1 overall reflections
My sense from class discussions is that I’m in the unusual case of having gone to a high school with no ESL program, yet have taken a full load of university classes without being fluent in the language of instruction. In that way, I was able to sympathize with the LEP students forced into “normal” classes at Madison. As I read about the plight of the “newcomer” students, I had a very good idea of what it meant to be in the under 5% ethnic minority at a school, as well as the relief that comes from being able to speak and socialize in my native language. It is because I have had many of the same experiences as the newcomers to Madison High that I feel so strongly in support of the newcomer school, and the reforms that the new teachers were trying to instigate.
I believe that the area that made the biggest impression on me was the degree that the new teachers were cut off from both the other teachers support, as well as their isolation from each other. Naturally I was reminded about the perpetual state of budget mismanagement, but the cold attitude that the new teachers received from the senior teachers was unbelievable. It really reminded me of the about the severity of the universally acknowledged issue regarding the detrimental effects of teachers’ isolation from their colleges. The problems expressed by the book inspired me to devise a plan to create internet tools to easily and efficiently connect teachers to each other, as well provide access as the wealth of free resources and information relevant to teachers with today’s technology. It’s both uplifting and frustrating to think that many of the problems articulated by the teachers in Madison, as well as teachers today, could be helped or even solved by resources that currently exist on the internet for free — if the teachers were only aware of their existence.
I have already recommended this book to several people, one of which was a person I met via the internet who was considering not finishing their ESL credential before going into the field. I stressed to her the importance and necessity of teachers who are qualified to teach ESL classes in California, and urged her to continue with her certification.
Now that many of the issues regarding LEP students at Madison have been laid on the table thanks to this book, I am very curious about what changes were elicited in the wake of publication. I would really like to see how the book and its findings were received by the school’s staff as well as the community of parents.
Barriers facing immigrant students (actually all students) at Madison High are numerous. Additionally they are interconnected and affect each other in a positive feedback loop. Jumping to the largest spoke in the wheel, is the problem of money. Simply put there is not enough money. Not enough money to pay for teachers, to pay for materials, to pay for site renovations even for the fluent English speakers. When faced with the additional and more specialized needs of the LEP and ESL students even more money is needed to buy even more resources. Without money there is nothing to draw new teachers into the schools, and thus no way to relieve the stress of the worn out teachers, nor ways to induce new thinking into the school.
Closely tied to the issue of money is the opinions of Americans regarding immigrants, foreigners, people of other races, teachers school, and socialistic/altruistic endeavors of any kind. In a world where money is valued above all other concepts, trying to convince anyone to part with they money is a very difficulty business; trying to convince anyone to part with their money, and feel good about the people who are receiving it is even more difficult.
We can’t forget that there is the problem of learning a second language. I studied Japanese for 4 years, and then lived there for a year, and I am still below a level of fluency which would let me attend a class and understand it to the degree that I would understand the same class taught in English. Learning English is difficult even with skilled and trained teachers, so it can only be imagined how hard it must be trying to learn from non-qualified teachers.
I think the best solution is to use the solution that worked for me: spend a year in a foreign country, and take classes in that country’s language. That’ll give a healthy appreciation for the tribulations of immigrants. Sadly, that option isn’t the most fiscally feasible, and thus we must develop other strategies.
My personal brain-child focuses on getting teachers connected to their technological resources and more importantly getting them connected to each other. From the reading I got the impression that the “young teachers’” greatest strength came from their alliance. If a group of 4 women could find as much strength and insight from each other as they did, then Imagine what a group of 100 or 10,000 teachers working with LEP students might accomplish. Personally, I think this strategy is the most viable, because it can be done at no cost to the teachers who would be benefiting from it.