Hyperlinking Virginia Collier’s Teaching Multilingual Children to Aubree Potter’s First Hand Experience As A Bilingual Teacher
The key point Collier makes in her piece can be found in her second paragraph: “one must affirm the cultural values of both home and school.” (pg. 222) It is a bilingual teacher’s responsibility to teach both languages, showing how to use both effectively both in the classroom and in the outside world. In order to do this, the dialects and cultures must be respected. The teacher must be able to recognize the different dialects so that they can be aware of when the student is using in in their second language. It is then that they must teach them to change the way they approach the second language, not by telling them that they are wrong but by slowing down your diction in order to follow their speed of learning, re-phrase in another way what they have just said and communicate with them the differences and why they are important to distinguish. Whew! That’s a lot of work!
I kept thinking throughout this piece that there was a lot expected of the teacher. The teacher is responsible for wearing many linguistic hats. They have to be very careful about how they approach their student’s ways of learning to read, write and communicate in both languages because social and emotional factors are embedded in the results. Another important point Collier makes is how the student’s conversation with their second language does not prove how well they understand the fundamentals of the language. A great way to test their comprehension of both is through her seventh guideline. By using a dialogue journal, the student can listen to oral diction from the teacher or read a piece and then write about it to show they understand what their teacher said or what they read. Once they write, they can then share the piece with their class, which will show how well the grasp communicating the language.
Still, I felt the best way to not feel overwhelmed by what Collier was saying was to find a teacher with first-hand experience. When Collier talks about code-switching, she mentions how in conversation, it is used as a way of bonding with other students and their teacher. Aubree Potter, a teacher from a diverse elementary school shows that this is exactly what happens in a classroom when she discusses how her student’s relationships bloom with one another when they can communicate in each other’s language. After reading buddies, she asks the students about their buddy. The student then mentions things they have in common as well as differences, both are important to recognize but the similarities are what shows the student that although they are different, they can still understand one another on some level. The problem she faces is how she notices that outside of school, the student isn’t as successful communicating. So how do you extend what you teach in the classroom to the student’s outside world? Doesn’t Collier say to us that we will, as long as we follow the guidelines she lays out for us?
Unrelieved, I researched a bit more. I only know one language, how could I handle teaching bilingual students? I wanted to know the difference between a bilingual and ESL classroom. In an ESL classroom, the same teacher is teaching all day. In the Bilingual classroom, the teacher only has the class for a portion of the day. I can’t even imagine that our school system even has ESL classrooms and so we are left with bilingual students who only feel understood a part of the day. Potter has her students all day, every day but points out how rare that is and how lucky she and the students are because they do. In a note on the bottom of page 223, Collier says that in 1998, California passed a law which allows for only 180 days of bilingual education. This means out of the 2,240 days a student attends school (K-12), they are only allowed to fully understand what they are taught 8% of the time throughout their education. A scary statistic! What’s worse is that other states have followed suit.
From Collier and Potter’s pieces, I have found that as long as the teacher shows respect for both languages of the student, avoiding treating either like a foreign language, the student won’t feel as though one language is more important than the other. This keeps their self-identity intact both at home and in school. I found these tips, which focus on teaching bilingual students instead of the ones hyperlinked above, which provides tips on how to be a bilingual teacher. These tips are pretty straightforward and make sense to use in the classroom with or without bilingual students. Be familiar with their languages, dialects and cultures (which Collier also mentions). Allow the students to talk about their languages. Let the student know that their first language is just as important as their second. Support them by staying positive. Most of all treat all the students equally. I can do that and I will do that.
Discussion Points for Class:With only 180 of bilingual education, how is a bilingual student supposed to comprehend their social and cultural languages? This keeps the students from understanding the difference of both languages and how to use each one properly. In teaching the student when to use their cultural dialect, how do we as teacher, convey to them that it is wrong to use with English without saying that it’s wrong, even with using the guidelines and techniques Collier mentioned, which I talked about in my opening paragraph. I still don’t believe that the student won’t feel as though they are wrong.