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Developing Educator Expertise to Work with Adolescent English Learners
Module 1 – Introduction to Key Constructs

By Aída Walqui

OVERVIEW    |    INTRODUCTION    |   PART 1   |     PART 2   |    PART 3   |   REFERENCES



Video Clip: Domains of Teacher Expertise


Aída: The model that I developed based on Lee Shulman's, begins with a vision, and the vision is this a kind of dispositional cluster of attributes that a teacher has and that includes the teacher's goals, dreams, and hopes. So vision, Shulman had vision of teaching and this is where I added as we explore the model, a short-term vision of teaching like as I explained before what is the goal of this lesson, but a long-term vision of teaching, so where is it taking students.


But I added that teachers especially in context of educating English learners, need to have a vision of their students. And so they need to see their students short term as having immense capabilities that are going to be realized by teachers' work this semester but also having long-term visions of students as to who all of us teachers at this school are putting together our effort to create a citizen of these characteristics and somebody who hopefully in the future will be a lawyer, defending the rights of people, or will be the minister of education of a country. So we need to have those wonderful visions, short-term and long-term, of our students.


Then there is the domain of motivation. Motivation refers to why, the reasons why people go into teaching. And we know full well that everybody goes into teaching because they have a profound dissatisfaction with the status quo. They don't like the way things are and they know they can make a difference in the world through the students. Motivation is something that everybody who enters the profession, who enters studies in education, has.


However, motivation is a cluster of reasons that needs to be encouraged throughout a professional life. We all know how in schools where the climate is less than ideal, teachers walking gung ho, in fact what do they call it? What do they call the teachers that just come in there's there's a term they refer to. Oh she's a rookie yeah that's the rookie like meaning yeah let it be just wait until that teacher has been teaching for three years. And indeed all those ideas to make a difference to change sometimes in the wrong environment disappear. Because motivation needs to be cultivated, needs to be nourished. Motivation can grow through the life the teaching lifetime of a teacher but it requires that principles for example create spaces for teachers to work together. In fact in all the research I have done with teachers I have found that teachers find the most motivating thing in their careers to be able to plan together to come up with a product that they know is going to work with their skill. And so motivation has to be supported or we kill it in practice.


Then there's the domain of knowledge and one of the ideas that I love the most about Lee's model was the knowledge, although it typically occupies all of the time in teacher preparation, it is only one more component of many that interact and formulate teacher expertise. So there is famous subject matter knowledge, how much do teachers know about the subject matter they teach, and including how much do they know about English, and that enables them then to run it through pedagogical general knowledge, which are how do we teach in general. For example what is the value of wait time that mary blood rose studied or you know what are the dynamics of power in a class. For example if we study the spindlers work. And then of course pedagogical subject matter knowledge. So if my subject area is history and I know pedagogy I put together pedagogy and history and come up with pedagogical subject matter knowledge which means I know and my knowledge grows in this domain as I teach more and more. I know which are the themes that students find easy and exciting. I get to know what kids don't like and I get to develop understandings about how to teach students things that initially are not very palatable but what are the metaphors that I'll use, what comparisons what connections. So all of that is pedagogical subject matter knowledge.


And I added knowledge of students because unless we are continuously observing our students and getting to know them in action in class, we really cannot be good teachers. And knowledge of self because we know that the more we understand ourselves the more transparent we can be with our students, and laugh with them about mistakes or limitations we may have at the moment. I have found through experience that students really appreciate that. Did you want to say something?


Leslie: I wanted to ask you so if you could elaborate a little on knowledge of language that you mentioned briefly because in the context of working with English learners that's always a lot of controversy about what do teachers need to know.

Aída: Yes well knowledge of language is probably a misnomer. It should be knowledge of communication because in fact if we only know language, it's very problematic because then as Guadalupe Valdez, says we think that language is the curriculum, and we begin sequencing it along grammatical or vocabulary boxes. And then we think students need to know this before they know that. And the knowledge of language that we are talking about here has to do with broader things.


So if for example you need your students to learn to narrate something, then what is a narration? How does a narration tend to begin? How do you organize a narration? You first introduce the context, you then introduce the character, you then describe the character, then you introduce the problem, then you explore a little bit the problem, and then suddenly the character finds a solution and so you need to have the skeleton of the type of text that you are getting students acquainted with. It has nothing or very little to do with vocabulary because I could say you should you should know the word suddenly, you should know the word, the character you should know is like this, but that won't get you there. We first need to have the skeleton and then we flesh it out. So I'm really happy you asked about this knowledge of language because especially in the disciplines, it is uh immensely important that we go for the big things, the skeleton, and then we flesh it out.


Um okay so there's knowledge and then here comes the famous reflection domain. So the domain of reflection includes these three types of reflection: anticipatory or planning, active or interactive as thinking on your feet, recollective reduce it in past events to apply lessons for the future, and then we gain mindfulness. That pedagogical tact that makes it appear like you're a natural you just take things out of your pocket. But it's not taking things out of your pocket. That pocket grew over many years of successes and mostly failures, because it is the failures as we reflect on them, that help us really understand them.


And then there is the domain of context. Context is the setting in which classes education takes place. And the context encourages or erodes what we are doing, supports or threatens the success of what we're doing, and that has a lot to do with our knowledge. our very clear and sharp knowledge of that context.


