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However, Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morelli did raise a variety of concerns and, through doing so, slowed down the conversation about the curriculum plan. Mr. Sanchez raised concerns about process, what they were going to accomplish in the two hours they had to meet that day, how they would collaborate. He had envisioned the meeting as involving planning for all three grades. He expressed concern about who would be teaching the classes, what specific resources and materials they would be using. He suggested that if they could “brainstorm” and come to agreement on a “good model [they] could use the same model, for the most part, for all three.” Ms. Gomez countered by presenting her curricular plan as her “brainstorm,” and returned to explaining both her rationale for the model she presented, and her conversation with Ms. Fisher who “was very excited about this idea.” Mr. Sanchez next raised concerns about the inclusion of units on Social Studies topics, since the nature of the 6th grade class had changed from being a Social Studies core class to a “a pullout class, a Spanish class, basically.” However, within a couple of turns in conversation, Mr. Sanchez had resolved the issue of Social Studies units by suggesting himself that “if [they] want to include a couple of units in there” they could, “if [they] deem [it] appropriate.” Even this specific objection to the curricular plan, then, might be seen as Mr.
As Ms. Gomez continued to present her vision and rationale, Mr. Sanchez’s and Ms. Morelli’s desire or need to slow down the conversation came in the form of long stretches of silence, over 30 seconds at one point (Transcript, 5/28/09), during which they looked at the handouts provided by Ms. Gomez. At the end of one long silence, Mr.
Sanchez, wishing for the support of a member of his Secondary World Language Community, raised the problem of “not having Mr. Mann here [as he] was hoping Mr.
Mann was gonna be here because we-we did say we were gonna start with the planning first for eighth grade and do backwards.” Ms. Gomez responded that she “was told this was for 6th grade right now so cuz I don't have anything to do with 8th grade 3, do you know what I mean? Like I'm just the connection between 5th grade 6th grade and then you and Mr. Mann were going to do the 8th grade the high school 8th grade and work down from there you know what I mean?” Mr. Sanchez then conceded that since Mr. Mann was not there, they could work on 6th grade and perhaps extend the model to the other two grades.
Though Ms. Gomez had presented the model as “flexible,” Mr. Sanchez then raised the need to adapt the curriculum to include specific grammar instruction on the subjunctive tense, and seemed to be slowly thinking through the idea of adapting the curriculum to the specific needs of the students, or to teacher perceptions of student weaknesses, an idea that Ms. Gomez had presented earlier as characteristic of the plan.
As Ms. Gomez turned to discuss some of the recommended books for the curriculum, Ms. Morelli raised the next concern, one that had surfaced many times in the history of the Spanish Immersion program, and which reflected ideological differences between TWI teachers and World Language teachers, the problem of books in translations. World Language teachers value what Mr. Sanchez called “authentic Spanish literature,” that is books that were originally composed in Spanish. The reason for valuing such literature has to do with students’ being presented non-Native expressions in print, infelicities of translation. Both Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morelli assumed that Ms.
Gomez understood this problem, so did not present her with a rationale for making their choices, other than the idea that students should eventually get used to reading books written originally in Spanish, at least in part because they will encounter such literature in high school World Language classes. Ms. Gomez had, however, done some thinking with Ms. Flores, the other 5th grade Spanish Immersion teacher, about the relative merits of books in translation versus original Spanish-language literature. She reported on a conversation they had had the previous February in a bookstore in Morelia, as they looked for literature to take back for their classroom libraries. They “were talking about um translations and their utility versus and their quality [and] er-er any book and how appetizing it is for the students to read do you know what I mean? So we were talking about how and even [a TWI lead teacher] was laughing. She was just saying, you know sometimes you'll pick up a book and you're just not used to that kind of style of writing from from say South America or whatever and you're just like wait what is going on you know why would they write in this style and such so sometimes it's just hard to get used to the style where it's good to know that.” Ms. Gomez revealed her orientation toward making literacy socially relevant to students in her concern with the “style of writing,” while Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morelli were more concerned with the purity of language development of the students. However, in what might be seen as recognition of the problem Ms. Gomez brought up, Mr. Sanchez suggested that the middle school had access to the works of two bilingual, bicultural authors, Isabel Allende and Francisco Jimenez, whose works had been widely read in secondary school settings. While none of the teachers discussed the difference between writing by bilingual and monolingual authors, everyone seemed satisfied with these literary alternatives, one of the few signs of productive compromise.
Ms. Gomez came to the meeting prepared to address resistance, but also showed that she was willing to consider some of the preferences of the middle school teachers.
When Ms. Morelli introduced a book that she had been wanting to use with her classes, a pre-teen novel focusing on the problem of immigration from North Africa to Spain, Ms.
Gomez affirmed its value, only suggesting that Ms. Morelli think about how little 6th graders would know about the European context of the book.
Ms. Morelli was the source of one of the most important questions raised that day, one that neither Mr. Sanchez or Ms. Gomez has considered. In discussing the books they could use as thematic vehicles in the 6th grade class, she began suggesting that they needed to find out what the students would be studying in their English classes, since the 6th grade class continued to be connected to the core Language Arts curriculum in a very ambiguous way. Considering the class from the viewpoint of the students themselves, Ms. Morelli argued that “if these [novels] are related to the things [in] the sixth grade it's gonna feel like they have extra work because now it's being it's become a frozen period so they go out and they're gonna have this extra class with extra work” (Transcript, 5/29/09). She also considered the other side of this problem, that students might feel that they “already did that in [their] English class why [are they] doing that here?,” that the work from their English classes to their Spanish Immersion pullout is repetitive. Helping the group think through how the Spanish Immersion content would relate to both Language Arts and Social Studies content in the different middle school grades, Ms.
