time in each one. And I would say that would be the most valuable to me. My skills are getting sharper while I’m being here because I can see a little bit of what she’s teaching now is what – we use a little bit at the high school. I wish we could use more because I can see that some of these kids are not ready when they come to college, and if they had some type of this program, this would help them out tremendously, I know. Plus, I would learn it also while I was in high school. But, yes, I plan to use this when I go back. And I’m going to say, “Look, this is a better way to do this. Try it. If you like it, it’s our little secret, you know.” Or, you know, I can, you know, share this material with a teacher, particularly in English, or a literature class, a history class, and say, “You know, have you heard about this, you know, maybe you want to use this, and it’s just a suggestion from little me. You know, I’m not telling you to do it, you know.” And some teachers are really um – they love it. They love it because they don’t have that time to go to different seminars like we do. And so when we bring something in like that, “Oh, that’s a good idea. Do you mind if I borrow it?” And I love that. “Sure, go ahead. Use it.” So I plan to use this when I go back. Definitely, oh, yes, especially with the underachievers. I’m going to say, “Look, I’m going to give you a little secret here. Try to get one idea. What is the whole thing about?” Because they’re trying to concentrate on everything and plus, they’re learning their reading – their – well, their learning skills are not high, reading skills are really minimal, but I say, “Try and see if you get the whole idea and if you can get me that we’ll work from there, one step at a time.” So yes, definitely, I’m using this when I go back, which is next week.
I like the way we have our discussions and I find out that a lot of us have the same feelings or have gone through the same experiences. I feel like that, uh, I’m one of the oldest in there and I’ve gone through a lot, and so they kind of look up to you. And being in this business for – I mean, since ’84, I – I’ve just about seen it all and done it all, and – and um, I figure, “Well, my experience speaks for me. Why don’t you just give me the credentials? I could start right away.” (Interruption) Yes. And they tell me I’m working in reverse because I’ve done the (INAUDIBLE) and I’ve passed the (INAUDIBLE). I just have to get the (INAUDIBLE). (Interruption) Yes. I’m going to be – I would like to be a bilingual math teacher and I’ve already told the students, you know, “See all these empty desks? That would be Mr. Gonzalez, Mr. Hernandez, or Mrs. Martinez,” you know, because I would make them come to the classroom and see how their kids are doing. “Please come.” I would invite them, you know, or especially if I’m having problems with somebody and they’re “Oh, no, my Ester. You wouldn’t do that.” Oh, just wait. Just wait. “Oh, no, that would be too mean.” “Well, then we would have no problem would we.” (Interruption) Well, you know, actually it did help me after so many years because I was, uh, a club advisor and I had a membership like 120 kids, so to keep tabs on each one, who did what, and who contributed what, finally it paid off. (Interruption) Yes. (Interruption) Well, thank you. I think I talked too much.