«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
teachers; administrators). My hypothesis was that those Communities represented different language ideologies, and that those ideologies might represent different understandings of the Object of language learning in a TWI program, that those language ideologies might come into conflict. In developing a coding system for my fieldnotes, I used the CHAT triangle as an analytical framework, connecting differences in understandings of the Object of TWI education and language learning with the ideologies or beliefs expressed by individual members of the group, or Subjects of the activity of program review. I also coded for uses of metaphor by members of the group to gain an understanding of how certain metaphors might express an ideological stance or belief about the problem the group was trying to solve, or about language learning and use. I also examined carefully the final policy statement submitted to the Superintendent for conflicting language beliefs and ideologies, representing the different Communities involved in the Program Review, and for the use of the overriding metaphor, middle school as bridge.
I used a similar coding system with the interview transcripts, looking for language beliefs and ideologies and their connections to the Communities Ms. Fisher, Mr. Bell and Mr. Worth represented. Considering King and Fogle’s (2006) study of the influence of parents’ language learning experiences on their choices for their children’s language learning, I added to the other codes a focus on the language learning and teaching experiences of each subject to add depth to my understanding of their beliefs and ideologies.
Researcher Role I entered into this study from a complex position in relation to the Midville SI Program in that I had been a parent of an SI student in it from 1996-2004. This position afforded me access to all the classrooms and individuals involved in the study. While I already had significant knowledge of aspects of the program from the parent perspective, I had not followed many of the issues and events in it between 2004 and the beginning of this study. During my years as a parent, I had the opportunity to witness both de jure and de facto language policy being formed by teachers, parents, students, administrators and district personnel since almost the inception of the program. I was present at many of the parent, teacher, administrator meetings at which debates took place regarding the formation and extension of the SI middle school program. My own understanding of the implications of our decisions has developed and changed as I have seen the results of those decisions, and the unexpected consequences of them as well.
My role has changed significantly from one of parent to researcher over the course of the intervening years. Early in my doctoral studies, I read Guadalupe Valdés’s (1997) Harvard Review opinion piece cautioning advocates of TWI education of ways that parents, teachers and administrators might be experimenting with de facto language policy to the detriment of Mexican-origin students participating in TWI programs. I was stirred to understand what that process of language policy formation might be, and how it might be studied. I have found in Cultural Historical Activity Theory one way of studying the elements of the process, as I have discussed in Chapter 1.
As do all the subjects of this study, I also bring my own language learning experience into it. That experience informs my beliefs and ideologies, and, therefore, my ideas about language policies. I began my language studies, as TWI students do, in elementary school, proceeding through traditional World Language classes in junior and senior high school. I value those years of language learning very highly, and credit them with having learned academic reading and writing in Spanish. I learned enough through them to be able to attend a bilingual college, Elbert Covell, at the University of the Pacific, where I took nearly all my general education classes, and many of my major courses, in Spanish. This experience also informs my language ideologies, as does the experience of having lived for five years in Spain, where I worked with university students in Santiago de Compostela, during the post-Franco era when language policy in the Autonomous Community of Galicia was in flux, and political, civic, media and educational entities began to recover the use of Gallego after many years of suppression of that language through the official policy of elevation of Castillian in those contexts.
My experiences have produced a complex set of language ideologies in me, not one that pits grammar instruction against language use in a false dichotomy. I understand experientially the value of learning grammar, of having a structural knowledge of language. But I also believe that students of language need exposure to a variety of language uses connected to valued activities, both academic and everyday, in other words, that language is learned in order to be used. The final measure of competency in a language is the ability to use it in a variety of social situations. During the course of my study, I have worked to maintain a balanced, disciplined approach to research, hoping to represent fairly and completely the different points of view on the problems students, teachers, parents and administrators experienced in the program, and relying on rigorous methodology to aid me in doing so.
Chapter 3: Playing Soccer in Spanish: Language Learning and Use in Midville’s 5th Grade Spanish Immersion Class
In January 2009, Ms. Gomez’s classroom was a very busy place. Not only were her Spanish Immersion 5th graders busy practicing “standard” grammar forms and argumentative writing about problems that need attention on their campus, as well as reading a variety of fiction and non-fiction books and responding to them in their reading logs, they were researching Native Americans in five regions of the U.S., following the same math curriculum as all the other 5th graders at the school, and learning about and experimenting with the concept of saturation of solids in liquids. All of these activities took place in Spanish, since Spanish is a regular medium of instruction in Ms. Gomez’s Spanish Immersion class. At the same time that all the regular academic and social learning was taking place that January, Ms. Gomez, and her colleague, Ms. Flores, were preparing their 5th grade students (and their parents) for the week-long immersion experience they would have at El Molino, the science and culture camp they would attend in Michoacán, México, at the end of the month. Students needed to do thinking about some of the rules they would have to follow – that they needed to speak nothing but Spanish during the week, and had to write in their journals every day – and about the opportunities they would have to participate in the various talleres (workshops) which form the centerpiece of the El Molino experience. All of this activity, and the students’ and teachers’ use of Spanish in conducting it, represented the character of Spanish Immersion language education at Midville Elementary School, and reflected the conceptions of language learning and use implicit in both that educational model and in the stated philosophies of both Ms. Gomez and her principal, Mr. Foster.
