003:00:58 Sit in your chair And I’m going to hit this little track mark.
Hello. I am Tou Meksavanh. I was born and raised in Laos.
A. Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
There are six of us, six children. My mother was born in China. My dad was born in Laos of a father who was a Chinese immigrant from Hainan.
A. So there’s Chinese on both sides of your family, and Laotian only on one side.
A. Have you ever been to China?
A. Are you interested in going there some day?
T. Definitely. In fact, As soon as I can
A. You’ll love it. I loved it.
T. I know I’ve been looking forward to seeing China.
A. Tell me just a little bit about your town and your home there and what it was like to grow up in Laos.
T. I grew up in a very small town until 6th grade. My mother decided I needed more education and I should go to Vientienne because there was no more schooling in our village or small town. I remember that she had asked my uncle to just go to Vientienne and explore what the possibilities were. And I ended up in a Catholic boarding school for a year.
A. So you stayed there and left your family at home. For one year.
T. That’s right.
T. For a year.
A. What was that like?
T. Oh. I hated it. It was so difficult leaving my family and living in Vientienne. But I knew I wanted to be in school.
A. So you put up with it.
T. That’s right.
That was for a year and then . . .
T. That’s right. For a year. It was 5th grade. And then I took an exam to be admitted to the Le Sai DeVientienne the secondary French school. By the way, the boarding school was run by Catholic nuns and everything was in French, which in itself was a big adjustment but then, I was last in class the first month, and there were 42 students. The second month I was 24th. (You know, you were ranked each month.) And then I was second and after the third month, I remained the top student in that class.
A. That probably helped them decided to send you to further your education.
T. That’s right. In fact, I was lucky enough to pass that exam and went on to 7th grade. In another all French secondary school.
A. And that was also in Vientienne.
T. It was all in Vientienne
A. And then your parents again stayed in their village in Laos.
T. Oh, yes.
A. Could you tell us the name of the village in Laos?
A. And where was that in Laos?
T. It’s northest of Vientienne. Near the border of Thailand. Near the province of Luiy. In Thailand. Just like Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. You just cross the river and it’s a different country.
(INTERRUPT: Would it help Hold it. No.)
A. But growing up, tell us about your village. What was it like there?
T. It’s a very small village; there’s only one school. But yet, you know, the people from neighboring villages send their students there. The schedule was that you start at 8 go until about 11. You go home for lunch and I would go for a swim in the Mekong River, just like in your back yard, until it’s time to go back to the afternoon. So we have that long noon recess. A lot of kids would just go swimming. Adults would take their siesta or nap, but we were not interested in napping.
A. It sounds idyllic!
T. Oh, yes.
A. It sounds like a good life!
A. No wonder you didn’t want to go to Catholic school!
A.. And what about your friends. What were your friends like?
T. People who went to school with me. When I went back there are still a few that remain in the village. Two are teachers.
INTERRUPTION: I just realized that I can hear – off – 004: 1:54
A. So you have gone back to Laos, and you have seen your friends there.
T. I have, yes.
A. And what’s that like to go back and see your friends living, I would presume, a pretty different life from what you live here?
T. It’s to be expected. It’s a given. Life is so different here than it was, and it is, or it has been in Laos.
A. How is it varied/different? I mean what are some things that you first notice?
T. That people come and go freely; it’s not a big deal if I need to drop by and say hello. Or if I walk past your house and if you are there, I would stop and greet and have a meal with you or would be invited to a meal and that is still the case.
T. That’s right.
A. So there is that freedom.
T. There is that openness and freedom. It’s very rare that if you know each other in the village that you would not, that months would have passed without you seeing one another. See like I’ve known you. And you know, it takes this project to bring you and me together, or I would be lucky enough to run into you somewhere as a coincidence. There, it’s unusual not to see people.
A. Do you see people with the same kind of freedoms that we have here?
T. In what way? What freedom? I think that freedom is very subjective.
A. To travel. To
T. Maybe not. May just be restrictions in terms of getting your paperwork to travel city to city or province to province. It’s a different type of freedom, I would say.
