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As a result of the crisis experienced by the Spanish Immersion Program in spring 2008, the district determined the need for a group of stakeholder to review the various points of view on the problems experienced by the program, students, parents and teachers, and to recommend to the Superintendent measures to take to successfully reinstate the middle school program in the 2009-2010 school year. The Program Review group was comprised of district officials (Ms. Fisher, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education; Mr. Bell, Director of Secondary Education and Supervisor of World Language Education), site administrators (Mr. Worth, Midville Middle School Principal; a middle school Assistant Principal; Mr. Foster, Midville Elementary School Principal; Mr. Sanchez, World Language Department Administrator, Midville Middle School; Mr. Mann, World Language Department Administrator, Midville High School), teachers (two Lead Spanish Immersion teachers; two World Language teachers, Mr.
Sanchez and Mr. Mann), three Spanish Immersion parents, and two university consultants. The group began their meetings in September 2008 with two meetings of a limited group of district personnel (minus all parents, Spanish Immersion elementary teachers and university consultants) to set the agenda for the larger group meetings which began in late October. The aim of the group was to produce a policy statement recommending reinstatement and changes in the program which needed to be made for the success of that reinstatement. All the meetings took place in district offices, with the larger group meetings being held in the Boardroom (Appendix D).
Culminating activity: Curriculum development meeting.
In May 2009, at the end of my interview with Ms. Fisher, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, I discovered that she had worked closely with Ms. Gomez, 5th grade Spanish Immersion teacher, in the development of a curricular plan for the 6th grade class that was to be reinstated in fall 2009. I received permission to attend that meeting, which was led by Ms. Gomez, in which two middle school teachers, Ms. Sanchez, World Language teacher and Department Administrator, and Ms. Morelli, Spanish Immersion and World Language teacher, would be introduced to the proposed model for the 6th grade Spanish Immersion class. While the Program Review group had produced a policy document for the Superintendent outlining their recommendations for the future of the program, it did not provide any specific suggestions for curriculum for the reinstated courses. I saw this meeting as an opportunity to observe the move from the de jure language policy proposed by the group, to the development of de facto language policy represented by the values enacted through possible curricular choices. The approximately 90-minute meeting took place after school at Midville Middle School in Ms. Morelli’s classroom.
Midville Elementary Spanish Immersion Program At Midville Elementary School, study participants included the school principal, Mr.
Foster, two teachers who taught 5th grade Spanish Immersion, and 28 5th grade Spanish Immersion students. Fifth graders in the Spanish Immersion program during the 2008-09 school year were members of two different classes, one consisting of only 5th graders, the other made up of both 4th and 5th graders. During this school year, Ms. Gomez taught the single-grade class of 18 students, while Ms. Flores taught the 4th/5th combination class, which included 10 fifth graders. Of those 28 fifth grade students, 23, 14 girls and 9 boys, participated in the El Molino trip in January-February 2009.
Midville Elementary principal, Mr. Foster.
Midville Elementary’s principal, Bill Foster, had served there for 15 years, since before the Spanish Immersion program relocated to his school in 1997. He had been an enthusiastic endorser of the Spanish Immersion program, and himself a parent of a former Midville Spanish Immersion student. He was not a Spanish speaker, though he had picked up some elementary Spanish through his contact with teachers, students and parents over his years as principal. I wanted to interview him in relation to his role as principal teacher at Midville Elementary, as well as his participation in the middle school Program Review in fall 2008, as one of the participants who represented the beliefs and ideologies of the Spanish Immersion program and TWI education.
Focal 5th grade teacher, Ms. Gomez.
Since the fifth grade class in 2008-2009 was divided between two teachers, I had to choose which class I would observe most frequently, and with which teacher I would conduct a formal interview. Since Ms. Gomez had been at Midville Elementary longer than Ms. Flores, taught the class with the most fifth graders in it, and had been recommended to me by more district officials for her professionalism and pedagogy, I chose to work most closely with her and her class. I did observe one class session in Ms.
Flores’s class, as I wanted to observe a lesson in a social studies unit, and she and I had some informal conversations during my observations at El Molino. But the majority of the teachers’ perspective on the elementary Spanish Immersion program, the middle school and its problems, and TWI pedagogy came from Ms. Gomez.
Veronica Gomez had been teaching elementary school since 1996, and had taught in a variety of schools, including in transitional bilingual programs, and in other fullschool TWI programs in Northern California. She began teaching after completing her undergraduate degree in Psychology at a Northern California university and her California teaching credential at one in Southern California. Her teaching experience covered 2nd through 5th grade classes, and she had taught 5th grade at her other Spanish Immersion school as well. She had taught at Midville Elementary in the Spanish Immersion program since 2002, and, therefore, would be considered a veteran teacher.
While she was not a Lead Teacher at the time of the study, she was involved in providing professional development at one of the local universities through the local affiliate of the National Writing Project, to teachers in English and Spanish dominant schools.
A Southern California native, she grew up in an English dominant home, but to bilingual parents. Her parents had felt it would be better for her to learn English, so spoke it exclusively at home. Her father, whose parents had emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, grew up in Southern California, in a Spanish dominant home, and spoke English outside of it. Her mother came from Belen, New Mexico, where her extended family continues to speak the Spanish dialect of the area, one that is close to Castillian Spanish.
She emphasized the way Spanish speakers in that area “start their sentences in one language and finish them in the other” (Email communication, 12/10/10). Her own parents did introduce Spanish idioms into everyday conversation, engaging in one form of codeswitching.
Ms. Gomez has continued to sing with a local cover band in her free time, and commented that she has regularly sung with younger Spanish Immersion students to teach language and concepts important to the content areas she taught. She reported feeling very tolerant toward classroom noise as a function of student communication, as long as the talk happened in Spanish.
