Monday, November 2, 2015

Reflection on "Multilingual Children" and "Aria"

In reading Richard Rodriguez' "Aria" and Collier's "Teaching Multilingual Children," and their views on teaching bi- and multilingual students, it is hard not to draw comparisons to our reading from Lisa Delpit earlier in the semester. There is a theme of the language of power and needing to teach it to those who don't know it. But as Rodriguez implies, at what cost do we teach this?

The piece from Rodriguez really resonated with me. He talked about his own experience in a Catholic school and having the nuns come to his home and tell his parents to speak more English around their children so that they could be successful in school. Rodriguez goes on to describe how his family dynamic changed because the children stopped using Spanish - his mother became less involved and his father became effectively silent when English was being spoken.

A recurring theme in the piece was public and private identity. The first use of this is fairly early on in the text. "Because I wrongly imagined that English was intrinsically a public language and Spanish was an intrinsically private one, I easily noted the difference between classroom language and the language at home." The first thought that came to mind was 'why do they have to be so separate?' I think its important to show that both languages have value. There are plenty of schools across the country that have a fully bilingual program. This also leads into the Collier reading, in which she discusses the importance of validating the students language at home and the one spoken at school.

Collier lists 7 guidelines for educators of students who speak another language at home. The second guideline is one I thought was particularly important.
Do not think of yourself as a 'remedial' teacher expected to correct so-called 'deficiencies' of your students.
I think this is interesting because I've heard teachers of ELL students talk this way by saying things like a child is "low." I don't know if saying that the student has "learning gaps" would be any better, but I think it's more accurate to say the latter because it addresses the need to teach a specific skill or set of words.

Though I don't currently have any students who qualify for ELL services, I have a few who speak a different language at home. I wonder how, if at all their experiences mirror Richard Rodriguez'. One student speaks very good English, but once in a while, he will forget a word or say the wrong one and say something about his "#ELLprobs." I would like to know what kind of familiarity his family has with English and how often English and arabic are spoken at home.


  1. I also immediately thought of Lisa Delpit as I read this week's readings. I like your explanation of "learning gaps" because it addresses the learning and not the person.

  2. It is definitely interesting to figure out what kind of interactions go on at home. A lot of students speak only Spanish, and they are typically the ones who struggle in ELA and Science, even if they speak fluent English, because they cannot read written English well enough. This translates to difficulties on math word problems as well. If students were to speak more English at home, or read more English, they could continue to speak Spanish and still improve within the classroom walls.