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reflections and musings from the School of Education at Mills College

Perspectives from an ESL student | Zubin Hu

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ImageZubin is a student in Teachers for Tomorrow’s Schools. For two different classes, Zubin was required to select a student (ELD student preferred, but not required) from the classroom where he student-teaches. Zubin wrote the piece below in response to case studies he did in those classes. He chose the topic because he had not seen anyone mention anything on it and wanted others to be aware of the differences between the terms.

 

Some definitions (from www.pps.k12.or.us/files/curriculum/ESL_Terminology.doc):

ELL/ EL- English Language Learners/ English Learners

ELD- English Language Development is a system of instruction focused on teaching ELLs to use English proficiently to communicate for various purposes in four language domains – speaking, listening, reading, and writing. ELD is also a class period that all students placed in the ESL Program are assigned.  It has its own curriculum and state standards.

ELP- English Language Proficiency are levels of English language learners’ fluency based on their stage of language acquisition and characterized by specific student language behaviors in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The levels are determined by State ELPA Test. Level 1 is Beginner.  Level 2 is Early-Intermediate. Level 3 is Intermediate.  Level 4 is Early- Advanced.  Level 5 is Advanced.

ELPA- English Language Proficiency Assessment is the annual state exam for assessing English learners’ growth in English proficiency

ESL- English as a Second Language

To many people, the phrases “ESL”, “EL”, “ELL”, and “ELD” are the same thing. However, to me, they are different. I am an ESL student, and “ESL” is the only one among the four definitions listed above that I’d love to be identified as. Being an ESL student implies that I can speak another language and may have language barrier. On the other hand, being an EL, ELL, or ELD basically means one has language barrier.

For my case studies on language, I found two students whose home languages are not English. However, they both refused to participate. I felt that they both were anxious about English being their second language. One student even lied. He told me that he was born in Berkeley, and he only speaks English at home. I mentioned this to my roommate, who is also an ESL student, and he said that when he was in school, he didn’t want people know that he was in the ELD program because he was worried people would look down on him. When I asked him if he wanted to be identified as an ESL student, he said that would be better for him because he would have the privilege of speaking two languages.

I understand that some other people don’t want to be identified with any of the four terms above. However, we, as educators, should affirm students’ identities and encourage them be proud.

One day while I was talking to my case study student, she reminded me that teachers often tell ELD students to write the definitions in their native languages. I followed this method myself when I was in school and wrote the Chinese translation of the words I didn’t know. I used to read each article at least three times. The first time reading the article, I basically just looked for the words I didn’t understand and wrote down the definition. The second time reading the article, I just tried to make sense of the article. If I found any definition didn’t make sense, I would go back to the dictionary and find an alternative. The third time reading the article, I was trying to understand it. My reading speed was slow. I spent much more time than other students to understand an article. After doing this for a year, I got tired of it and found that it wasn’t very helpful. English is such a complicated language because so many words have more than one meaning. Also, if a word is used in different context, the definition may be different. I then stopped writing the definition for every word that I didn’t know. Instead, I just tried to figure out the meaning through the context. If I still really had no idea what a word meant, then I look it up in the dictionary and choose the one that makes the most sense.

To many ESL students, especially in high school level, math and science are their favorite subjects. Maybe favorite is not very accurate, and I should use easier-to-catch-up-to instead. We come in with some understanding of those subjects. All we need is just to translate them into English and make sense of them.

Math class was very important to me in high school. I built my confidence in speaking and working with native speakers. Even though I didn’t understand much of the language, I did understand the examples or content. When I got home, I just focused on the vocabulary. Eventually, I was able to understand most of the things talked about in class. This approach may be limited to only a small number of individuals, but this definitely works in some cases including my own. I believe that vocabulary instruction is essential to effective math and science instruction. It not only includes teaching math or science specific terms such as “mean” or “percent,” but also includes understanding the difference between the mathematical or scientific definition of a word and other definitions of that word.