For example sometimes the new model comes and everybody loves it, and everybody does it, but the danger is to adopt things without thinking what is our vision, what is this at the service. For example when we think about dual immersion programs, everybody loves the idea of dual immersion. You have half of the students who speak English as a native language, half of the students who are in the process of learning English, and you teach both of them and it will it goes great. Some classes are in let's say English some classes are in Spanish. But what we fail to see is what is the context in which this is happening.


The context in which it happens in the United States is typically a minoritized context. In other words it's a context where the students whose family language is not English tend to be stigmatized and unless we open our eyes and say we are going to try to work with students who are majority and students who are minoritized, how do I work with both groups so that the interactions I'm going to have them engage in are productive. Knowing full well that they start with an asymmetrical relationship, how do I turn that asymmetry into a symmetry in my class.


And so I remember being very concerned when these programs became very popular and I remember actually talking to Guadalupe Valdés and then Guadalupe writing about this. How important it is to really understand that context and to redress it in conscious ways. And indeed we know from many studies that in some cases perhaps even even most cases, the teacher for example tends to pay more attention to the student for whom Spanish is a new language. And so lowers her Spanish and for the students who speak Spanish really well it's not pushing the development of their stuff, so there we have an inequity and vice versa. When lessons are in English teachers may focus a little bit more on the majority student and not amplify English enough to have the minority students the minoritized students gain from the experience. That it is possible to have dual immersion programs that are wonderful and democratic and equitable, of course it is. But it requires that very conscious understanding of the context. What may hamper that which I am doing and what should I do instead to counterbalance.


So we can have a teacher that can actually talk about the vision, can talk about knowledge, can talk about motivation, can talk about the context can reflect and still, when in action, the version that comes out is a very pale version of what the language was. And that is because practice is the most difficult domain to be successful at. And that is why in systems where things work well, then there is another teacher who is much more experienced and accomplished, who accompanies the novice teacher into the classroom and serves as a mirror in which this teacher can reflect, understand, and begin to do things in ways that are increasingly wonderful for the students. So that enactment of learning, that support only when the support is needed, but not support. I plan for this scaffold so I'll do it anyway. I don't care whether students need it or not. And the notion that we're always formatively assessing our students, observing them, what are they learning so as to know what to invite them into learning next.

Domains of Teacher Expertise
Silent Graffiti

Video clip: Silent Graffiti

Student 1: Something that I found surprising is that Colin Kaepernick was the founder of the of the protest. And currently he is suspended of all actions in the NFL because of his actions. It was a really big deal and like the headquarters of the NFL decided to suspend him just because there was a lot of controversy with the with his actions and the protest and it being like worldwide now.


Student 2: So I don't know what Alex said like he he's a very like important person because he knew the consequences it was going to be when he took a knee during the anthem, so he decided to make that action to help the social injustice going on, knowing that he's so popular and a lot of people know about him. He knew he was going to make a greater impact around the world than just being suspended. He took a risk for what he believed in.


Student 3: What I was surprised about was the courage he had. The national anthem for a country is like one of the most like prized I guess things in a football game and for you to like not do what you're supposed to do just put your hand over your heart you kneel down instead. I think that's a a very big sign of disrespect and I mean he showed the fact that he was angry not by hitting anyone or violence or nothing, just by simply you know saying like, if you're gonna treat me a different way than everyone else then I'm not gonna respect your country you know.

Student 4: I was surprised because in school they usually teach us that a team works together, and team members are always it doesn't matter if one of one of the people on your team are wrong, you all go with what's going o,n like you can't choose sides when you're in a team. But in his team although other people I guess didn't agree with what he had to off what he had to say about what was going on, only three of them stood and actually kn on their feet as a team. They should have all just went behind him regardless what was going on, they should have all defended him as a team.


Student 5: I agree with what Abby has to say. It right now like it just looks like they all took their own decision of how they felt in it and it's like when you're representing like yourselves and you are on a team you're representing the whole team and who you are as as people, as players, and just how your mind is and where you like where your head's at in a way and right now it's very like diverse. And I do feel like if they were like a full team and the team players were combined together it would have made a bigger difference rather than just three people kneeling down.


Student 4: It would have made it a little bit harder to suspend the whole team because if the whole team backed him up you would have to suspend the whole team and Americans love football right so for you to suspend the whole team and like you said it would have made a greater impact


Student 5: Yeah I agree with you.

What’s in a Name?

Video: What’s in a Name? The Terms We Use to Talk About English Learners, the Theories They Reflect, and Why Labels Matter

Glen Harvey: Thank you, welcome everyone. As you heard, I'm the CEO of WestEd which is a national research, development and service organization focused on education and healthy human development with a priority on meeting the needs of the country's least well served children and youth. I am just so honored to welcome you to this conversation series. It's so exciting to me. We'll be focusing on the educational experiences of English learners, and how to improve those experiences by building on the resources immigrant children and the children of immigrants bring to school and providing them the necessary support to realize their immense potential.

The pandemic is really a vivid reminder of how essential high quality education truly is. Sadly, it's also our reminder of how historically underserved students are always the first harmed when there is a crisis or a disruption. Twelve scholars from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia will explore with Aída Walqui themes relevant to the education of English learners and examples of what is possible in dramatically changing times characterized by this crisis, but also characterized by plenty of opportunity.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to share some really exciting news. WestEd has just been granted a five year contract by the United States Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, better known to many of us as IES, to serve as the National Research and Development Center to improve education for secondary English learners. The Center will focus on innovative solutions to improving opportunities and achievement for English learners.

