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Mann: Well, by “high level” I mean that you could watch a news broadcast, for example, and understand, well, what uh the news report was being—that you could pick up a newspaper—that you could pick up a novel and uh or some other book and leaf through it and-and understand it. That you could have a conversation with a variety of different people in different registers and um and understand.
In this definition, he emphasized the ability to read and understand different media and genres of print text, even before mentioning conversational ability. Just as his Spanish Language AP course would emphasize listening, speaking, reading and writing, Mr.
Mann built all of those modes into his definition, but gave reading and writing a special place not as a separate category, but as essential to development of bilingualism from the very beginning of learning a new language. This emphasis might have provided him an understanding of Spanish Immersion students’ experiences of becoming simultaneously bilingual and biliterate, of their “high level of language” after years and years of reading and writing, but he did not seem to acknowledge the positive differences in their experience or abilities.
“Like a duck to water”: The pleasure of language learning.
If Mr. Mann defined “true” bilingualism as involving biliteracy, he characterized his own experience of language learning through the pleasure it brought him. In some ways, though his language learning experience had begun much later than the former Spanish Immersion students he taught, his description of the pleasure he experienced in learning Spanish seemed to echo the vision Mr. Foster expressed for his Spanish Immersion elementary students. Mr. Mann described his language learning in strong metaphors that implied how natural, motivating and visceral it had been for him to learn Spanish.
Mann: As a 9th grader in high school and I'd had no language experience before that and just took to it like a duck to water—fell in love. It was like turning on something that I had no clue about before, and I just lapped it up—just couldn't get enough.
His metaphor “like a duck to water” called up both a sense of immersion that he referred to directly during our conversation, and the implication that it was a natural act for him, that he was built for the experience. He became enthralled, and “couldn’t get enough.” His final metaphor, being immersed expressed a physicality that runs through several of the metaphors—being immersed, a light going on, eating really delicious food.
However, Mr. Mann, in his enthusiasm and success in learning a second language through school-based experiences, represented a very small percentage of language learners. His experience was a rare one, and raised Mr. Mann’s expectations for his college Spanish courses; however, he found them deeply disappointing. After having skipped his high school’s Spanish Language AP course (but passing the exam), he took its Spanish Literature AP course, and passed that exam, giving him one of the benefits many AP students experience, entry into upper division courses.
Mann: I started in Third Year, like a Third Year class, and I was mad because the teacher spoke in English … Of course you know in retrospect, I was a snotty little—I wasn't even 18 yet. I raised my hand and said in pretty good Spanish, you know, why was she speaking to us in English if this was a Third Year class?
A bit abashed, Mr. Mann went on to explain that because of his objection, “they didn’t really know what to do” with him in his program, an interesting phrase in light of later comments he made about Spanish Immersion students “not fitting” into the World Language courses at Midville High School. Eventually, his professors “were very accommodating,” allowing him to do “a lot of different things” to fulfill his requirements.
“They don’t really fit that well”: Linguistic diversity In World Language classes.
These experiences might have led Mr. Mann to develop a philosophy and some practices that would accommodate former Spanish Immersion students just as his professors in college had worked eventually to accommodate him. However, not only did he not differentiate instruction for them, he and his colleague who taught other AP sections had not identified which or how many students were from the Spanish Immersion program. On the days I addressed students in each of their classes to invite former Spanish Immersion students to participate in a focus group the day of the AP exam, both Mr. Mann and his colleague expressed mild surprise to know that several students in their classes had been in the Spanish Immersion program. Mr. Mann knew of three former Spanish Immersion students in his second period class, but did not know of three others who identified themselves that day (Fieldnotes, 4/21/09).
Though he was not aware of all the former Spanish Immersion students in his classes, he had developed a clear picture of the problems Spanish Immersion students, in general, posed in World Language courses. In thinking about the differences between the goals and approaches of TWI and World Language models of education, Mr. Mann turned to consider the challenges the Midville Spanish Language teachers had faced in trying to integrate the former Spanish Immersion students into their classes.
Mann: Well, I mean and then eventually when those-the-the-the challenge has been when you have the uh kids that have had the immersion experience coming into high school.
Merritt: mmm Mann: That's like, where do they go?
Merritt: yeah Mann: How do they fit?
Merritt: yeah Mann: Well, they don't really fit that well. You know, we're trying to sort of make them fit into a program that wasn't designed for students who've had the kind of experiences they've had, so, we've done our best.
Mr. Mann, while recognizing that the Spanish Immersion students had had a different language experience than his other students, took a “language as problem” orientation (Ruiz, 1984), and, generally, did not express a positive view of that experience, but expressed a view of them as posing a programmatic problem, how to make them fit.12 In fact, he seemed benignly intolerant of the linguistic diversity of his students, including Mr. Mann’s comment “we're trying to sort of make them fit into a program that wasn't designed for students who've had the kind of experiences they've had,” may have been an indirect reference to the district decision not to extend the Spanish Immersion program into high school, a decision that put students and teachers into the dilemma he identified in our interview. Though Mr. Mann and the other Spanish teachers may have felt constrained by this decision, I would argue that they still had more options for incorporating Spanish Immersion students into their courses. They were not limited to a dichotomous choice of either having a high school Spanish Immersion program or enacting the status quo in Spanish language courses.
heritage language students, focusing on their deficiencies rather than on their strengths.