A. Tell us how you ended up leaving Laos the first time.
T. You mean as a student?
A. Mm hum.
T. Oh, I was lucky enough to past an exam. Our life revolved a lot around competition and exams. In retrospect I don’t particularly like. You’re talking the difference between the United States which I would say, our country, or my former country. I just feel access was so limited. I know that later on you’re going to ask about me what I think. I just feel that if only people in Laos had more access to the opportunity in education, I think that life would be so much better.
A. Is that more true for girls than boys in Laos?
T. Even boys have limited opportunity. And what is sad is that I’ve been back several times, and that is still the case, if not worse.
A. And how is it worse?
T. Worse in that it used to be that, I guess that people like myself could compete for and got the scholarship that I’ve got for higher education for different countries. Now I don’t see that a lot. From what I know, even if you could just do very well, the ability or your opportunity was still limited if you don’t have the connection to the current party. For instance, you could be worse, be with someone or through again you could be guilty with association because from the former regime, you may be the niece or the nephew or the cousin of someone who had anything to do with the former government, so it would be seen that your personal biography was not clear enough for you to be eligible to complete for a scholarship and schooling opportunity beyond Laos or at a higher level.
A. It does happen, but rarely?
T. It’s very common now.
A. I mean it happesn that people are allowed to leave and go to another country
T. Oh in the past. I think we would only go out through sponsorships through the government. In my case, too, it was government sponsored or government related. And then later on it was through the ministry of to be trained to bea teacher and teach in school
A. that kind of program as far as you know no longer exists.
T. it still exists. It may not be the same program traveling papers and with this government is more study outside of laos but not in the western countries
Do you have friends and relatives
T. You bet. Eductional opportunity is every every would want for their children in the
Access? I don’t know I don’t know enough about what the govt program has done with the few relatives or nephews I don’t see that they get opportunity
A. It’s hard for us to know because we haven’t been there. It’s interesting especially to hear from people who have been back So you we were going to talk about leaving the first time for . And so how did that happen?
T. We just check the Ministry of Education I hate the word but that’s exactly what we did. You would be selected. And that would be the steps or process
A. I think we talked before about your Mom and Do you want to talk a little bit about the difference between you and your dad
T. My mom is such a bright person was deprived as a child for educational opportunity. She lived with her stepmom. My mom was born to my grandfather’s wife, who was Chinese. So when he came he married a Lao wife. I know my aunt was highly education. But my mom at the time was not encouraged my mom had always wanted to go to school so she made sure that her girls
how many girls
My younger sister went to Harvard
And your dad. How did he feel about it.
He was a good man. He was more worried about how we would be doing. To protect us. He was so proud of us when we did well in school. I guess he missed us.
You think he did?
So you ended
I was in East Moline, Illinois.
Which was a smll town
It looked big to me
When we arrived, there was an orientation. And I think it prepared me for a different world. We were told that it would be different. It’s not right or wrong. That’s not the case. It’s just different. I took it.
What things did you notice?
Children would talk so loudly and would no mind enough It was not meant I think children are brought up to be independent which I think
Then weren’t you a little shocked?
What did you see that seemed very strange to you.
The food. It looked good but the tasting is a different story. And I think the relationship in the home. I would expect that my sister would be more helping mom with the chore. But that was not the case.
And what a bout school
School was very different. I see you don’t do that in public. Children and they are still young
69 and 70.
You did your 12th grade there.
I loved the choices we had. Because in the French system where I came from the classes were assigned to you. Here where you make up your schedule but you can learn languages, home etc. typing. Nothing like this
And the library full of books! In a school! I’ve seen one library once. It was not even my library. It was the first real library. Even magazine! And Life. First time I’d seen Life magazine.
You must have had a field day!
And your family.
Wonderful family. And I’ve been able to defend I have been able to speak with authority. Dad was an engineer mom works part time for the bank. So it was a very traditional mid-western famly. The brother was I flew from here with my husband. Oh, he was so surprised.
