|Leaving My Home, Finding Myself
Throughout my experience at Muhlenberg I have
had the privilege of working with many Latino students from Allentown,
as I recently finished my student teaching placement at Trexler
Middle School and have been working with our Community Admissions
Program for the past three years. The students with whom I work
are extremely diverse, but the majority share a very complex characteristic:
they are neither completely monolingual nor truly bilingual. Many
of the students can converse casually in both Spanish and English,
but cannot write or read fluently in either. Instead, many speak
easily within their communities in ‘Spanglish.’ language.
This phenomenon poses a very complex dilemma for educators. As
a future English teacher and a Spanish minor, I have learned that
there is tremendous value in recognizing and implementing students’
cultures and languages into literature and writing curriculums.
I have found that doing so is extremely difficult when the cultures
and languages addressed in textbooks are not necessarily those
of the students. Students must be allowed to express themselves
in their most familiar and intimate languages within educational
systems in order to best feel as if they belong within those systems.
They also must hear from authors and other voices that are similar
to their own in order to understand their own voices as having
a valid position within the educational venues in which they participate.
At present, though, there are few such voices viewed as legitimate
voices within society and education. These students express themselves
as part of a separate culture, a young Latino American culture
that is not exclusively part of the Spanish speaking community
or of the English speaking community, but occupying a unique space
Another, possibly more pertinent, problem is that the students
enter the schools without a deep understanding of either language.
In order to succeed, they must learn to converse, read, and write
in a language that they do not use on a regular basis. The difficulty
faced by many of our students today is not that they must move
from being monolingual to bilingual, but that they must learn
to be trilingual, conversing in Spanglish with their peers, and
learning to speak, read and write fluently in both standard English
and standard Spanish in order to communicate with the rest of
their communities. The difficulty then faced by teachers is in
helping these students to overcome such obstacles while still
validating their place in the educational systems through the
recognition of their everyday language and unique culture.
--Stacey Artman, ‘06