How ELL students feel about themselves is directly affected by the education policies put in place for English Language Learners.  Education policy makers set strict English language standards and push for ESL students to acquire English language proficiency at a rapid pace.  This urgent focus on language acquisition creates anxiety for ELL/ESL students.  Are there any influences we, as educators, bring to ELLs?  If teachers are not sensitive to or responsive toward ELLs’ cultural identities, ELL students can be pushed further toward the fringes of the classroom until they ultimately withdraw from the learning process.  If teachers focus so much energy on mainstreaming ESL students, they will place little or no value on students’ ability to speak two languages.  Acknowledging and affirming all students’ cultural identities in the classroom strengthens individuals’ sense of value, and their academic performance in the long run.  Teachers who understand and support the cultural norms of diverse learners help create a nurturing environment for those students, and can then encourage those students to feel more comfortable in taking the risks that can lead to so much learning and development.  By incorporating the wealth of students’ cultural backgrounds into the curriculum educators can advance the learning of all students, meeting the policy makers’ goals and fulfilling our obligations to all of our students.  The question, then remains: how do we build a curriculum that integrates multicultural backgrounds on an ongoing basis, and not just as a one-time multicultural event or activity?

Written by collegialconnections

February 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Remembering Richard “Pete” Mesa| Diane Ketelle

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Richard Peter Mesa, the founding director of the administrative credential program and former Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership.

Richard “Pete” Mesa, the founding director of the administrative credential program and former Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, passed away on January 2 at the age of 84. Pete’s elegant leadership embodied grace and dignity and is seldom found. His many qualities of mind and character magnified his individual virtues. Pete’s courage, energy, high principles and steadfastness; impartial justice and utter trustworthiness; calm in the face of difficulty; thoroughness in deliberation and mastery over his strong passions distinguished him, as all of these qualities harmonized in his character.  Students will remember Pete as a rigorous professor and caring mentor, while colleagues will never forget his keen intellect, capacity to listen, and commitment to maintaining a small high quality program.  –Diane Ketelle

The San Francisco Chronicle obituary for Pete Mesa can be found here.

Written by collegialconnections

January 21, 2014 at 10:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Measure Cost Effectiveness of Child Life Services? | Susan Marchant and Betty Lin

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Susan Marchant

Susan Marchant is a Lecturer and Student Supervisor, in Child Life in the School of Education at Mills College. Her professional interests include genetic disorders, organizational psychology, pediatric chronic illness, pediatric palliative care, cultural implications in pediatrics, autism and related disorders, curriculum development.

In the present day push to make every minute “accountable,” which is synonymous to “billable,” it is becoming increasingly challenging to justify any service that’s considered psychosocial in nature—a service such as Child Life.  Child Life Specialists are unique professionals whose primary role is to respond to the developmental, social, and emotional needs of hospitalized children.  Child Life Specialists are trained in child development, psychology, education, hospital systems and culture, and psychosocial interventions designed to reduce distress and pain and to promote healing.In 2012 a notable pediatric surgeon stated that each visit with a child life specialist could save his surgical team three to five minutes.  “With 10 kids, that’s 50 minutes – that’s another surgery,” he explained.

Betty

Betty Lin is a Lecturer in the School of Education at Mills College. Her professional interests include early childhood education, early childhood special education, child life, infant mental health, early childhood and special needs advocacy, cultural understanding when working with Asian families.

Like all psychosocial cares in the hospitals, the cost effectiveness of child life services has come under scrutiny by the hospital administrators during an era of hospital mergers, affiliations, and rising health care costs.  How do we justify the need for child life services through cost effectiveness?  Anecdotal accounts like the one offered by the pediatric surgeon only helps to a certain degree.  At a time when administrative decision and policy are driven by evidence-based data, child life needs to find a way to quantify and qualify itself as an essential service in the delivery of quality healthcare for children and families.  The discipline of child life, a relatively new profession, needs to continue proving its worth through research.

Research studies translating psychosocial services into saved dollars and cents have been extremely scarce.  Yes, there are a few reliable studies such as those in pediatric radiology departments identifying, for example, the potential costs saved by minimizing the need for anesthesia for school age patients undergoing MRIs when they are adequately prepared by a child life specialist.  Reality is that the value of psychosocial care is difficult to quantify.