How is your American dad
In a way he was like my dad in the way of the famly relationship with my mom is no a whole lot of argument. If the wife says th
So you returned to Laos and what happened then?
I guess that elsewhere outside of Laos if you you must wait but because Laos had no higher education opportunity we were exempt from that except to apply you don’t just do it in June or July and just return in September. So I had to wait to take SAT do the application
How many school?
Only the scholarship?
Once you were selected then the paperwork
It was wonderful.
In retrospect, Hmm nothing like Illinois. I like it because it s still like home once I got my degree American accredited degree.
And you met your husband there. Right?
So you graduated before he did
In fact, after Igraduated I went back to Laos.
We thought we’d have a wedding in Laos with my family.
So you went backto laos and graduated from school
Taught for three months.
It’s a given. If you graduated from an American university. In fact, you signed you are obligated to serve and work for the ministery. I had no problem with that. I had a class of 54 it was a school called after the first kind of Laos. It’s a wonderful school in Vienentienne. The kids loved me.
What was your first class?
54 or 56
No one would kids were just flocking wanting to learn English. Kids are so motivated. Opportunity was so. You had to have good grades, pass the exam So if you’re not there, there are so many others.
You may not. You could be excluded.
So yougot pretty close to your kids.
It was the first year I was still struggling with. The curriculum was prepared for you and you just take it from there.
In December of 1975 that’s when the king was abducted and sent to the prison camp and that’s when the regime completely collapsed the monarchy was overthrown People that I know disappeared right and left. It was so unpredictable. I was just thinking two years.
In fact until late in the 1980s the 1990s In retrospect we were so hopeful and then two years and now almost 30 years I have been back only now to be convinced that it’s true that you can’t go back the home that I used to know it’s not there. I want you to close your eyes. Okay it’s the whole country. Minus this friend. Can you imagine going back to that place and those guys aren’t there? And it’s more hurtful when it’s people like you
So you don’t know the people that are like you
Minus thefirneds that I had, friends from my childhood.
I want you to be here with me.
And every time I go it’s a great opportunity who ever is still left there’s that network and we would celebrate but you see it’s minus those guys.
So you decided to
No. I have to leave.
And how was that
I crossed the river. There’s an island that’s about the size of Ross Island. Homes of some people In fact we stayed there
It was the morning. But it was just like going to that island with the family.
You leave in the morning on the little
And how did your parents feel about your leaving at this time?
I think it was especially my parents were considered affluent and I was considred well-educated.
Well, it did not
I think my father was so people oriented, whether it was not until he had his kidney stone and there were no doctors and he was hospitalized in Thailand He stayed in the hospital so he was in violation and my mother who needed to so they were both stranded. My father has a brother and a sister that lived in Thailand so he just stayed there and they left
Have you been able to see the house
No, no I did not. Because there was a fire. Our house was the last.
No. They stayed with relatives in Thailand
My dad passedaway 7 years. My
I don’t feel much affiliation
I was born in loas I was encouraged to get a job in Bangkok. If I can’t live in Laos, then I will live in the US
Now you are in Thailand and you’re going back to the University of Hawaii. No. When I came back to Hawaii, I got a teaching job. I was there
I did my Masters at PSU
What made you decide to come back to the United States?
It was my husband. He would always let me do. But when it comes to major decisions. Those are his major decisions.
008:00. It was his decison to come to the mainland. I guess he had a boss who was his buddy. American engineer. You are first generation There are 50 states; you should go where there are best opportunities.
And then a friend was here for a training for the University of Hawaii. So we came.
I think it was a good think. Becaue when you were young
I would think. Would
In fact, I probably wouldn’t be coming. We would probably be just staying in Hawaii. Because my job was a temporary job.
I know you had several jobs before.
Can you tell us what year it was, what were the problems that PPS was facing because of this huge flow of refugees coming in. How did you fit into that problem solving.
I started as temporary or itinerant. I was teaching at PCC I worked at Fred Meyer. One day
I am not going to the mountains to teach.
I got the job right away.
Were there refugee
Yes, it was a program for adult refugees.