Under Aída's leadership, WestEd partnered with UCLA's Center for Research on Standards in Student Testing, known as CRESST, The University of Oregon, and Oregon State to craft a line of studies to better understand the most intractable issues in the education of English learners. We are so honored at WestEd to be selected to lead the Center, and we're equally pleased to join with that new Center and IES today to host this series at a time that I think we're all experiencing that people are really hungry to learn more about the ways to improve and optimize the education of English learners.

For those of you who do not know Aída, she's a renowned scholar, researcher, and provider of professional development, as well as a prolific writer and an eloquent, compelling speaker. She bridges policy practice and research with ease and with grace. She's a generous partner and collaborator. She is one of the best colleagues anyone could have at WestEd, even at a distance from Peru. And her passion for ensuring that English learners have the opportunity to reach their full potential and realize their dreams is absolutely unsurpassed. So, let me turn this over to you now Aída.

Aída Walqui: Thank you very much, Glen. Greetings, everybody. I am delighted to welcome you all to the inaugural session of this series of conversations with scholars focused on the education of English learners, as Glen explained. Our students are immensely talented and resourceful, however, they still remain underserved. And that is an issue that we hope that with the pandemic that has sent us into deep reflection about life, about the contexts and about what we can do to improve as new societies are being built, we can really tackle together with quality and depth.


So, two intentions really guide this series. The first one, to provide food for thought at this time of reflection and planning; to explore the recent developments, recent controversies, recent positions in the education of students for whom English is an additional language. The second reason is to tool teachers with deep substantive knowledge. And to re-energize their motivation for tackling complex issues in collegial and well-informed ways.


The conversations, as Glen mentioned, come at a very momentous and happy moment for us, contradictorily, because of the grant that IES has given us to host one of two centers for improving the education of English learners in secondary schools. So, I also would like to express my gratitude and the gratitude of our partners and colleagues for this grant that will enable us to further develop the field. I obviously want to thank Glen Harvey, Sabrina Lane, my colleagues in the quality teaching for English learners who have supported the series all along.


About Guadalupe Valdés with whom I will be entering conversation very soon, I really couldn't think of anybody better qualified to begin this series of conversations. Guadalupe Valdés is a Bonnie Katz Tenenbaum Professor of Education at Stanford, but she is an incredibly well-tooled scholar. In her most distinguished and productive career researching bilingualism, the acquisition of languages, community uses of language. She has always been well grounded and committed to students' deep learning and to their communities.


As you saw in one of our slides, she has written many books. But the two most important ones which are classics in the field are Con Respeto: Bridging the Distances Between Culturally Diverse Families and Schools: an Ethnographic Portrait and Learning and Not Learning English: Latino Students in American Schools. It makes no sense for me to start listing her articles. Last week, I started looking at them and there are over 130 articles that she has authored. But more importantly than that, Guadalupe is not only a deep, committed and critical thinker, but she is also a generous colleague and friend. And it is an honor and an immense pleasure to welcome her today. Welcome, Guadalupe.

Guadalupe Valdés: Aída, thank you very much. I'm delighted to be here, especially to be the first speaker in this very important series of conversations.

Aída Walqui: Thank you, so let's get on to the questions. Guadalupe we are living immensely challenging times. As I said before, it's the times of ambiguity, times where inequities have become absolutely evident even for those who have not been aware of them before. What would you say is the role of scholars like you who have devoted your academic life for calling out the injustices, both obvious and hidden, experienced by English learners in the educational system? What is the role in these difficult times?

Guadalupe Valdés: I think it's really very important to stay on message. We can get distracted so easily. What I'm aware of is that the discourse shifts, it is constantly shifting. So just as we thought that maybe we had talked to the profession, and we had established a couple of things that we could agree on, then the discourse shifts again. And so, we have to be very very attentive to how the shifts will work and especially how different things will lead to unexpected changes, new standards will always take us new places that we didn't know where we were going to go.

New assessments for example, will then move schools and teachers then to think differently than we might have thought before. And of course, there are shifting political perspectives and shifting conditions in the neighborhoods in which the children that we care about live, for example, gentrification. And certainly without even mentioning the pandemic which of course has incredible impact right now on the communities that we care about. And of course, what's also surrounding all of this is all of the shifting theoretical perspectives on what on earth this language.

So, I think that to be able to bridge and to stay abreast it's almost like a fine balancing act to say how do I speak to these people and to these other people that haven't moved into the direction that new theories are taking us? What can we say, because we still care about the same children?

Aída Walqui: Right, so in this balancing act that you talk about and looking at your very rich career, what has remained the same in your research and in your concerns and interests, and what has changed?

Guadalupe Valdés: Well I think for me, the umbrella under which I put everything that I work on is my interest in bilingualism. Very specifically, what I wanna know is what does it mean to be bilingual? How do people become bilingual? And what kinds of instructional settings result in bilingualism? If that is a condition that we want to make certain that obtains in society, what kinds of instructional arrangements will lead to that? And it's not clear that we know. So those are sort of my basic questions.

In my latter years now, I have become very very much intrigued with the teaching and the learning of language, with the mechanisms, trying to understand what is it that we do when we are in an instructional arrangement and we're trying to bring forward the acquisition of that societal language for new learners? Or how is it when we have even majority speakers who want to acquire languages other than their first? And I'm trying to understand something that I call the curricularization of language. And a couple of the articles that I suggested that people who were engaged in this conversation might wanna read, all have the same diagram.