Further discussion revealed what some of the challenges had been for making the Spanish Immersion students fit into the Spanish Language program. Mr. Mann understood this problem as a significant one, less for the students themselves than, perhaps, for the teachers, whom he implied had a more realistic view of these students than they or their parents did, and upon whom fell the task of convincing parents and students of the students’ “gaps” that needed “bridging.” Mann: Well, I think we-we, I think sometimes the students and-and perhaps their parents too, were a little overly ambitious in thinking of what they could all, as a general group, what they could do as 9th graders. And so most, I think the general assumption [of parents] in the past has been, well, they should start in AP language, and um, we have worked hard, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, in-in-in help--trying to help them understand that that's not the best place to start.
So we've kind of steered them more towards Level 3, and I think what I've always tried to do and I think what my colleagues have tried to do is ha--is to have a conversation with the students and the parents to a lesser degree and say, “You know what? You're coming with a lot of experience, but there are some things you're going to know and there are some things you're not gonna know. So the things you're going to know--you know, you've got a free ride basically, feel good about that. But pay very close attention to the things that you don’t know. So if you see something that's new or you say ‘Oh gee, I'm not familiar with that.’ Or ‘I'm not sure about that.’ That's where your area of focus needs to be.” Mr. Mann implied here that the “gaps” in Spanish Immersion students’ knowledge were enough to hold them back from taking Spanish 4AP for a year, and that the Spanish 3 class would serve as a place to bring these students into alignment with what other students knew about and could do with Spanish. While he continued to superficially affirm the language experiences these students brought with them, he did so only briefly, focusing instead on the “gaps” in knowledge or “challenges” they posed.
Mann: So we've tried patiently to (chuckling) kind of you know explain and to say, “Well you've got some great stuff here that you've learned, but you haven't learned everything until—let us help you try to bridge some of those gaps.” Merritt: umhm, umhm, yeah, so in-in general, uh-d-have you seen patterns in those gaps, or ar-d-would you say that they're sort of idiosyncratic to certain students?
Mann: Um -- I would s—there are some patterns.
Merritt: umhm Mann: In terms of uh writing, uh some challenges in orthography that—not some—there are some uh similarities with native speakers. In-in fact some of theas you know-you know, some of the um the kids in immersion come from heritage language backgrounds, so they-they ha-they have some of those same challenges, um Merritt: umhm Mann: (breath) I think there's uh what we—I mean we-we teach the subjunctive a lot more uh explicitly in high school and I—and we would have expected them to have a better grasp, not explicitly of course, not knowing all of the terminology, (first thing), but being able to use it I think a little better than what we've seen.
That's been a little surprising, because it's such a basic building block of the language. It's so infused you know throughout Spanish, that you clearly can't get by, I mean you can get by without it. I know somebody who speaks without the subjunctive. It's very interesting to hear her. (Chuckling) Merritt: Oh, to get--to circumlocute around the subjunctive?
Mann: Yeah, it's very strange, yeah, challenging.
Mr. Mann pointed to two problematic patterns in the Spanish Immersion students’ language use: orthography and misuse of the subjunctive tense. By orthography, he meant use of accent marks and some spelling errors typical of heritage language students, as revealed later in his comments about Spanish Immersion 5th graders’ short stories.
Here, for the first time in our interview, he associated Spanish Immersion students with heritage language students, in terms of both the composition of the Spanish Immersion program, and the types of problems these students bring with them to the Spanish Language classroom.
Mr. Mann also taught a 1st period Spanish for Spanish Speakers class, which I observed was filled with mostly Mexican and Central American origin students (Fieldnotes, 4/21/09). The emphasis in this course was also literacy, focusing on moving students with mostly spoken Spanish experience toward skills in reading and writing in Spanish. During one of my classroom observations, he had invited a student from that class to observe his Spanish 4AP course, to see what the students were doing with La casa de Bernarda Alba (Fieldnotes, 5/22/09). She was impressed with how much “better” these students were at Spanish than she and her classmates were, perhaps because this class was discussing an early 20th century novel in an academic way. Her comments made me wonder what her class focused on, how they used language in it, And what Mr. Mann’s attitude toward their language was. In the focus group (5/5/09), I had heard from one of the former Spanish Immersion students of Mexican origin that she had been invited to join the Spanish for Spanish Speakers class, despite having been through the immersion program from kindergarten all the way through 8th grade. She did not even consider it because she had the impression that “you had to start all over again” in learning to read and write. She was among the students who earned a 5 on her AP exam that year.
Mr. Mann’s view of linguistic diversity in his Spanish classes stood in contrast with Mr. Foster’s view of diversity in their TWI classes at Midville Elementary. Mr.
Foster rejected the “elite” label many applied to the Spanish Immersion program, describing the program as reflecting the same diversity of ethnicity and learning needs as his whole school, and pointing to the future incorporation of more Mexican-origin students in Spanish Immersion classes. This contrast raised the question of when students with special learning needs, or varieties of language experience, such as those of Spanish Immersion or heritage speakers, would begin to feel their difference. That difference, and the view that it created problems that had to be resolved, was very apparent in the high school World Language context.
Differences between TWI and World Language models: “Functional level of literacy” vs. “Some level of proficiency.” One of the sources of conflict in Mr. Mann’s language ideologies may have proceeded from the unexamined contradictions in his understandings of the goals of TWI education and of the World Language model of language education. Mr. Mann expressed a textbook definition of the Two-Way Immersion model of language education in our interview. While he had never taught in or supervised a TWI program, and had never evaluated the Midville program, other than his experience in the fall 2008 Program Review, he expressed a basic understanding of the emphases and structure of 90/10 TWI programs.