- Pages: 9
- Word count: 2174
- Category: Heritage
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Institutions such as public schools are an important site of knowledge production, especially for those who have migrated to the United States and are trying to assimilate to a new culture. These institutions have an important role within the transition processes of children who have arrived and are sent to school to keep learning. English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are intended to help students generally between three and twenty-one years old, who were born in a different country and whose first language is not English. However, ESL programs have raised questions about efficacy on helping students to feel included within the school environment, or if it excludes them. Although ESL programs are supposed to create appropriate conditions for a student’s incorporation to school, sometimes they end up creating scenes of segregation or marginalization. English as a Second Language programs reinforce and reproduce cultural meanings about race in schools by facilitating a site for segregation and causing a psychological impact on immigrant children from K-12.-
English as a Second Language (ESL) is a program designed to support students who want to learn English, it was first established in the U. S. after the rising migration rate of Cubans to Florida in the 60s created the necessity of a program to merge immigrant students and adults to the English speaking culture of the U. S., and it was reinforced later on by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, the update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 . It is important to highlight that bilingual programs and ESL programs are different in the way that in bilingual programs the non-native language targeted speakers all have the same native language background, and the teacher speaks both languages; in an ESL classroom, the students come from different language backgrounds, and the teacher often only speaks English. In institutions such as public schools, education and learning practices and policies, as well as the context of the schools and the community determine knowledge production and play an important role in the identity formation of the students.
In the United States there are a high population of immigrants who join the ESL program through their state’s public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, English Language Learners (ELLs) represented 9.5 percent (4.8 million) of the student population in 2015, with an increase of 1.4 percent since 2000, where Spanish was the home language of 3.7 million ELL students (77.1% of all ELL students, and 7.6 percent of all public K-12 students), followed by Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese as the most common home languages. In addition, other languages such as Russian, Somali, and Haitian, among others, were spoken (National Center for Education Statistics, April 2018).
This population of ELL students often receive one or more of three major types of instruction depending on the school. Pull-Out ESL is predominant in grades k-6th, where students will be pulled out of their class for special tutoring sessions. Another type of instruction is ESL class period, common in larger schools, middle schools, and High Schools, where the students substitute their language arts course elective for a class period designed to learn English. The third type of instruction is Sheltered Courses, where the teacher of a specific subject teaches the required curriculum material in English with modifications to accommodate ESL students, this courses are supposed to be given to a majority ESL student population, however, that is not the case for schools that have small ESL student populations, in these scenarios, the ESL student will be sent to a majority Native-English speaking student class, and try to learn the material without specific accommodations.
Embedded within the structure of this program, ESL reinforces and reproduces cultural meanings about race in schools, as it impacts the identity formation of the students. It is within many of these programs that English proficiency becomes a substitute agent for racial segregation and ethnic discrimination (Wood 2008, 1). It has been argued before that social identification and academic learning are related, it is in this way that the social context of the school, as well as the school experiences, and what is learned add to the process of creating an identity, and to the way students perceive and identify themselves, “Teachers and Students drew on and integrated both academic and social resources as they developed models of ‘self/knowledge,’ models that simultaneously helped identify individual students and helped students learn their curriculum” (Wortham 2006, 17).
In “Making Strangers” by Sara Ahmed, it is explained that institutions play a role in the process of creating strangers. additionally, English proficiency can be used as a measurement of belonging, in an interaction in which bodies are not attuned, an individual could become a stranger, “An experience of non-attunement might then refer to how we can be in a world with others where we are not in a responsive relation, where we do not tend to “pick up” on how they feel. This sense of not being in harmony might not even register to consciousness” (Ahmed, 2014). In the school setting, a student could become objectified as something different, in many cases “the other” which leads to an unconscious segregation. This process has an enormous effect on how the student learns the new culture and grows within it. ESL programs often end up creating groups of students and segregating them in a certain way. For example, in sheltered courses, students are introduced to a content-based English instruction class, where the teacher teaches the required curriculum of that grade level with modifications to accommodate ESL students. In many cases, because the ESL student body supposes a minority, those courses are made up primarily of English native speakers, where the ESL students either choose to, or are sent to seat at a corner, either back or front, or are seated in a table with students who do not speak their language. These situations are uncomfortable for the ESL student as well as for the group of students who might not be mentally prepared to receive an “outsider”. Another example can be found in a study that was made in a public middle school of Salt Lake City, Utah in 2003, where for purposes of the study the school name was fictionally changed to Kousanar Middle School. In the school, the ESL program was mostly constituted of Mexican, Bosnian and Sudanese students. There, students self-segregated themselves in the lunchroom, they sat at the sides leaving the White Anglo speakers in the middle, the segregation was reinforced by the fact that the lunchroom monitors spent more time in the center interacting with White students, while the interaction with ELL was mostly to reprimand them for inappropriate behavior (Gitlin et al 2003, 93).