And if I might, I'd like to put up the diagram because I'm very interested in thinking about how we're all caught up in a mechanism in a system that, if we don't understand it, we sometimes will not see where we are. So, if I could call your attention to the fact that when we teach language we're down in the bottom of the diagram and the core program features. And of course, we're engaged with goals and outcomes and we want, we have instructional approaches that we swear by or really have been successful for us, we use particular materials, and we have perceptions of learners needs. And of course, we have those assessments that we have to show that we have accomplished something. But what we do in this core program features are influenced by something above us that we often not aware of.


Of course, we have all of the policies in the section right above. What might be program administration, parental preferences, expectation, sources of funding, all of those things impact what we do in the classroom. We're often not aware of is what really deeply impacts what we do in the classroom are things like conceptualizations of language. What do we think that language is? How do we think that language is acquired?


So, for example, if you think that that language is structure in form, what you will do in the classroom and your goals and outcomes will have to do with structure and form. If you conceptualize language as being a social practice, what you do in core program features then has to do with what you believe those social practices are and how they are acquired. So your theories of second language acquisition really matter, also your theories of bilingualism. What is a bilingual? If you still believe that bilingual is two monolinguals in one, you will approach instruction in very different ways than if you think there are many varieties of bilingualism.


And in fact, there isn't someone who is two monolinguals in one; that is just not the way bilingualism works. And of course, we have ideologies of language, race, class and identity, about which we're talking a great deal. So the degree to which we believe that certain children can or cannot acquire languages really matters. So, I just wanted to show that Aída, because I think I'm really struggling to try to say how could we make people aware who are in classrooms of what it is that they're actually engaged in and how they can analyze how they got to where they are.

Aída Walqui: So, in that sense, Guadalupe, what would you say are some of the issues that we have more or less solved in the field? And which are those that still we need to be really concerned about because we haven't begun to tackle?

Guadalupe Valdés: You know, I think that what is called the multilingual turn in Applied Linguistics, I think it has given us a great deal, at least in my understanding of what we have learned and what scholars are talking about, I'm very encouraged. I think we all agree.

Aída Walqui: Elaborate on the multilingual turn for those that may not be familiar with it.

Guadalupe Valdés: Yes, so the multilingual turn… I think what's interesting is that the field of Applied Linguistics and probably what is called Second Language Acquisition, or SLA, in so many ways was unconcerned about bilingualism. It's interesting that while they were engaged in the instructional kinds of activities that would lead to bilingualism, you didn't see them talking about the fact that what the goal was, was to produce an individual who would use more than one language in their everyday life. So the multilingual turn then took us to influencing the field of Second Language Acquisition in very important ways.


And I, because I'm so old, came into the field as an applied linguist, so I continue to speak of myself as an applied linguist. Although I certainly could see myself as calling myself or thinking of myself as working in Second Language Acquisition as well. So, that multilingual turn has brought up an awareness of the fact that what we're engaged in is in fact producing bilinguals, okay. Producing multi-competent speakers, and some people don't like the term bilingual because of what it connotes, of course, of this “bi”. I still use it, but I can see its problems, because “bi” immediately takes you to thinking two people, two monolinguals in one, that two headed monster that doesn't exist.


So, I think that that multilingual turn, I think it's important because it has then questioned that condition of being bilingual certainly is not two monolinguals in one person, so we have gotten there. And people have also begun to question in some very important ways that whole native speaker norm. Because remember, as language teachers we are also thinking that we were in the business of producing an educated native speaker. But more and more the literature and the research in Second Language Acquisition has persuaded us. That in fact you can't be a native speaker of anything but your native language.


So in fact, we're either condemned to never being successful because we can't produce native speakers, imitation native speakers, or we simply decide that acquiring resources, ability to language in more than that first language or that whole language has value whether or not you're identical to those individuals that we define as educated native speakers. So, that conversation is ongoing, and I think has been very valuable in the way that we think about things. But now we have to move and say what about assessments? So should assessments, then if we decide that the native speaker norm is necessarily, is not necessarily where we gotta go, then how do we think about the assessments?

What seems to be the norm that we're going to then accept as the one that will say you've arrived or you haven't yet arrived, you're still in the journey to acquiring that language. And then, we used to believe, I don't know about you, Aída, but when I taught language, there was the assumption that if I taught it, they would learn it.


So, I would teach it and I would teach particularly structures, and you know I was wonderful at teaching the Spanish subjunctive when I was engaged in teaching Spanish. And amazingly enough, it really wasn't acquired the way that I taught it. So, I could really assume one of two things. Either I was a horrible teacher and I hadn't done a good job of doing it, or the students were not competent, somehow or the other they were really failing me by not learning, or that was not the way that things worked. Maybe by my teaching bits and pieces of language was maybe not the way that acquiring language or acquiring abilities to use language in everyday life actually worked. So, that led me to try to think about what is it that we can think about the linearity of second language acquisition.


And now we have all the work of Diane Larsen-Freeman that has persuaded us that if you do research on it, you realize that just because we teach it that way in that order, that's not the way it is acquired and individuals, once you go back and you analyze the very kinds of tendencies that you saw of how a particular clause structure was acquired, that there's incredible variability in acquisition. So that has changed in the field as well. And then finally, we're then beginning to think about ideologies of language and how we view the ways that learners acquire language, and when we see them using that language that they're trying to acquire, whether or not we view them negatively because they are not native-like, or we assume that they will never be able to get to where we want them to be in terms of form because of who they are.