It was a wonderful job. Needs assessment for the adults and you also get to teach. Urged to apply
I’m not prepared for this job. But I still got it. I did that job for 5 years.
Why do you think they chose you?
I think my technical skills. ESL I spoke English My ability to relate to people and not necessarily
We had Vietnamese Cambodians and just within I met the first Mien. I had never met a Mien person until I came to do this job. I had known a few Hmong people. At home people who were in my school. Not a lot.
They came from the village to attend school.
My ability to relate to equitably and to always take their best interests at heart.
9:230: I learned first hand on how you set a tone of respect. Because it’s not unusual for a Lao to kind of feel a little bit more entitlement and feel that they can put down a Hmong or a Mien person. It was not something that I would allow in my class. In a respectful, subtle way, but more modeling than setting clear rules. Besides, these were all adults, and I had just said that we’re here to learn a new language. What we have in common is that we in a new environment. We are all refugees and so we’re going to do our best in respecting and supporting one another and we all need that and we can all use that. and in fact the job with therefuee adults at the community college when I came to PPS when you’re dealing with the children these were the children of the adults I worked with their rights and responsibilities so that they can be I felt that that relationship was already there. If we have issues to address, they see me .
Parents were participate
How were parents educated about what their kids were doing. Kids were going through a lot
International Refugee Center – Stress in refugee children. If I could go back to the 20 some years with the what I would stress over and over again is be involved in your children’s education It’s your right as a parent no bodys going todo thatfor you One of the they cannot discipline their children. You have the right to discipline your children. Gudinging disciplining and helping children in terms of right and wrong is the job of the parents.
So there were misunderstandings
So many cultural misunderstandings. Children who don’t know any better or think they know so much play that
For instance, if you spank me I can call the police. Or this is what I need. Parents were busy going to work. If they don’t hear from school it’s a good think. If they do hear we don’t know any better we don’t speak English
Kids knew language; they didn’t
The issue with the parents we just feel teachers always have their best interests at heart. Tell the teacher what to do.
What do you mean. I don’t that would be disrespectful You have my okay to do whatever you I trust.
And sometimes that didn’t work out
First teachers arethe parents.
If you send a note home that the children aren’t we assumed the parents would
Meanwhile, children feel like my parents aren’t going todo an
No collaboration. N o responsibility from the parents. The parents need our support. And they need to know that they are welcome. And how we can empower parents to support. It’s your responsibility. You can turn off the television. There are good and bad program.s And watching TV for children to do homework.
My aunt and her daughter who has some disabilities are watching TV
The guy who has curly hair would do this and that. They have their own interpretation of the soap opera they were watching. Oh the guy with
There were Lao soap operas.
All television programs are not soap operas and they are not Sesame Street. So I guess that people know better but at the time certain grade levels so those were the times that people needed help. My failure. Not knowing where to turn. BNot an appropriate thing to bother the teacher with.
It would be your wish if you could go back
Also feel that we can offer parenting classes. Children at school are better behaved than mainstreamed children. I know better in terms of what would be the strategies. When we had gang issues. Parents I expect you to
The teacher would communicate it could be a system.
The reward would be earn or lose things like that that we would communicate better and not necessarily that I would speak
I worked. I remember, all of them had been heavily harassed and when they went home to their parents
Kids can’t do that. Theteacher woud not allow that. Gangs – find someone they could turn to or who would support them. I heard notorious stories, hearings.
9:15:20::GOOD EXAMPLE OF MISUNDERSTANDINGS (They look alike!)
A. I’m getting’ there; I’m learning. Okay, can we hear, yeah, okay.
So my question is – if you can think of a kid that you remember, somewhere along the line, a refugee kid, who just came in with terrible odds – what were the odds against him or her, and how were those odds met by the district, by you, by a teacher, by – however?
T. Oh, Anne, there are so many, there are so many of those. In fact, I would just say just about all of our kids who are coming late in the age, whether they are Somali, they are Laotians, or Vietnamese, or the unaccompanied minor Cambodians and Vietnamese at the time. It seems that there are so many odds against them, but you know that they are coming motivated, willing to work hard, willing to learn and do anything and so respectful, and it’s such a joy to work with them and it makes you want to do more for them.
