Our Honeymoon 9-17-10

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rodriguez and Collier-Connections

Richard Rodriguez is an American writer who became famous as the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982), a narrative about his intellectual development. Richard Rodriguez was born into a Mexican immigrant family in California. Rodriguez spoke Spanish until he went to a Catholic school at age six. Growing up he delivered newspapers and worked as a gardener.  In an interview, I found information about Rodriguez, I read that "His American identity was only achieved after a painful separation from his past, his family, and his culture." He also said that, "Americans like to talk about the importance of family values, but America isn't a country of family values; Mexico is a country of family values. This is a country of people who leave home." Some Mexican Americans called him pocho/traitor, accusing him of betraying himself and his people. Others called him a "coconut", brown on the outside, white on the inside. Rodriguez calls himself "a comic victim of two cultures." (Scott London)
Rodriquez offers detailed information on how learning English as a second language was a struggle and how  it negatively and positively affected his life. In the reading, "Aria", Richard Rodriguez discusses his life as he grows up in a Mexican family going to a school where he is a Spanish-speaking student attending and English-speaking school.  He felt uncomfortable using the "public language" so he remained silent as he just waited for the bell to ring. Eventually, he received services from the school like daily tutoring sessions for a whole year. As time passed on, nuns had a visit with his parents at his home.  At the end of the meeting, Rodriguez, was informed that he was to practice speaking the English-language at home. He couldn't speak Spanish at home, even though that was his primary language. From the reading, Rodriguez said, "But the feeling of closeness at home was diminished. We remained a loving family, but one greatly changed. No longer so close, no longer bound tight by the pleasing and troubling knowledge of our public separateness." He goes on saying how his parents began to grow more "publicly confident".

In this article, Rodriguez is trying to raise awareness to teachers and Americans on how difficult it can be for for non-speaking English students to learn the English language, take it on like it was their own, and the battles of private individuality he/she may face in the long run. Rodriguez understands teachers are just trying to their jobs, its the norm, its their responsibility to make sure that we survive in the world. This statement is similar to Delpit's 5 Aspects of Power. There is teacher power over the students, so the teachers have to teach "by the book." Why change their curriculum to better a Spanish-speaking student when everyone else is speaking English. Also there are codes and rules for people in power. Everyone must talk the same, interact the same, write the same. So that's why it was such a demand for Rodriguez to speak English at home. There are rules of culture of those who are in culture. The rules dominate Rodriguez's culture.  He just wanted teachers to respect his culture, even if it was just saying hello to him in Spanish. That’s where the awareness of cultures comes into play. Which Delpit says those in power are frequently least aware of its existence.   

Dr. Virginia P. Collier is Professor Emerita of Bilingual/Multicultural/ESL Education at George Mason University in Virginia. She is proficient in Spanish and English, having lived in Central America during her childhood, she has served the field of language minority education for over three decades as parent, teacher, researcher, teacher educator, and doctoral mentor. She is best known for her work with senior researcher, Dr. Wayne Thomas, on school effectiveness for linguistically and culturally diverse students. She and Dr. Thomas have also conducted educational leadership training for superintendents, principals, and education policy makers in 29 U.S. states and 15 countries. 
Collier presents an overview on how to teach multilingual children in your classroom. She goes on explaining the challenges that teachers face today and the questions that they are asked by concerned parents. She explains how teachers should be flexible and creative, be an advocate for intercultural conflicts, keep students on task, just be there. In here dialogue you can tell that she id a dedicated teacher. She feels strongly towards students, much like I do. She uses sincere words to describe the benefits teaching has on teachers. “But there is a complicated school world”, Collier says. Proposals and governmental superplans. She explains the key to true appreciation of the different linguistic and cultural values that students bring into the classroom.
  1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
  2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so-called “deficiencies” of your students.
  3. Don't teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language.
  4. Teach the standard form of English and students' home language together with an appreciation of dialect difference.
  5. Do not forbid young students from code-switching in the classroom.
  6. Provide a literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for English-language learners.
  7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
After reading Rodriguez's article, its was sad to hear what a bad experience he had growing up as a Spanish-speaking student. But it's nice to hear that teachers are really trying to make a difference. They want to help support their learners. Collier makes excellent points to teachers on how to nurture their student's native language , ways to be an advocate, a way to support students' home language, and ways to be creative in teacher's teachings. These two articles went hand in hand.  


  1. Nice overview of both articles. I also like the fact that there are ways for students to feel comfortable when learning a new language. Children should feel safe when learning :0)

  2. Great job on the articles. I like your connections with different authors. I also agree that children should be given a safe place to learn.