So I think that those things, I think they're in the conversation, they're pushing us to rethink a lot of things that we do down in that compartment of those core activities that we carry out in classrooms, but of course what is really really sad is to know that there's still so many things that are so problematic in our practice. So we've made a lot of progress, but there's still a lot of problematic things in our practice, that I find that somehow are still very discouraging. So, what we're engaged in in American education in particular, and I don't think it's very different across the world when we bring in new people into our societies, either they're new people or they're minorities children in our societies, and we bring them into our schools, and obviously we have two things to do.


Clearly, we want them to acquire the societal language, but we also want to develop their fine minds. We want to give them access to subject matter content. And so those two things are not the same things and they often quarrel with one another. So, there are often in ways in which we set up those instructional arrangements so that we focus on let's get the language in, and that will give them access to the content. Or we're really dealing with the content in ways that someone who is not yet able to work in that language cannot yet access the content that they need and that subject matter knowledge.

So, these are persistent perennial challenges that I don't think that we have solved. And in this context, we're also I believe very much impacted by the assessment, the assessments that we have. And we have subject matter assessments and we have language assessments. And there's much that we do not know about assessments. And a number of people have expressed a lot of concern about the validity and reliability of academic achievement measures for students that we categorized as language learners and the capacity of these assessment systems to properly measure the growth and the progress of these students.


So, I think we have a lot of work to do on the assessment both of subject matter assessment for those individuals that really are not yet capable of doing all academic work in the societal language, as well as on language assessments themselves. And of course, as you know Aída, I can go on and on about my worry about assessments. Probably the older I get, the more I worry about the faith that we have in assessments.

Aída Walqui: Well, I agree with you completely, Guadalupe. I obviously go back a long, long time as well. And I remember learning English in the early 60s and teacher saying, "But that's not the way you pronounce it!" And I would say, "That's the way I'll pronounce it, I like it." "But you don't sound like a native speaker!" Well, I don't want to sound like a native speaker. I want people to know I'm different. Why would I want to sound like a native speaker?

So, intuitively I rebelled against those ideas. However, I taught English myself in Peru later on and I still was trapped in the bits and pieces. But I also want to agree with you that one of the issues, we need to really apply this social multilingual turn to is assessment because I think we've taken a couple of steps about teaching students about conceptual understandings and analytic practices in the disciplines, but we still test them as if language developed is a linear sequence, and so the two have to meet somewhere.


And perhaps that's the task immediately after the pandemic. But there are many other tasks, Guadalupe. And what I would love for you to address now is the issue of labels. And the terms we use to call our students for example, long term English learners. We get acronyms and some people say the ELLs, ooh, it drives me crazy when people say that, because processes happen that I want you to address, when the activity and the teachers and the communities are labeled in specific ways. And people say, "but it's just a matter of semantics." That also is so absurd because semantics is precisely the science of meaning. And to say it's only a matter of meaning, well, that's what it is that's what life in education is about, right? So, would you kindly comment on labels.

Guadalupe Valdés: So, I worry a lot about labels. And it seems like I drive my students crazy by worrying so much about labels. But if you think about it, again, in my diagram I have a particular in the core part of the of the diagram of why it matters, is teachers’ perceptions of students. Teachers’ perceptions of students really depend a great deal on what we call them. And we all work in mechanisms in which we're categorizing students. And once you put students into a category, it's very hard to think about them in any other way.

Guadalupe Valdés: So, I now have taken to saying students bureaucratically categorized as English language learners, and people will say, "That's enormously long. Nobody's going to say that." But I want to use bureaucratically categorized as English language learners to imply that they may have little in common except that the way that you measure them. And we know there's incredible variability and problems in the way the different districts, different states, different countries will categorize students in terms of what they need, in terms of language of the societal language specifically.

So not only do we have this incredible difference in the ways that students enter the category, but clearly what they have in common with each other. So, we can really find good terms, and there have been terms that we've absolutely rejected like the limited English proficient. Oh no, no, no, that's a no no, I mean, because...

Aída Walqui: LEP

Guadalupe Valdés: Sorry, LEP, yes, the LEP. Exactly, so we rejected that. But we didn't make much progress by going to the English language learner. And so, we have colleagues who have been wonderful in saying because the English language learner doesn't focus on what they already have. So then let's call the emergent bilinguals for example and while I love the term emergent bilinguals because it's going to imply that they are on their journey to becoming bilingual, I want to have the steps going forward. Because if I call them emergent bilinguals, when do they get to being bilingual?


So, I can't just congeal them with the term emergent bilinguals, you see why it worries me so much. And the long term English language learner is particularly problematic. 'Cause remember, and it was a well meaning category. People who actually moved forward to make, certainly in California, to pass a bill that identified these long term English language learners, these children or these students were by definition those that were not reclassified. That's all that they had in common. They had not been reclassified by the end of fifth grade, sixth grade, and it varies depending on the district and the definition. But why were they not reclassified?


And some, it could be something linguistic, it might not be something linguistic, it could be plain opportunity to learn. I now have an ongoing research project now in its third year in which we're looking at the long term English language learners. And what we're finding right now, some very interesting things about now we're looking at them, they're 11th graders, and we've gone back to look at cume files to see what do these children have in common. And again, opportunity to learn is enormously important. The language that they first acquired reading in. So, what language was used for initial reading seems to have an enormous impact. So, they may not have passed the tests because they don't pass the reading tests.