A. Explain what an unaccompanied minor is.
T. Oh, an unaccompanied minor – Oh, it used to be that up until the mid-80’s or so, the children who escaped without their parents, they came on their own to the refugee camps or maybe in the process they lost their parents, but they are eligible as children who came by themselves – unaccompanied by adults, so they were called unaccompanied minors. There were lots of Cambodian, you know during the Phol Pot regime where their parents were killed, they were left alone. Or if nobody could escape and there’s only one seat on the boat for a Vietnamese parent’d rather see their child go somewhere free so they can get their education and have a future rather than being taking the boat, to sit on the boat themselves. Those are unaccompanied minors. So, you know, with that alone, it’s just so tremendous that to think about – how resilient, how motivated they are, and I guess that in the back of their mind, they are doing it not just for themselves, but for the family that they left behind or they had lost.
You know there was one kid that I ran into not too long ago. I have no idea who he was. His mother said, “Oh this is Cho, you know.” “Oh, Cho, didn’t you go to Portland Public Schools?” He said, “Yes! Yes! You know, I was at such school.” And he was asking about my former principal. He said, “Oh, I used to always be in trouble at school.” I said, “What did you do to be in trouble?” “We would fight.” I guess again these were kids who were harassed, who were mistreated by others, so they fought. But he said, “You know, I was given a chance so many times. And now at 21, I graduated from NYT, I bought my house, and I’m getting married. Would you please tell the principal of the school, Mr. Hanlan, that I turned out okay?” he said. Ha ha ha ha hah.
And also I was at a gathering not too long ago, and a woman came up and went like this to me, and I said “Hmmm.” Of course, I had no idea who she was. And so she introduced me and said that’s my husband. We both were in your class at Mt. Hood Community College and you told us to be sure to get your GED and go on to school, you could do it. My husband and I both did and he has a very good job now. You told us to go to school. [Tou is tearful at this point.]
And there’s another young woman – beautiful – she’s of another – she’s Laotian, but her dad is from another tribe, the Iu, which is very rare. There are very few. In fact, they may be the only one or two families around here. Her dad is a traditional healer. He did a massage, and somebody said, “Would you take me? I need this treatment?” So I went to him; I took one of the older person there. And there was a little girl that was on the floor, and so I started talking to her. I asked her how old she was and she said, I don’t even remember, and so I said, “So you go to school?” And she said, “No.” I said, “Ah, how come?” I said, “You need to go to school.” So I told her where school was. At the time, it was Rice School, and I said, “Your mother can take you.” I forgot about it. And then this beautiful young woman came up and she said, “I am so and so; I just graduated from college – You told me to go to school!”
A. So her parents didn’t know to take her to the school?
T. I guess not.
A. It must have been early.
T. Yes, yes. It was, you know, that Halsey Square area? It was one of those. And I said, “Oh, you’re not going to school?” So, I said, “You need to go to school. You are the age your mother can take you to that school and you can get in. Oh, and I remember a conversation with a child that is the daughter of this healer. I didn’t remember – because, again, you know I would ask children what grade they are, what school they are going to, and if they liked school, and you know how you talk to children about school. That I know. But I did not remember she did not go to school. And I did not remember her have her mom take her to enroll. I said that – I just said, you know – you never know what you say to children.
So, the lesson here is to say something good and positive so that they can benefit from it.
A. ??? (Can’t hear what I said.)
T. We are learning every day!
A. We are learning every day! You are so right about that.
How did you and how did the teachers with Portland Public Schools learn about all the differences between these groups. What did Portland Public Schools, what did the ESL do to educate people about the differences? Because the Mein and the Hmong and Lao, the Vietnamese, the Cambodian, and groups even within those groups, are so different, one from the other . . . How did people learn?