Morelli provided the most comprehensive view of the students’ experience, one that neither Ms. Gomez, informed by elementary classroom structures, nor Mr. Sanchez, focused upon the content of World Language classrooms, would consider.
Unresolved ideologies: What is Spanish Immersion education? However, the relatively productive discussion that took place between Ms. Gomez and Ms. Morelli over questions of curriculum and middle school structures was followed by the most divisive segment of conversation during the meeting, when the irresolvable differences between Ms. Gomez and Mr. Sanchez would surface. Mr. Sanchez became unsettled by the amount of time they were spending discussing the content of the curriculum, since he kept “thinking about the activities [of 6th grade] more than uh the curriculum per se.” He argued that in “Sixth grade you have some of those [curricular] components, but it doesn't have to be heavily on those.” Ms. Gomez reacted immediately, perceiving Mr.
Sanchez’s suggestion as related to his World Language perspective, and argued that “Yes, it does actually, that's what-that's what immersion is. So we're talking about the 8th grade is a language class, 6th grade's an immersion class, and 7th grade is a transition class.” She explained that a “paradigm shift” would occur during middle school as the students moved from the TWI model to World Language classes. However, Mr. Sanchez countered with “all of them are immersion classes. The way we teach is immersion.
Immersion is when you immerse the kid in the language and the culture and we do that every single day in class.” The disagreement continued through several turns of conversation, with Ms. Gomez holding her ground in the end, defending the difference between Spanish Language and Spanish Immersion education. She argued that immersion teaching based on this model, this 90/10 model, is teaching-is teaching content with the language. It's not-it is-it's-it's two different definitions that we're talking about here. If you spend an hour in a-in a class only speaking Spanish you are immersed in Spanish but you're n- that's not defining that you're teaching content. Do you understand? 60 minutes in Spanish is not necessarily a content class.
Insisting that TWI education must involve the teaching of content through the medium of the target language, Ms. Gomez tried to draw a clear line between teaching Spanish as a content area and teaching other curricular content with Spanish. However, Mr. Sanchez continued to resist, responding with a single word, remaining noncommittal, as Ms.
Gomez continued her argument.
Sanchez: Well Gomez: So it could be-you could be teaching nothing but exercises and it-you're s- and that's being-that's being exposed to Spanish during that time. The Spanish Immersion model, the 90/10 model we're talking about coming in from Midville Elementary, is teaching content. Content. That's the focus and using the Spanish as the vehicle and I think that's the biggest misunderstanding that's still going on between, you know, how we're-we're trying to get this-this program going. And so again just because they're gonna spend 55 minutes in Spanish in 6th grade doesn't mean that it's immersion. The focus is to get the content down and then and understand that it needs to be provided in Spanish.
Ms. Gomez recognized that she was working in the space between the two conflicting sides, the space in which misunderstanding still prevailed, and that this misunderstanding was the most important obstacle to “trying to get this […] program going.” Mr. Sanchez next raised what seemed like a non-issue, a red herring, but which opened the door for him to posit once again that grammar instruction might be considered “content” for a course.
Sanchez: But the content-we have not choosed what the content is going to be.
Gomez: That's what we're doing.
Sanchez: Even if the content is grammar-is Spanish grammar, that's content.
Gomez: Right Sanchez: And we know it's gonna be taught in the in the target language.
Ms. Gomez once again returned to her argument, this time emphasizing the claim she had to develop curriculum that mirrored the elementary Spanish Immersion experience for the 6th grade class. At the same time, she conceded the 8th grade class to the Mr. Sanchez and the World Language model.
Gomez: Right. Right. OK. So anyway just I'm saying that just because they spend 60 minutes in Spanish doesn't mean it's an immersion class. We're working for content in 6th grade. By 8th grade it can be totally different and they can spend their 60 minutes doing whatever, but as long as it's in Spanish. Seventh grade is supposed to be transition but sixth grade is still this model based off of what's going on at Midville Elementary so the kids have a transition into Midville Middle School. By 8th grade it can be, again, it can be whatever, just as long as it's still in Spanish. But 6th grade is still supposed to be off you know married to the Midville Elementary program. So that is why, I know-I me-I know you're saying, like you know, it's not as important to you for the social studies but that is an area of content that breaks up the fact that what we're studying up here if we took off any social studies then all we have is book groups. OK, we'll take a nice Spanish book group class ok and that's not as-that's not as appetizing to the kids.
It's not as relevant as a class and what we’re trying to do is make sure the kids do have something that's appropriate for 6th grade that's an extension of 5th grade that still teaches them Spanish and gives them an application for it.
That Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Gomez were at an impasse was evident from both the repetition of points of view and effort each of them made to reason the other into conceding their point. Mr. Sanchez took the point Ms. Gomez made about what was “appetizing to the kids” and turned it around to support his point of view, that what mattered was including activities that facilitated language production, no matter what the content of the language.
Sanchez: Well, I can tell you it's more appetizing to them if you have then projects to do.
Sanchez: Fun for them to do, and as long as you do them in the target language… Gomez: Yes.
Sanchez: And you focus on certain aspects with this grammar, whatever we need to work with them it would be appropriate I guess.
Gomez: Right, […] While it seemed that Ms. Gomez agreed with the principle of including specific projects as part of the curriculum, it wasn’t clear that Mr. Sanchez was thinking of those projects in the same way that Ms. Gomez was. In fact, the curricular model Ms. Gomez had presented that day included the possibility of ending each unit of study with a final product related to the book they had read or the social studies unit they had completed.