They do everything in English, Aída, these students that we're looking at. They curse each other, they kid, they do wonderful things, they text, they're creative and incredibly eloquent in English. But if you see the instruction, because identifying a category implies now I know how to support them. But what is always worried me is that very fine line between support and marginalization. So, the problem with the how we refer to students and how we categorize them, is our inability, because teachers are as busy as they are and as overwhelmed as they are, to then see there's variability here. If a label prevents you from seeing the incredible variability in the students that you teach, then something is wrong with the label.

Aída Walqui: Yes, and if the label then determines that you give medicine that is lower and lower level challenge and support all the time, then of course, I mean, these students are our creation. That's not the way they are, right? But if we challenge and we support them, and if we invite them to conversations that are rigorous and enticing, then the results are very different. So, labels do, I agree completely with you, inform the kinds of behaviors educators have with students. So unpacking labels is an essential task. But what other tasks, Guadalupe, you have dedicated your life to so many things, but very importantly to the creation of generations of scholars, right? So, as you think of the younger scholars and the world and the kinds of endeavors they will face, what would you say are some of the most important ones?

Guadalupe Valdés: Well, I'm very excited about the young scholars and the ways that they're speaking. Because I think we were, I'm optimistic. All of the things that happened around the Black Lives Matter around the world, the very fact that we began to ask ourselves, and I as you know I'm Mexican in origin growing up in Mexico and so I have a great attachment to the things that we do in Mexico and do not do well. And many of the things that we do not do well in Mexico is how we treat our indigenous population. Even though we all claim to be Mestizo, some are more Mestizos than others. So the whole idea of being able to talk about race and being able to talk about race loudly we owe to the young scholars.


Because I think that, and I look at the early parts of my career where one could not have mentioned race, one could not have done that without expecting an enormous backlash in our colleagues in our departments. And there were issues of class and issues of cast that we were very very familiar with. But now the Black Lives Matter movement and the response to it, give us an opportunity to say we got to talk about this and we gotta talk about why it is that students who are lighter skinned are seen in ways that the students that are darker skinned are not, because it matters.


So, I think the young scholars I really applaud them in pushing, especially those of us who are the old fossils, to think about the ways in which they're talking about new ways of thinking about the world, that they're talking about racial linguistics and they're talking about languagelessness. How do we render children languageless? And we're talking about translanguaging. We're talking about polylanguaging and we're talking about all kinds of other ways of languaging as opposed to interacting.


So, I think I would very definitely encourage the students, the young scholars and the students that will be scholars in the future to move in the directions of saying how can we interrogate those things that appeared before that we could not interrogate without seeming impolite, without seeming that we were attacking individuals for whom we had a lot of respect but perhaps the world had not opened their eyes to seeing injustice in the ways in which we see it clearly.

Aída Walqui: Exactly, yes, I'm also very very encouraged by our young scholars and how as you say they are challenging things that sometimes we were a little bit more cautious in spite of the fact that both you and I were quite daring, have been quite daring all the time. Guadalupe, moving a little bit in a different direction, the crisis has pushed educators and students into learning situations that are problematic. Do you have concerns about a virtual modality of learning, for example this morning we heard that LA USD is going to have the first semester at least just exclusively in virtual education. What are the concerns you have about distal education and the students who are learning English as an additional language?

Guadalupe Valdés: It is very, very worrisome. There is just to start out with the access to connections. Just to the kind of connections that they need to be able to access the instruction. Assuming that they had the computers. And then we need to be able to know that they are connected reliably. So, that's just an entry level thing, that we're dealing with hotspots, the districts with which I was working this past spring depended on Chromebooks given out to students in the community and then hotspots. And perhaps that hotspot being shared by several children in the same family. So, there's just that access to materials and to that which makes available the virtual instruction. But then there's virtual instruction itself.


And one of my biggest fears is that that we could fall back on drill and kill. Bits and pieces of language and drill and kill because it looks like we're making progress. It looks like we're progressing from one particular English construction, one particular set of structures and then another and we do just that. So we could fall into just doing that. The challenge is how do we have the kind of instruction that you have always been, been pushing us to understand, and I always love the word that you use inviting students. How do we invite students to be engaged to be involved in conversations that will expand their mind? How can we put them in touch with those areas of knowledge that we know that will be important for the development?

In my optimistic moments, I'm thinking, well there we have the entire internet. And there's no reason why if someone is approaching the study of beginning biology in a high school class why we couldn't access anything that is available to them in their home language in biology, because now we're not constrained only to use those materials those curricular materials that we had already. So maybe we could do that, maybe we could be in touch with departments of education in whatever our countries of origin are to see what's available online that we could possibly use for students. Maybe this would be a good opportunity then to make those kinds of things accessible. But also to have an opportunity because we are going to be recording this, at least most of us will be recording this, to see what seems to be working and whatnot.

So, in my pessimistic moments I worry that if we will only do drill and kill that there is not much opportunity to develop interactional competence. But there are things we can do just in straight language instruction that would be very exciting. For example, I always worry a lot about comprehension. I have decided a long time ago that in order to get students who are new to a language that they must use to learn through, the most important skills that they need is the ability to understand the teacher and ability to read the texts. And I can imagine using a virtual environment to work some in working in comprehension.


So, there's a number of bits of instruction of bits of presentations that could be given to work on students’ ability to continue to listen past frustration. So, I think that there's possibilities that we could use these environments for that we haven't used them before. So, those are my moments of optimism and they are my moments that have great pessimism and saying how will we keep children from falling hopelessly behind?


