Teaching in a multi-cultural-lingual-tasking district and community, I am always challenged to find the Aria within.
Aria: The term 'aria' was frequently used in the 17th and 18th centuries for instrumental music used for dancing or variation, and modeled on vocal music.
The melody that my students create, is often a combination of a variety of language and dialect, past experiences that vary wildly, and learning styles and attention spans that are as individual as the students themselves.
As I read this week's articles, I am struck by just how many pieces we, as teachers, need to conduct and weave together to create a single symphony.
In the Collier article, we are given 7 guidelines for teaching multi-lingual learners. We discuss the merits of bilingual teaching, single-language teaching, and the blend of the two. We are asked to consider how "caregivers" are speaking to our students, and reminded not to teach to their deficiencies, but rather their strengths. We are encouraged not to challenge the validity of their first-language, while empowering their code-switching as a valuable learning technique. Ultimately we are asked to build balanced literacy based on their first-language, while developing listening, speaking, reading, and writing in academic English simultaneously.
Synthesizing all of the methods, and practices, with the varying student abilities, begins to seem like conducting an orchestra to find one sound. The question becomes, how to respect the student, and all of their individual and unique characteristics, and maintain a "one sound" that is meaningful and valuable. Sarah Hudelson offers us insight on page 233, "the goal of reading and writing is to enable students to learn about and interpret the world and reflect upon themselves in relation to people and events around them...to explain, analyze, argue about and act upon the world. If as ELL teachers, we can start a student down this road, and inspire them to find their place in this literate world, we have done a service we can be proud of, because the focus is where it should be, on the student.
The Rodriguez article took me into an entirely different kind of Aria, a sad, sad, operatic tragedy, where the loss of "home" is replaced by a spot in a new existence. This provides different opportunities for the student, but at what cost? We are introduced to our young hero of the song, as he finds himself dazed, diffident, and afraid, at the prospect of his parochial classroom forcing him into silence and dismay. As the calming assurance that I belong in public has finally taken hold (36) Ricardo has finally morphed into Rich-heard. But is this a Pyrric victory, coming at the loss of "my father, who in Spanish was quickly effusive, but has now retired into silence?"(paraphrased 37) The inevitable slide into this new reality is the result of the family, giving up their private individuality, for a public identity, because "HOW CAN YOU QUESTION THE CHURCH'S AUTHORITY?" (35)
This second article had me channeling Delpit, and my own ideas about who gets to decide what success means. If our hero and his family have assimilated to the point of "losing their home" have we simply silenced an important dialogue rather than respecting the individual? Perhaps if we had been more respectful and inclusive this tragedy could have turned out comedy instead.
Happiness is your truth.