Educating Kids

We've got to make things easier.

On April 30, 2010 (page A3), the Wall Street Journal noted that the Arizona Department of Education is going to start removing teachers from school districts if their English is heavily accented or ungrammatical if they are in charge of classes where the students still need to learn English.

This makes PERFECT sense.

And then it doesn't.

It makes perfect sense because I am learning French right now and can't think of ANYTHING that would set me back more than listening to or reading the language without the proper grammar.

It makes less sense when I consider that the kids who need to also get educated might end up with a teacher who has a lesser ability to educate them related to the core subjects (because they can't speak fluent Spanish (or other)--particularly when the kids have questions).

I wrote an article years ago (1998) on audio/text-based learning because I believe this is the key to dealing with the 'dual language' problem (and just some basic reading problems for English speaking kids) we've got in the United States (Smart Children-Poor Readers: Using Audio/Text-Based Learning for Reading, Comprehension and Language Development

). I don't think it ever got much of a 'read' in the educational community since my own educational background is in engineering and business. But, since it's probably pretty obvious that I usually have an opinion, I'm noting here the text I sent to the Arizona Department of Education. Since it was sent to their contact page, it may never make it to any decision-maker who is involved in the process but if you yourself are learning another language (or just want to improve your reading skills in your core language), it may make a difference to you.


I caught the April 30 Wall St. Journal article (A3) regarding your teachers who don't speak English well enough. I never understand why people don't combine the actual resources WITH the problem solution:

    1. Double up classes, assign 2 teachers (1 fluent in English; 1 fluent in Spanish).

    2. Require (poor grammar) teachers to use MS Word or some program that corrects grammar to write out instructions for all activities in advance to be posted on the wall (in both languages). It would be even better if the fluent in English and fluent in Spanish teachers 'teamed up' to write out the instructions.

    3. Check into using computers (with the instructions) to speak to the kids (this will also improve your teacher’s grammar).

Obviously this doesn't cover all the 'chitchat' and followup questions that occur in a learning environment but it makes quite a bit of sense . . . (end text).


And the article I wrote years ago (with two 'add-ons' I made over the years): the 'process' was 'stuff' like:

. . . listen . . . in strongest language . . .

. . . follow words . . . listen again . . . in strongest language . . .

. . . read out loud (with or without audio backup) . . . in strongest language . . .

. . . follow words . . . listen . . . in weaker language . . .

. . . listen . . . in weaker language . . .

. . . listen . . . while reading along out loud . . . in weaker language . . .

Since we rarely have the time (or money) to 'reeducate' kids, I think we've got to find some better ways to get it right the very first time . . . AND give kids a process whereby they themselves can help themselves get it right . . .

And me: Give me another 20 years and I MIGHT be fluent in French (I consider myself to be 'linguistically challenged' but am doing much better than I initially thought I could. I'd also be further along if I spent more time on it--is there anyone else who schedules too much into a day?--maybe I should ask if there's anyone who doesn't?).


P.S. (1) ANY time you make it easier to educate someone, you've increased a nation's base of wealth--IF the nation uses that base of knowledge well.

P.S. (2) I've found that engineers tend to think differently than other people. For instance, years ago an educator 'discounted' my thoughts because I didn't get a teaching degree. But I look at it this way: I wrote the original article 12 years ago. If any child who came through the system who had difficulty learning to read in their native language or learning to speak in a secondary language was DENIED this learning process, I believe they were 'cheated out' of an education.

P.S. (3) I'm sure you 'picked up' on the fact that the first 3 steps of the process are geared toward increasing listening, concentration and reading skills while also allowing the child (or adult) to learn the core material.

P.S. (4) I'm sure you also picked up on the fact that this is probably one of the quickest ways to get English speaking teachers who are not bilingual (in the same 'lack of grammar' sense) up to speed in a second language. If the United States lacks teachers who will help future generations move into THEIR future (one where global boundaries are less readily apparent and there is great value in knowing a second language), we've got to make it easier for EVERYONE who is involved in the process to become educated.

P.S. (5) I just finished watching the DVD: Dear America: letters home from Vietnam (Home Box Office, 2005) in English with the French subtitles. I don't know if it's true here because I have not yet checked but for most movies, the subtitles do not exactly match the audio (in the same language). The entertainment industry is missing a HUGE opportunity to sell their movies as educational materials (the audio and text would have to match exactly).

P.S. (6) And, although unrelated to this text, if you ever watch Dear America, listen closely to the speech that a Captain Jeremiah Denton gave (just after 1:15:00) and observe closely his face. I believe I was listening to a man who still cared deeply about a country where he thought SO many people were making SO many wrong decisions.

P.S. (7) In my effort to upgrade on technology, I recently purchased a book reader (my choice: a Kindle). A few days into it, I'm not sure how I got along without it and haven't even really started using it. It came with an English dictionary loaded on but Amazon (and other companies that offer book readers) should immediately offer upon ordering the option of getting more than one dictionary loaded on. My choice obviously would have been French. I've identified that you can buy foreign language dictionaries for it but don't think those definitions would be integrated into the reading of the text. And, of course, I'd want the choice of selecting a French word while getting the definition in English (or vice versa). I am VERY particular. But don't worry Amazon. Even without this, I believe I've already gotten my money's worth--thanks.