Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Like Sand Slipping Through Fingers

Collier argues that when teaching multilingual children, everything comes down to one concept, "the key is the true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom." (223) She stresses the need for teachers to be accepting of the different elements students bring with them to the classroom rather than tossing them aside and teaching the rules of the dominant language. If we as educators strictly focus on the dominant language and rules, we will lose the multilingual students' attention and desire to be in the classroom. Therefore we must provide support, encouragement, and various tools of writing and speech in order for the students to develop and become a valuable member of the classroom. Not only will these strategies help the ESL students but they will ultimately benefit the other students as they we work to find ways to integrate elements of various cultures in the classroom.

Richard Rodriguez's piece echoes Collier's ideas from a more personal view point. He describes his upbringing and how he was stripped of his natural language and forced to conform to the rules and guidelines of the dominant culture. He felt saddened and longed for his youth when asked for directions by a Mexican farmworker and on other occasions when he heard the Spanish nuns and family speaking. Rodriguez's most powerful line during his excerpt for me was on page 35 where he writes, "I also needed my teachers to keep my attention from straying in class by calling out, 'Rich-heard' - their English voices slowly prying loose my ties to my other name, its three notes, 'Ri-car-do'." His identity, his culture, and his individuality was taken from him by the dominant culture. He received a full year of "special attention" and his family life was intruded upon. The fact that his perception of his father was altered because of language barriers is heart-breaking. He only saw his father come alive in his speech when he was in his natural language. The role reversals Rodriguez's family members underwent is difficult to swallow and poses the infamous question of "what can we do as educators to further support our students and their families?" By the end of his excerpt his natural language and the feeling of being comfortable at home or in public with his family had slipped through his fingers. He became embarrassed by the broken English or the improper use of words by his parents. His cultural was taken away and exchanged for the dominant ideology.


  1. I loved your use of the word "intruded" because that's exactly what the school did, intrude on the only thing that was comfortable to Richard. Like you, I was heartbroken, especially when he said, "But the special feeling of closeness at home was diminished by then. Fone was the desperate, urgent, intense feeling of beinga t home, rare was the experience of feeling myself individualized by family intimates. We remained a loving family, but one greatly changed. No longer so close; no longer bound tight by the pleasing and troubling knowledge of pur public seperateness' (36).

    Two words stood out to me in that passage: "individualized" and "public". Individualied because we work to design Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and now I wonder how individualized some are, do they take into account culture at all. My nephew is autistic and I love reading his IEP and feel proud when he reaches his goals, but he only has one language, one culture, would that be taken into account if he was bi-lingual or even multi-lingual? "Public" because school is public and often we need to act different in public, and it could mean ignoring our own culture, something at home we are proud of because it does individualize us.

  2. Lauren I love how you mention bringing the language and culture of other students to the classroom as a tool almost for others. I strongly agree that other students would benefit fromt this! It is not only important in keeping their culture alive, but to educate other students who only know one.

    The "rich-heard" name thing really brought some connections for me. Reading that dreaded first day of school roster is what it makes me think of! I feel awful when I butcher a kid's name, but I feel it's important to really get it right! Recently, I had a girl say, "That's fine. Just call me that" after constantly mispronouncing her name. I refused to let it slide because that's simply not her name! I'm trying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Try saying this....Aislinn......I'll say it out loud next week!

    I do struggle with what Jill says at the end of her post. I totally agree that at home we are individualized because we do act a certain way in public. I have some students in my lower level class that swear, are rude to others, etc. I found myself saying recently to them, "You can't act like this here in school." I'm not sure if they don't have the codes on how to act or they just don't care. It's a struggle for me. I wonder if I should not say this anymore.

  3. ".....benefit the other students as they we work to find ways to integrate elements of various cultures in the classroom."
    This brings up a great point Lauren. Neither Collier or Rodriguez mentioned this, but you are so right. I know that the students in my school are surrounded mostly by others who are similar to them in so many ways. I fear that later in life when they eventually end up in a more diverse crowds they will be like a fish out of water, and appear ignorant. If we as teachers could find ways to nurture and embrace other languages and cultures in our classes, we would be benefiting everyone of our students.