In many schools in the United States, the structure and the discourse used within an institution, as well as the school’s environment, and surrounding community directly affect identity formation as well as decision making, in which ESL programs add to “an inclusionary-exclusionary process that in the end place immigrant students on the margins of school life.” (Gitlin et al 2003, 93). Some of these processes included the stereotyping of the cultural background of ESL students, in many cases, the efforts of teachers and community members to help non-native English speaker students and native English speaker students interact between them are limited to gather students and make them break piñatas, perform Indian dances, or share food form their respective countries, such practices fail to emphasize the importance of the student’s cultural background, practices like this diminish the cultural backgrounds of the students as well as does not help English native speakers to understand and respect differences. A teacher of Alpine High School (AHS) in Northern Colorado stated “I would always ask them (students) how to make different foods, but I try to get them to tell me in English” (Salazar 2008, 349), regarding of many teachers’ ability to speak the immigrant students language, this behavior is common among teachers of ESL in the United States, limiting the students of fully expressing their cultural knowledge, as they cannot explain in their native language. The sense of their culture being rejected in this and many other practices could lead to feelings of inferiority and poor self-image (Wood 2008, 2).
In addition, community views of immigrant students are important, some people want to maintain the power distribution of their groups, for example, in the Kousanar Middle school, non-ESL teachers acted against the ESL teachers’ proposal for advanced ESL students to enter mainstream classes because of the pressure they felt from the White community to maintain the opportunities and privileges the school provided for their cultural group and their children, members of the community had stated that the ESL student introduction to mainstream classes could slow down the speed of the class affecting on other students learning, and distracting the teacher from their duties (Gitlin et al 2003, 115).
ESL programs not only add to the segregation of immigrant non-English speakers but to English-proficient students who are sometimes placed into ESL classrooms because of their color or background, this is common in states such as Texas, where many Latino/a proficient in English are recommended to be placed in an ESL classroom, practices such as this “single out Latino/a students as different, , ultimately making them targets of peer discrimination and engendering those students with feelings of inferiority and hopelessness.” (Wood 2008, 1-2) The way in which ESL students are introduced creates a stressful situation in which they might question their identity, this can lead to depression, or a change of manners, “The demand to build rapport takes the form of a perpetual self-questioning; the emotional labour of asking yourself what to do when there is an idea of you that persists, no matter what you do. Indeed, the consequences of racism are in part managed as a question of self-presentation.”(Ahmed, 2014). Additional, ESL students face more stress and anxiety than their English proficient counterparts, the persuasion of not belonging, plus the unequal treatment by teachers and students, segregation, language barriers, and these factors’ relation to low achievement lead to fear, depression, less happiness, and in many cases have consequences such as drop out of school “Only 63 percent of ELLs graduate from high school, compared with the overall national rate of 82 percent” (Sanchez 2017), or worse.
Teacher practices and administration issues within schools in the U. S. also add to the problem, “dehumanizing practices prohibit the use of student’s heritage language(s) in school though overt, indirect, and structural means” (Salazar 2008, 343). In many cases the goals of ESL learning set aside the possibility of using the student’s heritage language as a tool for the better development of their English, this is found when students are encouraged to only speak English within their ESL classroom, another finding is that in many schools students and parents are not encouraged by the administrators to engage in the contribution of suggesting better ways to improve the program “Highly regarded researchers of ESL education, such as Cummins (2004), suggest that including the heritage language and culture of students in the curriculum, and fostering the contributions of students and parents are critical for the academic success of ESL learners.” (Salazar 2008, 346). The only use of English within ESL classroom send an indirect message that the student’s native language might be a problem to meet their goals. ESL teachers must encourage the learning of both the student’s language and English as well as they need to “Infuse the heritage culture of students into the curriculum beyond surface features” (Salazar 2008, 353), and to approach to the student in order to develop a trust-based relationship, and communicate the value of their cultural heritage.
Salazar also suggest that institutions that specialize in teacher formation need to implement the support for equity and social justice by the future teachers, as well as they need to prepare them to incorporate humanizing practices within the school and the community, and to teach them of their importance in educational policy and school spheres (Salazar 2008, 354).
Another possible solution for the bettering of ESL programs is for legislation to recognize the tendency of segregation in schools, and in cases where English proficient students are to be placed in bilingual classrooms, schools should choose students randomly and not based on their ethnic or racial profile (Wood 2008, 10).
In conclusion, there is much work to be done towards the improvement of ESL programs, including teacher preparation, legislation, and community learning. The majority of ESL programs are deficient in the integration of new students to the student body, they produce a sense of not belonging, and reinforce the segregation of groups in the U. S. public school, by teachers, administrative workers, peer English proficient students, and members of the community, generating mental and physical health issues as they reproduce and reinforce the sense of “otherness”, who gets to be accepted and who does not.