This chapter will examine how those teacher/administrator philosophies informed th the 5 grade Spanish Immersion experience, what were the characteristics of language learning and use in this 5th grade class, and what it meant to be a competent learner and user of Spanish in it. Finally, it will consider the range of social and academic domains or “spheres of human activity” (Bakhtin, 1986) that obtained in this classroom and the fifth grade (and, thus, elementary school) culminating experience. Through interviews of both Mr. Foster and Ms. Gomez, I found that their ideologies of language learning and use led to a pedagogical model that emphasized life-long learning, pleasure, student competency and autonomy. Howard and Sugarman (2007) call this atmosphere a “culture of intellectualism” and argue that this must be one of the hallmarks of high quality TWI education. Through participant observation in Ms. Gomez’s classroom and El Molino, I found that model worked out through the practice of regular literacy activities, both reading and writing. In addition, I found that the students engaged in language learning and use in an extremely wide range of academic and social domains, through use of Spanish in various academic disciplines, regular reading of books and writing about them, and their participation in both talleres and social activities at El Molino. I will first turn to discuss the ideologies of language learning and use of Mr.
Foster and Ms. Gomez.
Mr. Foster, Principal of Midville Elementary School Mr. Foster, principal at Midville Elementary School, and of the Spanish Immersion program, for 13 years at the time of this study, had been known district-wide for his collection of colorful ties, and his strong commitment to the elementary Spanish Immersion program. Before he became principal of the program, he was a parent of a Kindergartner in it when it was located at another district elementary school site. His long association with the program had resulted in a consistent message he has presented publicly about its value: learning in this program was about more than the stated goals of most Two-Way Immersion programs, the development of bilingualism, biliteracy and the appreciation of cultures associated with the Spanish language. For him, bilingualism was connected with student pleasure, both social and academic uses of language, and biliteracy.
Mr. Foster’s view of bilingualism: Pleasure, the social/academic uses of language, biliteracy.
One of the primary characteristics of bilingualism for Mr. Foster was connected with pleasure in the use of Spanish. He saw as “kind of an unwritten goal” a positive affective experience of language learning and use, which he describes as “an enjoyment of the language for the kids […] for them to really feel like its a natural part of their language […] and that there's a comfort level in which they can express themselves in Spanish” (Interview, 5/21/09). He saw the achievement of a certain “skill level in two languages” that would allow students to “navigate in cultures, societies, countries, successfully and comfortably” as “intertwined” with a “joy of the language and appreciation of having that bilingualism” (Interview, 5/21/09).
In fact, those elements, the achievement of an ability to navigate in various social situations and the enjoyment and appreciation of that ability, comprised the foundation of his definition of bilingualism, a definition that seemed almost inseparable from the TWI model he advocated at his school and in the district. In elaborating on the bilingual ability he saw kids developing, he pointed to some of the earliest language learning that happens in Kindergarten when “after two months [the kids are] really understanding what the teacher is saying enough to follow her directions” (Interview, 5/21/09).
Further, he pointed to anecdotal material to illustrate the goals for children in their bilingual language learning and use in the program, some drawn from their earliest experiences in kindergarten, some from later experiences in out-of-school settings. He described taking parents of potential kindergarten students into the classroom at the end of the school year.
Foster: When you see those [Kindergarten] kids-when I bring those parents through at the end of Kindergarten that are visiting the school for registration next year and they actually hear these kids speaking in Spanish, the kids understand everything. It’s really powerful for them.
They see that all the kids are functioning almost completely in Spanish, “speaking in Spanish, understand[ing] mostly what’s going on.” He also described his own experience of doing teacher observations in kindergarten classrooms, as a monolingual English administrator.
Foster: I can understand mostly what's going on, can pick up words here and there. A lot of times I'll whisper to a student, “What did Maestra R just say about that? What is she having you do on that picture?” And they'll tell me in English cuz they don't have that language yet. In one observation, the kids started at this little table, and I reach over to another little girl, “What are you doing in those boxes?” She told me in Spanish so I had no clue. Next to her was a little boy, an English speaker, and I asked him, “Could you tell me what you're doing?” He told me everything in Spanish, also. There's immersion. One kid was a bilingual kid, the other is an English only kid, but their comfort level was such that they were gonna tell me what they were doing in Spanish.
As he continued, he added stories he had heard from “families that go with first graders or third graders to Spain or Mexico or Chile or someplace, some Spanish-speaking country, and the kids really communicate,” some providing translation services for their English-monolingual parents. He saw these achievements or abilities being developed in the context of “this English world here, this English culture” where “kids are kids and […] they’re always drawn to that English,” so that the work of the program involves “pulling them back and getting them over that hump to say, ‘OK, wow, I really feel comfortable with Spanish, with speaking it, with reading it, with writing it’.” We can see in his views of bilingualism in his program the source of the sense of guided autonomy I will discuss later in this chapter.