What is it that makes us want to write? What is it that makes us want to reach out to the world? For most of us, there are three reasons: to teach, to share or to be heard.
Thinking about myself and my career, I have spent my entire adult life working with English Language Learners. These past (almost) 20 years I have worked in urban areas in neighborhoods comprised of recent immigrants and families that identify as bicultural.
Like essentially all Americans, my family’s history began somewhere else. My family has called the U.S. home since the late 1950s when they settled in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ. My grandparents started over in this neighborhood. My parents grew up in this neighborhood. And I am part of the first generation born in this same neighborhood in Ironbound Newark.
So when I began teaching, without truly thinking about why, I found myself returning to that same neighborhood in Newark. While my career has since taken me to different areas throughout New Jersey, it was in Newark that I was able to see firsthand what school is like for ELLs. I saw opportunities they had that offered unique advantages, but more often I saw many missed learning opportunities. I saw students pulled from their classrooms. I saw them receiving instruction in cafeterias. hallways and staircases. While for a portion of their day they sat side by side with native English speakers, overall their educational experiences were significantly different. Opportunities were missed and educational equality did not exist.
Over the years I found myself drawn to their stories and experiences. So this blog is for ELLs to share their stories but more often it will be to help those with the most direct impact in the academic lives: of ELLs: their teachers and administrators. It is also for anyone who enjoys learning about American education and the experiences of our increasingly bilingual, biliterate and bicultural society. So why do I write? For all three of those very same reasons: to teach others about ELLs, to share knowledge and resources and, most importantly, because I want these citizens to be heard and become a bigger part of our conversation.