Nevertheless, Child Life must engage in research not only to prove its worth but also to better understand itself as a profession.  As a matter of fact, an evidence-based research study is in the planning stages through the National Child Life Council.  This will be a 5-year retrospective data analysis of pediatric patient records for children who have (and have not) received child life services as part of their hospitalization to analyze recovery rates and other outcome measures.  The goal of this study is to provide critically necessary data related to both the effectiveness of the modality of play and the cost effectiveness of child life services because of their use of play techniques.

At Mills, we are actively looking at how we can engage in Child Life research.  We have an obligation to produce quality Child Life Specialists and to contribute to the Child Life field.  Stay tuned!

Written by collegialconnections

January 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

The Story Behind the Book—No Joke| Sara Truebridge

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Sara Truebridge, Ed.D.
Mills Alumna and Author of Resilience Begins With Beliefs: Building on Student Strengths for Success in School .

I arrived home one day after class in 2009 and sat in front of my computer to begin my schoolwork as I had done for months on end. In fact, being in the Education Leadership doctoral program at Mills, that was all I did for months—no, I take that back—years!! Like all the other days before this one, I first opened my email longingly, yet not expectantly, to see if there were any messages from anyone anymore.  (The first thing I learned in my doctoral program was that I no longer had any more friends outside of school who emailed me—in fact I didn’t really have a life outside of school.) Open-peruse-delete. Open-peruse-delete. Open-peruse-delete. That was my interaction with most of the email that I got those days. And that was my interaction with the email that I received from Teachers College Press. Open-peruse-delete.

What a joke. Yeah right—like Teachers College Press wants me to submit a manuscript. I knew better. I had just presented a workshop on resilience (the subject of my dissertation) at the ASCD annual conference and was so certain that what I received in my email was just a form letter sent to all presenters to see if they wanted to submit a proposal for a manuscript that would possibly be published by Teachers College Press. This is of course what all publishers do after a big conference—right? They mine the total landscape and send queries to all presenters in hopes that a good proposal may present itself. I was not going to get sucked in and spend my time responding. Besides, it also crossed my mind that someone might have even been playing a really bad joke on me—a joke that I was not going to fall for. Yeah right—send the student who is up to her eyeballs in writing a dissertation a query to see if she would be interested in writing a book. That email was now history and I never mentioned it to anyone. I just took care of it by bringing one little finger to one little key. Delete.

Fast forward two months…

Like all the other days before, I got done with school, sat in front of my computer and opened my email before knowing that I was in for a long night working on some chapter of my dissertation. Geesh…not another form email from Teachers College Press. There must have been another conference somewhere and they are mining the crowd—or once again, someone was playing a bad joke on me. Oh well, just open it, read it, and then delete it—I knew the drill.  So I opened it, read it, and—oh my God!—went into convulsions! This isn’t verbatim, but the email started something like this:

Dear Dr. Truebridge,

I contacted you earlier to inquire whether you would be interested in submitting a book proposal to Teachers College Press. I understand your work focuses on resilience and we are interested in publishing a book on this subject. I never heard back from you so I am inquiring once again.

…and it was signed by the Executive Acquisitions Editor of Teachers College Press.

Yes, I was now in convulsions that lasted all night into the next day. You can ask Diane Ketelle and she will verify that I am telling you the truth, for I was hyperventilating the next day as I ran hysterically into her office. “Oh my God! Oh my God! I received this email—the first one I deleted—this email—this email—oh my God—it is from Teachers College Press—actually it is the second email I received from them—did I mention I deleted the first one?!  Oh my God! Oh my God, and look…the salutation on the email says ‘Dr. Truebridge!’ He thinks I have my doctorate and I am still in the process of getting it—oh my God—how do I respond???”

Now I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that this was not the first time I had run into Diane’s office in a manic hysterical state. Diane was often the one who, when she was not challenging me as a doctoral student, was able to smile her smile, hold my hand, and help me through some tough times. This time was no different. On this day, she held my hand, calmed my nerves, and helped me craft my response to the email that I received from Teachers College Press. That was in 2009. That was also the year when I signed my contract with Teachers College Press. I graduated the doctoral program in 2010. My book, published by Teachers College Press, Resilience Begins with Beliefs:  Building on Student Strengths for Success in School, will be out in December 2013.  Needless to say, looking back to 2009—finishing a dissertation and beginning a book at the same time—was quite a humbling spin on the “doctoral dance floor.”