Class members, focal students.
During the course of my study, I had contact with 28 5th grade students in the two classrooms, 23 of whom attended the camp at El Molino. Ms. Gomez’s 18 students included eight boys and ten girls. I observed them in the classroom as a whole during my early observations, but wanted to focus on a smaller group of students during the camp experience and afterwards. I arrived at a final group of students through the process of choosing which talleres I would participate in at the camp, which I will describe fully in the following section on Data Collection. I aimed at choosing a total of 4-6 focal students, three boys and three girls. In the end, I focused on seven total, four of whom were members of Ms. Gomez’s class and two who were in Ms. Flores’s class. Each of these students was in at least one of the talleres I observed at El Molino, some in two. I also aimed at choosing focal students from both English dominant and Spanish dominant or bilingual families. The students, their teachers, gender, languages, ethnicity or nationality, and talleres attended are summarized in Table 2.1 below Table 2.1: Fifth Grade Focal Students
After the camp, during my later classroom observations, I noted Ms. Gomez’s students in my fieldnotes, and collected written work from their teachers. While I was only able to collect the journals Emilia and Gustavo kept at El Molino, I had access to more written work for Ms. Gomez’s students.
Midville High School Spanish Language AP Focal teacher and World Language department administrator, Mr. Mann.
While two teachers were assigned to teach Spanish 4AP in 2008-2009, I chose to include Mr. Douglas Mann in the study because of his role as a Department Administrator (DA, similar to a Chair) and as a member of the middle school Program Review group. As DA, Mr. Mann was Lead Teacher for all World Language teachers at Midville High School. In addition, he had served in past years as DA at Midville Middle School for the World Language department, including all the Spanish Immersion classes.
Mr. Mann was a veteran Spanish Language AP teacher, who had participated in several AP teacher-training events in off-campus venues, and had served several years as a reader for the essay portions of the AP scoring process. At the time of the study, Mr. Mann had been teaching at Midville High School for 12 years, where he had been assigned Spanish classes ranging from Level 1 to 4 AP, as well as German 1 and 2, something he no longer taught as the district had limited the few German classes it taught to a different high school. He had previously taught 7th and 8th grade Spanish for four years at Midville Middle School.
From an English monolingual family, Mr. Mann began to learn Spanish as a second language during his years at a high school in a neighboring Northern California community, and “took to it like a duck to water” (Interview, 6/19/09). During those high school years, Mr. Mann immersed himself in reading, writing, and listening to Spanish as he wrote to pen pals, read the newspaper, watched television, and participated in a homestay exchange in Mexico. During his junior year, when he might have been in an AP course himself, because he was participating in his Mexico exchange experience, his teacher advised him to skip over Spanish Language AP and go directly to Spanish Literature AP instead. During his senior year, he took both exams and passed them. As a result, when he entered a Northern California university, clearly with an eye to majoring in Spanish, he was placed in a third year Spanish class, which was being taught in English. Describing himself as having been a bit “snotty,” he challenged his teacher in Spanish, asking why a third year class should be taught in English. Feeling that he didn’t fit in, but having been accommodated by his Spanish professors, and having done his junior year in a university in Madrid, he graduated with his degree in Spanish.
Mr. Mann is a popular teacher on campus, known for his interest in students and his pleasant demeanor in class. The former Spanish Immersion students who participated in the focus group after the 2009 AP exam identified him as one of their favorites.
Mr. Mann’s 2nd period Spanish Language AP class.
One of three Spanish Language AP courses Mr. Mann taught in 2008-2009, his 2nd period class consisted of 32 students, 17 of which were male, and 15 female. They ranged from freshmen to seniors, with perhaps one of the widest age ranges of any course on campus. Four of the students in this class were former Midville Spanish Immersion students, all known as such by Mr. Mann. Two other students, both seniors of Mexican origin, identified themselves as former Spanish Immersion students, to Mr. Mann’s surprise. Through examining lists of names of former Midville Spanish Immersion students, and not finding their names in them, I concluded that these two students had participated in an immersion program in another district, though I was not able to confirm that with them. Two of the Midville Spanish Immersion students were freshmen who had negotiated their way into his class with the help of their parents. While Mr. Mann’s policy was not to allow freshmen into the course, he had allowed them in because they were from Spanish dominant families, both from Argentina.
The class as a whole only participated as a group in the context of my participant observations. However, all of the former Midville Spanish Immersion students in this class participated in the focus group I held the day of the AP exam in May.
Focus group: Former Spanish Immersion students who took AP exam in May 2009.
On May 5, 2009, the day of the national administration of the Spanish Language AP exam, I met with a group of 10 former Midville Spanish Immersion students to discuss their experience of preparing for and taking the exam that day. Besides the four male students from Mr. Mann’s 2nd period class, another two male and four female students met with me in a side room of the library over pizza and soda. All of them had taken Spanish Language AP classes that academic year, some with Mr. Mann and some with another teacher. I recruited these students by making announcements in as many of Mr.
Mann’s and the other teacher’s classes as possible. I relied on Mr. Mann to inform the students in his sections that met at times when I could not attend. However, neither Mr.
Mann nor the other teacher were aware of how many former Spanish Immersion students were in their classes, and expressed surprise in finding out that some of their students had been in the program. Several of the students completed consent and parent permission forms in advance of the meeting, but several showed up because they had heard about the meeting from friends. One of them was in one of Mr. Mann’s other sections, but because he had not identified her as a former Spanish Immersion student, he did not inform her.
The students who met were all freshmen or sophomores.
Midville Middle School Spanish Immersion Program Review