Richard Rodriguez and Virginia Collier both examine bilingual education in America. However, they describe the issue using very different approaches. Rodriguez gives a personalized account of his experience with bilingual education and the effects it has on him as in individual; while Collier provides guidelines for educators on how to effectively teach multilingual students English.
In “Aria” Rodriguez describes his struggle to learn English as a Spanish speaking child. He describes his feelings as though English was a public language, while Spanish was more private. He discusses his feeling of the loss of closeness with his family as he becomes more confident in his English. He describes how as the children became more fluent in English, the dialogue between parents and children lessened. Rodriguez describes the bitter sweetness as he becomes fluent in English and experiences “public success.” He explains, “ I would have been happier about my public success had I not sometimes recalled what it had been like earlier, when my family had conveyed its intimacy through a set of conveniently private sounds.” He feels that learning English and becoming assimilated into public society, despite its drawbacks, was a necessity. Rodriguez concludes that the loss of his private identity by learning English and becoming assimilated into public society allowed for him to achieve his public individuality. Rodriguez’s account of his experiences with learning English was powerful to me because it was told from his point of view as a child. I felt I gained a better understand of his (and most likely many ESL students) of the complicated aspects of learning English as a second language.
In “Teaching Multilingual Children,” Collier examines the challenges bilingual teachers face. Collier stresses the importance of an appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values the students bring to the classroom. She provides guidelines that serve to give teachers a better understanding of how to effectively teach English to second language learners. The guidelines are as follows:
1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so called “deficiencies” of your students.
3. Don’t teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language.
4. Teach the standard form of English and students’ home language together with and appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom.
5. Do not forbid students from code-switching in the classroom. Understand the functions code-switching serves.
6. Provide literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for ELL.
7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
I felt that Collier provides an excellent guide for teachers that are faced with the challenge of not only teaching English, but also teaching literacy skills as well. She gives rationale behind each guideline and explains how and why to teach that way explicitly. If I was going to teach a student English as a second language I would certainly refer to her guidelines!
After reading these articles, I was able to make some connections to other authors and readings from the course. Both articles relate to Delpit and her concept of the “culture of power.” Ultimately students are learning English because it is the language of those in power. I feel as though Deplit would agree with Collier and Rodriguez that students should be taught English in order to be successful in our society. Deplit does agree with Collier that teachers should value and appreciate the students own language and culture, and also agrees that students should be taught the values of the “culture of power” in order to be successful in society today. Deplit explains, “To imply to children or adults…that it doesn’t matter how you talk or how you write is to ensure their ultimate failure. I prefer to be honest with my students. I tell them that their language and cultural style is unique and wonderful but there is a political power game being played, and if they want to be in on that game there are certain games they too must play” (The Silenced Dialogue, 40). While they agree in some ways, Collier has a more idyllic perspective on the issue of education children of color; she feels that, “The key is the true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom.” Delpit takes a somewhat of a harsher standpoint than Collier. Deplit states, “They [colleagues] seem to believe that if we accept and encourage diversity within classrooms of children, then diversity will automatically be accepted at gate keeping points.” While they have somewhat different ways of thinking, I feel as though Collier, Rodriguez, and Deplit do agree on the aspect that students need to be taught the values (for example, the English language) of the “culture of power” in order to be successful within it.
Another connection I was able to make was between Collier and Finn. Two of the seven of Collier’s guidelines focus on literacy. While they examine different issues surrounding literacy, both Collier and Finn feel as though students of all ethnicities and classes need to be taught the importance of literacy. In “Literacy with an Attitude,” Finn explains the power of literacy. He states, “...literacy and school knowledge could be a potent weapon in their [working class] struggle for a better deal…” (“Literacy with an Attitude, xii). While Collier looks at ELL students and Finn at working class, the both send the message that literacy is power. Collier explains that ELL students need literacy to be successful in society. She states, “Many transitional or ELL programs do not emphasize the backbone of school success, academic literacy. On the false premise that English oral competence is all an immigrant child needs to compete with native English speaking peers, too many ESL or ELL programs fail to provide a literacy curriculum for their unique needs. This curricular cheats immigrant students, since literacy is indispensable for lifelong success.” While they are discussing of different groups of students, Finn and Collier feel as though the students not only need to be shown the importance of literacy, but need to be taught it in an empowering way, so they can achieve powerful literacy.