Marjan Javanmard came to the US from Iran 12 years ago and now works in energy conservation for Solar City as a building auditor. She attended San Mateo Adult School for ESL classes and trained at Skyline College on the HERO Program (Home Energy Retrofit Occupations) – a training program in building systems for residential energy efficiency. Check out programs in the Energy Systems Technology Management (ESTM) Department at Skyline College.
Marjan describes the training course at Skyline College which offers “an overview of residential building science. Foundational principles in general residential construction and energy aspects of building envelopes, mechanical systems, appliances, water heating, lighting and more.” She recommends it for anyone with a basic knowledge of construction and a real interest in sustainability and conserving energy.
Marjan talks of the growing number of jobs in this area of green industry which, with government support, offers retrofit solutions to promote energy conservation. She stresses the importance of sustainable applications for future of the built environment.
Governor Brown's recent proposal to move adult education into the community college sphere was unanimously rejected on March 19th by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance but the discussion generated is bound to continue. The committee did not disagree with the goal but rather the details of implementation. The Legislative Analysts Office has weighed in on the subject, and practitioners in both arenas - adult education and community college noncredit - are concerned. (See What’s Happening to Adult Education? on ESL Insights)
What is known as adult education in the K-12 system is generally known as noncredit in Community Colleges. In the ESL realm, there have been two separate entities delivering instruction: some districts have adult ESL classes under their local K-12 district, while credit instruction is provided by the community college; in other areas, the community college district provides both credit and noncredit ESL, though not always under the same roof. With recent state budget cuts of education, both delivery systems have suffered, but I would venture to say that adult education under K-12 has suffered more statewide. When faced with budget cuts, K-12 systems logically prioritize adult education lower than elementary or secondary classes.
But what is noncredit?
The first thing to consider about noncredit instruction is that it is fundamentally different from credit. Most of us recognize the credit model of instruction because that's how we were educated. You register for a course, attend classes for a specified time (a semester, a quarter, a trimester), and are assessed at the end on the acquisition of course content. The key framing element is time. You do not get credit if you miss classes, do not submit homework, or do not pass the test. Our K-12 experience was similar. You moved to the next grade (or not) at the end of the school year, not at the point at which you acquired the content and/or skills.
Interview with Lera Boroditsky, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and Editor in Chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. She was the opening speaker at the annual statewide CATESOL conference held in Oakland in 2012.
Lera claims “Learning another language is not just a matter of learning to speak differently, it is also learning to think differently.” This connection between words and thoughts goes to the heart of teaching language, and poses questions for ESL teachers about cultural understanding.
ESL Insights: Growing up as you did speaking Russian, do you feel you are a different person when you speak a different language? Does your personality change?
Lera Boroditsky: I do feel different when speaking different languages. This is a very common experience for bilinguals to report. For example, when I am speaking Russian, I feel more free to be non-literal (metaphorical or ironic) in what I say. Russian communicative culture values clarity and directness less than standard American culture does, but values cleverness and erudition more.
So if you asked me this question in Russian, you might not have gotten the simple direct answer I just gave, and instead something more clever, abstract or absurd.
ESL Insights: Are there associations that go along with speaking in different languages? For example: you grew up in Russia, does that mean you feel more of a child when you speak the language?
Lera Boroditsky: Most of my experience speaking Russian was as a kid, living in Russia. And most of my experience speaking English has been as an adult, with a job, living in the US. Switching from English to Russian certainly cues this big switch in context. Viorica Marian at Northwestern University has shown through her research that bilinguals will recall different memories and espouse different values when they're asked in one language versus another. Language acts as a cue for cultural values and also for the contexts in which you speak those languages. This is definitely an experience I have.
ESL Insights: You mentioned in the panel discussion (above) that some people are rather suspicious of you when you speak Russian. Why do you think that is?
In his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013-2014, Governor Jerry Brown announced that California is no longer facing a budget deficit. In relation to funding education, his budget increases state funding per student in K-12 schools to $2,700 by 2016-2017. For K-12 and community colleges, funding is projected to increase by $2.7 billion next year and $19 billion by 2016-2017.