*Just a little side note…it has been three years since I have graduated the doctoral program, and I still am getting used to being called “Dr. Truebridge.” However, I am no longer thrown into convulsions and hysterics when I receive an email that begins with that salutation. Oh…and one more thing: I am a lot more careful these day about what emails I delete. That’s no joke.

For information about the book: http://store.tcpress.com/0807754838.shtml

Find it on Facebook:  (Please visit and “like”):https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resilience-Begins-with-Beliefs-by-Sara-Truebridge/669217006423284?ref=stream

Twitter: @saratruebridge

Written by collegialconnections

December 2, 2013 at 9:52 am

Thoughts From a Newbie at Mills| Annie Oxenhandler

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Annie Oxenhandler is the Interim Early Childhood and Infant Mental Health Program Coordinator in the School of Education at Mills

Annie Oxenhandler is the Interim Early Childhood and Infant Mental Health Program Coordinator in the School of Education at Mills

Being the “new kid on the block” can often feel overwhelming, stressful, and sometimes just plain scary. However, on my first day of work in the School of Education at Mills College, I felt peaceful, relaxed, and very happy to be here. The faculty, students, and staff all bring something unique to this place. They are inspired, passionate, dedicated, kind and helpful people. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work here with them all.

School of Education|Photo by Jessica Oride

School of Education|Photo by Jessica Oride

The Mills College campus is beautiful with lush, green grass, white buildings with red tile roofs, and towering oak and eucalyptus trees. It is a paradise to behold. This beauty radiates a peacefulness which is not found on larger campuses or universities. This peace fosters creativity and innovation as well as a genuine thirst for knowledge. As I look out from my open office window on a warm, sunny afternoon, I can hear children playing outside. Every day I say to myself, “I work in an amazing place.”

Mills Hall|Photo by Jessica Oride

Mills Hall|Photo by Jessica Oride

Of all the jobs that I have held throughout my career in early childhood education and administration, very few have been so positive and so enjoyable as working at the School of Education. Everyone here at Mills listens to each other, respects each other, and works together in an uncommon way that moves this school forward with a shared goal to make it even better, stronger, and  “ahead of the curve.”

Mills College | Photo by Jessica Oride

For people who have been at Mills for some time, it might be hard to see or remember how special this place is.  For me, having just arrived, I am reminded daily of something I tell myself often:  “Try not to take things for granted in your life, look at what you have with fresh eyes and be grateful for it.”

Written by collegialconnections

November 5, 2013 at 9:09 am

Posted in Community, Reflection

Thinking Outside the Box Part II: How One School Is Doing Things Differently| Laurie Grassi-Redmond

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Laurie Grassi-Redmond earned her Masters in Education at Mills College in 2002. While there she was asked to work as the head teacher of the combined fourth and fifth grade classroom at the Mills College Children’s School.

Laurie Grassi-Redmond earned her Masters in Education at Mills College in 2002. She was also the head teacher of the combined fourth and fifth grade classroom at the Mills College Children’s School.

I wrote a post for this blog back in February, when I was planning to open a new school in Freedom, Maine. Shortly after writing the post, I held some informational sessions at local public libraries in the area. I wanted to see how many families might be interested in this type of school. It’s really outside of the box: three days a week, half of every school day spent outside, a truly multi-age setting of 5-10 year-colds all together, two full-time teachers, preparing and eating meals together made from local, organic foods… I just didn’t know if there would be enough interest to make a go of it.

At the first information session, one person showed up.

Students documenting what they learn.

Students documenting what they learn.

Three came to the second, and three came to the third. I paused to reconsider the idea. I thought deeply, talked to all my people, and decided in the end to go ahead with it. Even if I could get ten children, I figured, at least I would have a wonderful school environment for my own two daughters, and I would be able to provide what I feel is the best that education has to offer to another eight local children.

Students at the Mill School working in their classroom during a lesson.

Students at the Mill School working in their classroom during a lesson.