Aída Walqui: Well, I think that is the right attitude to be perfectly aware of the dangers that we may send our students into, while at the same time trying to carve within the constraints the most optimal abilities for them, opportunities for them to learn and to prosper including their own self direction of their learning. Guadalupe, I want to ask you a final question, shifting again before we go into some of the many questions, well not all of them but only some, that have come from our colleagues all around.


You know I am sure that a lot of the people joining us today wonder how did Guadalupe Valdés become Guadalupe Valdés? What were the influences in her life, how did her intellectual and social commitment evolve? What has made her work easier? What were some of the stumbling blocks she encountered? Would you kindly share with us a bit of your own formation?

Guadalupe Valdés: Okay, well I'll try a little bit, always, my grandchildren basically saying that when I begin to talk about how I grew up I'm incredibly boring, so I won't do that. But I grew up on the US Mexican border in Ciudad Juárez in El Paso, Texas and I grew up on the Ciudad Juárez side of the US Mexican border, where my father had his medical practice. And I was sent to school to the US side of the border at the time that I was five years old. And crossed the border back and forth my entire school life which gave me a particular perspective on one, two national contexts, because you have them immediately adjacent to each other.


With the advantages of being, of having a sense of not being an immigrant, of being in my country which was Mexico, of being in my country and feeling proud of being in my country, and then having access to a beautiful educational system. I always talk about the Irish nuns. They were the ones that educated me in the school across the border to which I traveled every day over a 12 year period that was early in my life. But what that led to was an interest in bilingualism, being aware of what it was to be bilingual. Who were the people in my family that were not bilingual? What kinds of functions I served for my grandmother who was not an English speaker when we just actually went to a movie, and how I would interpret for her so that she could join us in understanding?


So, I became very interested in bilingualism, early on. Later on in my life that interest in bilingualism persisted, and I think what supported me a great deal was the incredibly brilliant students and colleagues that I've had. As in my academic appointments I taught in New Mexico for a very long time, had wonderful students in New Mexico, had the opportunity of doing research in the area in which I lived with wonderful colleagues around me up and down that valley, which was very very valuable. Then moving to California, which is a completely different world. Being at Berkeley and having again colleagues like Lily Wong Fillmore and Sarah Friedman who were incredibly valuable in my own intellectual journey continuing forward. Then moving to Stanford and having people like Shirley Brice Heath in my life, or Kenji Hakuta in my life, or Amado Padilla. And then having incredibly wonderful students you yourself when you were at Stanford, of having you in a classroom and learning so much from graduate students 'cause I've had brilliant graduate students. And so that has been, I think a very much, a blessing in my life. So, I attribute much of what I think to conversations with brilliant people.

Aída Walqui: Okay, that's a great transition if you don't mind, we'll move into questions that have come from our audience. As Danny said in his introduction, we've had over 1000 people join and that's really exciting. You can't possibly answer them all, so I have taken the liberty of selecting some. Let me begin with a question from Hon Ying Shen in New York City, and she points to a very interesting dilemma. And she asks, "Do we prepare content area teachers with language teaching strategies or do we ask language teachers to learn a subject matter so that they can teach English learners?"

Guadalupe Valdés: And I would then go back and say this is a wonderful question. It's a question that has so much to do with how we have thought about language being taught and language being learned. So, it really depends on your theories of second language acquisition. So, it depends, how do you think that language is acquired? So, if you believe that language is acquired by someone setting up for you all the bits and pieces of language in some sequence or order, then you will say I need a language teacher. I need to have someone who's a specialist in this and can do it in particular ways.


And you'll say I have to worry about my subject matter teachers 'cause they won't know how to do this. They won't know how to do it in the right order and I agree, subject matter teachers do not know language, they do not know the order of things in which we would want them to know, so when we have said all teachers of content must also be teachers of language, what we know is that they focus on what they can possibly understand language to be, often vocabulary. So the issue is if you believe that language, and this is where I would be if I could persuade people to think about language is acquired in use, so how could you set up contexts in which you know that language is going to be used?

To be able to acquire language, we need to be able to imitate those that already use it. In some of my research that I just completed working in science classrooms, in fact we set up science classrooms so that we could see the affordances just in doing New Generation Science Standards, what would be the affordances around language the ordinary teachers, just fifth grade teachers not specialist in language, include, invite, all the wonderful words that you use, students to participate in working with phenomena. And in working with a phenomena, they have the opportunities to hear rich language. 'Cause that depends, I can't sequester my English language learners just with themselves. So, this leveled ELD thing that has come into our ways of thinking about language instruction, if you haven't anyone that they can imitate, the only full speaker of the language is the teacher, then you don't have enough access to English.


So that doesn't make sense for me. So, I believe that that question then takes us to try to say, do we have to stay with the old structures? Do we have to decide that its either teaching language first or teaching content? Can we design those content, those content instructional contexts, those subject matter teaching classrooms so that they include opportunities to hear language, opportunities to imitate language, opportunities to engage with the content, and then attending to language as we need to, if we need to, by those specialists. Lot of interesting work being done in Oregon in bringing together the ESL teachers that they have ESL teachers into the content classrooms, not to act as adjunct teachers but to enhance the affordances and the opportunities for children.

Aída Walqui: Right, yes I mean, I totally agree with your answer there because if we introduce students to concepts that are critical in a discipline and we keep inviting them to explore those concepts over time over a variety of cases, students obviously apprentice into users of the language and they begin to feel much more comfortable. It's something we need to encourage more. Okay, a related question, kind of comes, from Hussein Wisile who is PhD candidate at the University of Florida. And what he asks is, "How can American educators "ensure equity in school practices "for English language learners and their development?"