What of adult education? The plan recognizes that K-12 school districts and community colleges are authorized to provide adult education instruction, but highlights a lack of coordination between the two systems in terms of serving adult learners. The contention is that the system is currently inefficient and unaccountable. The Governor’s plan proposes $300 million in new Proposition 98 General Fund revenues to fund a comparable K-12 adult education service delivery system within the community college system.
This plan would fund core instructional areas such as vocational education, ESL, adult basic and secondary education, and citizenship. Courses outside of these areas would require students to pay in full. Adult education would be relocated within the community college system.
The Governor’s budget recognizes the importance of adult education and that it must be funded. The issue is where and how it is to be delivered.
The adult and community college level groups of CATESOL are engaged in discussions right now looking at questions such as:
Which agencies should be responsible for delivering adult ESL instruction?
What are the benefits of keeping adult ESL in the community adult schools?
How do the 17 community colleges in California currently offering non-credit ESL programs serve their learners?
What are the distinctions between the services community adult schools in K-12 districts and community colleges provide? Whom does each type of institution serve?
A new report by the research group EdSource finds that adult education has been disappearing, ever since school districts were given permission to take funds once reserved for those programs and use them for other educational purposes.
If you grew up in California, the chances are you went to school with someone who would be categorized as Generation 1.5, and the chances are that you wouldn’t be able to pick them out from students who spent their whole lives in the US speaking English. In fact you have probably never heard the term.
Who is Generation 1.5? The term is used to describe students who are neither first nor second generation immigrants - hence, 1.5. They live somewhere between those two traditional terms and have a broad range of characteristics.
Generation 1.5 students could have been born here, but do not speak English at home with their parents. They might have moved to the US some time during the K-12 system from a non-English speaking country, or may have moved here from US territories where they grew up speaking a different first language. Depending on when they moved to the US, Generation 1.5ers may have limited literacy in their first language and also have limited English, especially for academic purposes. Again it depends on their education and cultural background, not to mention their home life.
In the video below, a student talks about how Generation 1.5 students feel lost between two cultures, not really belonging to either of them. (This is a conversation I’ve had in the past with so many Generation 1.5 students and clearly his classmates agree with him, judging by the finger snapping in the background.)
Business and labor leaders are showing support for an immigration reform bill proposed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators which would affect approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who already live in the U.S. The reform being discussed includes the “Dream Act” which would create an expedited path to citizenship for young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, if they attend college or serve in the military. It is believed that fixing the immigration system will, among other things, boost the economy by documenting these young people and allowing and encouraging them to attend college and possibly work in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Major companies and organizations like Microsoft, Intel and the National Science Teachers Association, support the plan since there are more jobs than qualified applicants in these areas.
All the talk of educating undocumented immigrants seems to focus on the 65, 000 who graduate from American high schools each year. But what about the adults? Supporters of this immigration reform plan hope it will also offer adults a comprehensive path to citizenship, as well as educational and employment opportunities. The last immigration reform bill, IRCA (The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986), offered legal residency to undocumented immigrants with an option to pursue full citizenship after five years. It also provided billions of dollars for English and citizenship education so that applicants could learn about basic U.S.history and government, and be able to speak, read, and write simple English—all requirements for citizenship.
Immigration reform is center stage right now – a top priority for President Obama’s second term in office. It is also centre stage for so many young people, many of our students here in California, who may be among the 11 million people in the U.S. without documents. They either came to theUS as young children or their parents immigrated to the US and remain undocumented.
Their stories form the basis of new musical called "In and Out of Shadows" at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco, performed by members of the Marsh Youth Theatre group. Written by Gary Soto, it is based on interviews with undocumented teenagers from diverse ethnic backgrounds living in the Bay Area, who describe how their dreams for the future look really bleak without papers. No college would accept them. No employer could employ them. They would be invisible.
For example, Homero Rosas came to San Francisco from Mexico when he was 6 years old. “My parents would tell me I wasn’t from here, but up until then I didn’t know what that meant,”….. “I didn’t know it meant I couldn’t get financial aid, I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t aspire to anything, really. I felt trapped.” His story is dramatized through his character, Juan.