Well, The Mill School opened its doors on September 10th, fully enrolled with twenty local children, ages five to ten, and another eighteen on the waiting list. As it turns out, a lot of people are interested in exactly this kind of school. And so far, things are going as smoothly as can be expected at a brand new school. My colleague and I have changed the daily schedule about five times already. But the children are relaxed and happy, the parents are so supportive, and we have time to really get to know the children, as people, and as learners. Our first place-based curricular unit has begun, our food is delicious, and we are spending a lot of time outside, building strong bodies and connecting to the natural environment. The children are learning the daily routines. It feels to me as if this outside-of-the-box school is blossoming. As one student said to me yesterday, “It’s so weird. At my old school, the teacher was the enemy. But here, you’re just not. You two, like, seem to really care about us.” I smiled, and she paused before she added, “And the food here is so good too!”

I am always interested in hearing about other schools where things are being done differently; please let me know if you have a story to share. You can contact me, and learn more about The Mill School, at www.themillschool.org

Written by collegialconnections

October 10, 2013 at 10:51 am

“Virtual” Community | Rachel Lefkowitz

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Rachel Lefkowitz is the Coordinator of Educational Leadership MA Program and the Special Assistant to the Dean of School of Education

How often have you heard someone deplore Twitter as the downfall of writing? It happened to me –again—just the other day, when a former teacher carefully explained that because of Twitter, no one stays on topic in a sustained way. I feel that this is a lot to put on Twitter. People used to blame Sesame Street for shortening children’s attention spans by creating too short intervals of drama. Maybe we move, think, and write more quickly now than we used to, but I’m not sure that Twitter and Sesame Street are wholly to blame. For example, there was a time in the olden days when we wrote in short little bursts, a time that was also known for elegant formal writing. How different, I wonder, is Twitter from a telegram?

Consider this example, from the 1960s:

MISS MARGARET BHAL= POCAHONTAS ARK=

CONGRATULATIONS WE ARE VERY PROUD OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT

IN WINNING THE SOUTHWESTERN PIANO AUDITION=

WINTHROP ROCKEFELLER GOVERNOR=

If you remove the address and signature, it’s tweetable. As is this gem:

May 5th 1945

International Moscow via Mackay Radio

To: Mr Joseph Bard

Brooklyn NY

We congratulate you with setting up the banner of victory upon Berlin by the Red Army = Signed Family Phillip Berdichevsky

The first telegram, of congratulations, and the second one, reflecting world events, could easily be on Twitter today, though we would write them a little differently. (If you are interested in recasting your tweets as telegrams, here are best practices.) Both forms limit how you construct your message. One big big difference between them is that telegrams were for special occasions, whereas Twitter is an every day if not every hour sort of thing. Another difference is that a telegram goes to one person, who then has to spread the news. When you tweet, you share your thoughts or news with everyone you know.

Some people don’t like that because it seems self-promoting and -aggrandizing. But social media can be about more than the individual –the way the School of Education’s Twitter feedFacebook page, and blog are. You send us your individual news, accomplishments, or thoughts; we combine them with other people’s news and what we get is a picture of who we are as a community. Scroll through our feeds or check them regularly, and you will begin to see what values we hold and represent, and what goals we treasure.

I love this for two reasons. First, it puts concrete examples to fairly abstract concepts. I frequently stand on a soapbox in SOE meetings and declare that it’s fine to say that we are all about Leadership, Equity, and Collaboration, but the power of the words comes when we show how we practice these values. How do we see and define leadership? How do we collaborate and embody equity? Just as any musical group has its own sound, so we have a distinct take on these qualities. And we can share our interpretation not just by describing it, but showing it in action. Social media is the mirror that reflects that action.

I also love social media because it makes another hub of community for our school. One hub is, of course, the classroom, where you meet and learn with your colleagues. Another hub is the wide world, where you may work with other alums. But social media is broader. It is a place where current or prospective students can learn what our graduates do with their degrees. It is a place where graduates can see what their professors are working on now. It is a place where we can share a video our organization made or news of an upcoming event. From social media, we get a wonderful sense of the variety and depth of our work, both here at Mills, and in the world.

Twitter hasn’t kept me from being able to write, for example, a 700 word blog. Twitter has made it much easier for me to tap into the community I work with. It is a real and compelling reflection of who we are, and why we are unique.

 

Written by collegialconnections

September 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

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