T. I guess that we do provide information. We do the – when there’s a new group coming in I remember that working with those voluntary agencies that settled, that assist with refugee settlement, we would ask about them and the most recent one. We were trying to get information about the Somalis and just prior to that it was the Ethiopian, you know, or the Eritrean and the other groups and the Somali and the Amenidi and the different groups from Somalia. We would just try to ask that. I remember that during my first week or so at Portland Public Schools, there was a tape that we were watching to provide cultural awareness – it was done by someone whom I know who was working for Portland Public Schools briefly after that – he was a counselor (he still is) – in fact I turned to John Withers, and I said, “It’s nice that we, the staff, learn about the different groups. We need to do – our communication needs to be two ways: We need to help educate and build awareness of our families and the communities and families that we serve about what we expect, what our system is like. Like the athletics, the towels in the school. And I know that John’s eyes were like this, and he said, “You know, we need to do a tape.” And that’s what we did. Remember the tapes we did at the orientation? I felt that we needed to give some information to the parents, and, again, we can’t write it out and give it out. I said, “Do a tape. When they come in for assessment, when the parents are waiting for the kids to be assessed, they can just go to a room to watch the tape.”
A. This is the garbage man. Excuse me. Sorry. (Stop for noise.)
Okay. So your point was that the education had to go many different ways. Teachers had to be educated. Parents had to be educated about the system in their own language. So that’s something that Portland did that may have been unique.
T. It did. And you know we called it rights and responsibilities . . .
A. It’s still doing it. Can you hear that? Let’s try it again. Sorry.
T. So, you know, building awareness and educating our constituents. What we are about. So that we can’t just say that they need to understand our expectations but what are the expectations? What do we expect of them? You know, like coming to school, calling when kids are absent – you’ll be hearing – and then what the parent teacher conferences what are those for, what it means and why do we want for you to be here?
A. You know, what I think was interesting for me too was in going to ESL meetings, because I was a representative for my school a couple of times, teachers got to say, “We need to know what the parents’ expectation of us is and how they’re different group to group? Because the Hmong and Mein people might have had different kinds of expectations than the better-educated Laotian and Vietnamese people. And so, I think that I remember that I got education about that from the ESL department. I mean, I did my own research, of course – but who did that work? Who decided tha it would be helpful to us to know more and how did they, did that work out?
T. Sometimes we would do an assessment of uh – say that question again.
A. How did you get to the point where you realized that teachers needed to know what expectations of their parents were and how they were different group to group?
T. Ah. Sometimes we would ask some consultants or people like myself before I came to Portland Public Schools – to inform our teachers about the educational systems of different countries and what children in school learned – in other words, providing you with the background and knowledge about who you are teaching. And ask the teachers what more they would like to know that would be helpful. So in a way we do that formal or informal needs assessment survey and would put together what would be the high school. There were two things that we were doing in terms of the staff inservice – the curriculum piece, the law piece, especially with OCR (Office for Civil Rights, when they were doing a compliance review of the school district at the time. And then the cultural piece. How we become more aware of the cultures and the behavior of our students from different parts of the world. And understand what their expectations were – or if you need to do a home visit, what is appropriate? You know, you’re not going to wear your shorts, or just feel that you bring me a glass of water. Ah, yes, it is something that you would do. But if the glass is dirty, what is a decent polite way to say no because if 5 people in your family use this glass and now you’re serving it to me – but with your heart – and it’s probably the last soda that you have bought but you wanted me to have it – what are some of the ways that you do to acknowledge the kindness but not put yourself in a situation that is gross! Laughs.
Nery Wilson was telling me that this old, old grandma, when Nery was going to the home to pick up the son that would not get up, the child that would not get up to come to school – the grandmother ran to just make Nery a tortilla. She dropped it on the floor, picked it up, wiped it on her apron, and, “Here!” you know. So Nery took it graciously and said, you know, said, “I’m going to have to run. I’ll take it.” But of course she couldn’t eat it because it was on the floor.
[We laugh together.]
A. I think also another way that maybe Portland could have been considered pretty unique was that, not only did we have bilingual aids, but our bilingual aids were wonderfully motivated people who did way beyond . . .
