Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bilingual field experience #1

My first visit was to a fourth grade class. When I entered the room I immediately noticed that everything was labeled in Spanish. You know how teachers put up index cards all around the room to identify “clock”, “door”, “East”, “desk”, etc. Well, this teacher had put up Spanish cards all over the room.

Secondly, I noticed that all the supplemental material in the room was in Spanish. So, when a student finished an assignment early or had free time, the material he would pick up would be in Spanish, be it a book or a magazine or a puzzle.

The teacher spoke English well, though there was a hint of an accent. The teacher’s aide spoke only Spanish.

(I want to interject here that the school district took annual trips to Mexico to recruit teachers. On at least one occasion they went to Spain. Teachers they recruited in foreign countries were given help with visas and relocation. They were also granted a two year grace period to get certified. They were required to get the TB test, but otherwise could teach without a certificate. I suggested to HR that they take a recruiting trip to BYU. There they would find students with fluency in whatever language they wanted and, considering Utah’s low teacher pay scale, some willing candidates to fill the positions. I was told that they sent information to BYU but weren’t interested in sending out a recruiter. I guess Mexico City makes for a better junket than Provo!)

Now, back to my visit. I was in the class for a couple of hours and most of the lesson was conducted in English, though I got the distinct impression that she was losing most of the group. I think the show was for me. In fact, one of the kids close by whispered to his classmate in Spanish, “Why so much English today?”

I speak Spanish but I wasn’t about to let the teacher know that.

The goal of transitional bilingual education is to preserve the native language and culture first, then add English to it. As for teaching American culture, that is off limits. We would be forcing our belief system on other groups and we are not imperialists. Whenever I talk to school teachers about this, I get very frustrated. They don’t get the distinction between invading another country and forcing them to follow our ways and expecting people to follow our customs in our country. Like I say, bilingual education thwarts assimilation.

Back to preserving the native language, the kids are being taught the parts of a flower in Spanish first, then in English. Now, they don’t know the parts of the flower in any language, so we teach them the terminology in their own tongue first, then help them translate the information into English. That doesn’t seem right to me. No wonder it takes 4-5 years!

So, this experience was a dog-and-pony show set up for my benefit. I wasn’t buying it. The teacher was focused on Spanish, the room was set up for Spanish, and the aide could not help model the English language because she hadn’t learned it. And she never would by sitting in a class like that. It was a waste of taxpayer money.

1 comment:

  1. That was a really interesting experience. I had no idea you had visited classrooms during your term in the school board. It helps as a base for your ranting because you've seen it first hand. I'm glad that experience came in handy for your time now getting the word out on illegal aliens (and they really are invading). Someone should write a book about you; your life story is very interesting.