Imagine yourself in Beijing, or Cairo. You did not finish high school in your home country. You know nothing of the language, and you don't even know the script. You are working full-time, perhaps at two or more jobs. You have a partner and several children, and maybe an elderly relative to care for. You have concerns about health care, childcare, and education for your kids. You go to school at night with 30 to 50 other students to learn the local language, but you miss class frequently because of all these other concerns. How long does it take you to attain college level written and spoken proficiency in the target language?
When people are having a hard time understanding why it takes ESL students some time to acquire the language, I often resort to this guided visualization. Monolingual English speakers usually have the same answer to the question: How long would it take you? Their answer is: Never. I could never do that.
There are number of misunderstandings about ESL and ESL students, but this is probably the most unfair. Immigrants are frequently expected to do things that native speakers would have trouble doing.
There are a couple of other common misunderstandings.
When I tell folks that I teach English as a Second Language, one of the most common responses I get is: "Oh, you must speak a lot of languages to be able to do that." As a matter of fact, many ESL instructors do speak one or more languages besides English, and this has its advantages, but it is tangential to ESL teaching methodology. While bilingual classes at the beginning level exist and are effective, large public ESL programs with diverse student populations usually start at the very beginning - in English. "My first name is... and "My last name is..." have a surprising amount of shelf life, but again, imagine yourself in Beijing. How long would it take you to figure out that Chinese does not put it together quite the same as English? 您貴姓？is not the same as 你叫什麼名字?
¿Hablas Inglés? Bạn có nói tiếng Anh? Вы говорите по-английски? هل تتكلم الإنجليزية؟
When we think about learning a language, we generally think about language taught as an add-on – like an ESL class for non-native English speakers or a class that is separate from academic content instruction. You learn German, Spanish or French in your language class, and knowledge and skills are taught in the native language. For example, math and history are taught in English here in the US or in the native language in other countries. But this approach, bilingual education, has been controversial since 1960s and is all about effective strategies for teaching and learning language.
Speaking in Tongues, a film by Ken Schneider and Marcia Jarmel explored this issue. In a time where 31 states have passed "English Only" initiatives, one urban school district is exploring the provocative notion that speaking a foreign language can be a national asset. Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse students and their families as they encounter the challenges and delights of becoming fluent in two languages. Witness how speaking more than one language changes them, their families, their communities, and maybe even the world. The film was presented on KQED's Truly California. Here's the trailer:
In a dual-language English immersion program, all instruction is given in English and teachers adjust the English level to the proficiency level of the class. Students develop language skills as they learn subject material. Similarly with Mandarin or Spanish – students would be taught math and other subjects in Mandarin or Spanish. The important difference is that the immersion teacher is able to speak the non-English native language, so that the teacher can tell if problems arise from understanding the language or from content. They can then use this language to explain further.
The California Department of Education estimates that there are 318 bilingual immersion programs in the state, up from 201 in 2006, with “about 50,000 students enrolled in dual-language programs …and about half of them are English learners. Ninety percent of the programs offer Spanish as the second language, followed by Mandarin (4 percent), Korean (3 percent) and other languages (3 percent).” - Eleanor Yang Su, KQED’s MindShift (March, 2012)
“We have more research now that shows students who develop two or three languages to a high level have certain cognitive advantages,” said Julie Sugarman, a research associate with the Center for Applied Linguistics, a Washington, D.C.-based organization. “They do as well or better than their peers in English-only programs.”
Michael Pollan has written “The word “sustainability” has gotten such a workout lately that the whole concept is in danger of floating away on a sea of inoffensiveness. Everybody, it seems, is for it whatever it means.”
So what does sustainability mean to you - do you think of solar panels or wind power? Buying food locally? The term is used in relation to environmental management, science, law, consumerism etc. and in so many different contexts, it can be confusing. But essentially sustainability is about sustaining the environment for future generations through forward thinkingstrategies to solve environmental challenges. It involves energy conservation, clean and green energy, technology that protects the environment, green building, and socially responsible organizations and employers.
But if you would like to work in some aspect of sustainability, how do you navigate your way through this confusing field and find your own path. Where would you start?