T. But not only their hearts were in the right place, but they came with skills. Look at how many now have their own classroom. The Russians
A. Interrupts to get Tou to introduce point.
T. The bilingual aids, the paraprofessionals, were professionals in their own right in their country. There were so many of the educators or classroom teachers, but because they didn’t have the certification here, they could only work as assistants or paraprofessional aids. But remember before I left, I was working with Portland State, we got a grant once and it did not get renewed and then every year we would try to do just something creative so that our paraprofessionals could have the support of going back to school to get their teaching certification because we know that they could contribute even more if they are fully certified. So finally we formed a consortium: Portland Public Schools, Beaverton district, Clackamas, and the nearby districts, Salem, would come together, rather than competing and nobody got anything. For years we did that. And finally, when we came together, you know this current Bilingual Path Program? That was initiated when I was there. That was the last year and it was funded. But before that any money from Title VII, any of the Title VII projects, we would put that we wanted to use five to ten percent of the grant to support our paraprofessionals for their schooling.
There was one woman, at the time that we didn’t put the limit on it, that the bill was $3,000, but she was the only one asking, and I had that money. So we were able to help her.
A. So a lot of people took advantage of those opportunities.
T. Yes. The Bilingual Pathway, which is a big grant from Portland State – a lot of people, if you look at all our Russian bilingual staff who are fully certified and have their own classroom – it is through this grant.
A. So what flaws, what were some things that you know now, because you know better, were things that we may have done, inadvertently, not on purpose, that were mistakes?
T. I think it’s a reflection of the time, but I also feel we could do better in terms of curriculum. I think that there were too many incidental learning and not deliberate focus instruction. Also, people at the time, we didn’t know any better, we thought that with time you would acquire English, but I think it could be more structured to be more deliberate, that you don’t – for instance we used to believe that oh, if they’re children, they’ll pick up the language. Yes, they do, orally, but when it comes to literacy it is not strong enough. We know now better that just through the Reading First program or the five steps of reading if we could simply do that and make sure that literacy was equitably in place for all children, it would have been a much stronger, better program.
A. I really agree with that.
T. And the content in other grades, too, the assessment, we were not consistent in terms of, well, if you don’t have the language, maybe you cannot function in content. But now we know better that it’s the content and academic knowledge – that you will learn English more quickly if you have the content. It doesn’t matter how much you speak English. If you have not been in school, you could be here all your life, the second generation, and you would struggle in school because you don’t have the literacy. You don’t read. You don’t have your academic English in place.
A. How do you think that your experience throughout your life has prepared you for your job as principal at Duniway now?
T. I see. You know, I am very grateful that I had the job with the ESL Bilingual program first. I felt so welcome. I feel that my contribution was welcome and supported and allowed. I have never remembered being shunned for a thought or idea in an unkind way. In fact, when I saw that video tape about cultural awareness, and I said, “Our parents need to understand about our system!” John responded. He thought it was a good idea. It was an idea that came to me. And I said, “It would help them so much.” So we took it and developed that and made it a project that materialized in different languages and translations of the tape of the information. That was one example. I felt that I have been supported. I did not realize that there was discrimination or racism until I have left the program. It’s never something I thought about because I never had to deal with it. I was supported and valued and welcomed that much. And so I am so glad that I had that job that prepares me now. I was I love it, but I feel that what prepared me is the overall experience If I have the interested of children at heart Whatever I can say to children if I say it with respect I’m talking about the bad choice that they make. But then there person the child is still left intact with their integrity. So I t
It’s back to my AFS days – it’s not right or wrong –
It’s my job to let them know. And to the parent I say, “Listen. We adults If children knew everything
Last of all. Fifty years from now, what would you like to have people remember about you?
T. It’s not something that I thought about. In this beautiful country of the United States, if we were to be role models its not only
If you were given the opportunity to if any refugees and immigrants are given the opportunity to contribute
I hope to remember that
If do have things to contribute
Where ever I was planted I would bloom