Guadalupe Valdés: This is a lovely question and I already love the questioner, because this is the exactly the question to ask. I think that that is a question that must guide what we do in schools today. To be able to say, we have incredibly as you always say, Aída, either incredibly talented young people who are a gift to our nation. And so, what we wanna make certain is that we develop their fine minds. So, I think that that's the question that has to guide us. What opportunities, what possibilities, what experiences do we need to ensure that they have? Which means, if we are down in that bottom segment of my diagram, we have to quarrel with that middle section with all of the policies, with all of those educational barriers that are often placed bureaucratically because people mean well.

I don't want to suggest that the people who set up the policies have anything but the interests of the ensuring that education moves smoothly and does what it's supposed to do, there inadvertently other things happen. So, I would urge us then always to be questioning how can very well meaning policies keep students from those experiences and those possibilities of development that we would want for them.

Aída Walqui: Yes, that's definitely the case. I mean, one of the things that go back to your notion of labels is that we see students only through their English speaking abilities. And then teachers sometimes are surprised oh my god, they can do so much, right, when they see them all of a sudden in a community event. And so that's what we need to see. We need to see the kids in their whole strengths and possibilities. And we need to realize that our job as educators is realizing their possibility, so thank you for bringing us that perspective. Guadalupe, you shared two articles with colleagues joining us in the conversation today. And obviously, some of them really read them very carefully. Among them, our dear colleague, Tony DeFazio who is an adjunct professor at NYU, and one of his good questions was, "Is it possible to adopt a view of language that is many sided rather than one of the versions that you describe in your article?"

Guadalupe Valdés: I think it's definitely possible, and I think that I certainly am familiar with Tony DeFazio's work and I actually saw a video of his work one time that you shared with me that I absolutely was enthralled with because it was for me an example of what can really happen. So, it's clear that the particular perspective on language as a social practice as something that has to be used in order to engage with content is very present. And the fact that students can do many many things with less than perfect language. So, often what we worry about if you have a native speaker norm version, you don't want students to leave you until that language is more native like. But if you believe the students can do things with less than perfect language, then you still could come back and say well, at some point, if you decide that you want to do something with it let me show you how the language works so that you could work on it if you wanted to. So, I think you probably could.


I worry that sometimes it leans in the direction of too many bits and pieces when students don't want to hear about the bits and pieces they really want to mean. If what we're really trying to learn is how do you, we're trying to encourage students to use the language in order to communicate meaning, I'd probably prioritize that much more than I do the particular structure and form. So, I think that Tony is probably right and that we want to make certain that we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. But the bathwater has worried me for a very long time. So, I want to preserve the baby, and the baby for me is a communicator, an interactor, someone who thinks, and anything that detracts from allowing that individual to develop as a meaning making participant worries me.


Aída Walqui: Guadalupe, one final question. Many questions came from colleagues in Peru, and so I have chosen Natalia Verástegui, from the Ministry of Education here, and I'll read it in Spanish and then in your response you can kind of reinterpret the question.


Me pareció sumamente relevante, aún para la situación educativa en el Perú, la idea de que la curricularización del idioma es muy negativa. ¿Cómo sugeriría usted que empecemos a cambiar la mentalidad de los educadores y de las autoridades educativas de que el lenguaje no es el curriculum si no las ideas, el pensamiento, la expresión?

Guadalupe Valdés: What a wonderful question. It says, "Cómo empezaríamos," "How would we begin?" And the problem is, to begin is very hard to do because...

Aída Walqui: Could you reinterpret the question for those who don't speak Spanish?

Guadalupe Valdés: Yes, so it's a, the question of, it's very relevant for the situation in Peru how negatively that curricularization of language is understood. So how could we begin to change the mentality, not only of educators but also "autoridades educativas" which would mean those people who have the authority over education in any country. And I find mind changing a very intriguing thing in trying to talk about curricularization, what I have tried to say is can we start by making you aware of where you sit in the mechanism? I think for me, that's a really important place to begin.

Because those of us who are in the classroom teaching language are unaware of the fact that that textbook that you're using is informed by all of those things above you, by the policies, by the theories, by the perspectives, and by the ideologies, so that if in Peru as in Mexico you believe that a dark skinned indigenous origin child habla mal español, speaks Spanish poorly, right? Then so much of that is going to guide what you think you need to do for that child to ensure his success in the broader society. And so many of us as teachers are caught in that bind. What can I do for this child because I know how negative the world will be for him because he is who he is, including the judgments of language.

So, I see that as a difficult issue, but if we unleash our perceptions of where do I sit in the mechanism and why is it so hard to change? Autoridades educativas who are in that middle section are equally hard to see what role do they play and that they are enacting a theory of language. They're enacting a theory of second language acquisition in those little policies, in those large policies as well. So, I think it's a very difficult problem. And so, I would say to Natalia I'm sorry I don't have the solutions for you. Hopefully, as we all begin to work on this and communicate with each other, I think that's the power of what we do individually, of being able to communicate for others the small successes because the small successes are incredibly valuable.

Aída Walqui: Yes. Guadalupe, thank you so much for joining us today. I would like to invite all of our participants to join us on Thursday, this time it'll be Ofelia García. And I'm very much looking forward to that. Thank you, Guadalupe.

Guadalupe Valdés: Thank you so much.

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