Still Relevant – After All These Years

This last week, the Arizona Daily Star announced that the legislature was actually considering doing away with the 4-hour English Language Development blocks imposed on ELL students many years ago because the students aren’t doing  well in the program. They apparently are now more open to dual language programs and recognize that students need access to English speakers and core curriculum if they are to learn anything at all, including English. In light of the current visibility of teacher movements across the country, seeking to earn professional salaries, adequate funding for our schools, and claim our professionalism, I thought a visit to an old journal was timely.

This all brought back moments almost 18 years ago when I stood before an audience challenging the initiative that would eliminate the bilingual programs that our own state’s data showed were so successful. In speaking before the dedicated and enthusiastic supporters of bilingual programs, I gave the following remarks which are still aptly appropriate, after all these years.


October 1, 2000

My twenty five years of teaching has been 25 years of learning, some from research, books, and colleagues, but mostly from my students. The things I’ve learned encourage me to speak out in support of and out of respect for children, parents, and teachers. Here’s my own Letterman-style top Ten List – somewhat irreverent, but at the same time, deadly serious.

The Top Ten Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years of Teaching

10. Throwing money at schools does make a difference, but all to often it’s been my own.

9. Parents know their children best. We should listen to them, hear what they have to say, and ensure them a place and a voice in their children’s education.

8. A good teacher knows she can’t force children to learn anything, but can, at best, help them construct literacy and knowledge for themselves.

7. Children succeed when we allow them to use all their intellectual and linguistic abilities as resources for learning.

6. A hug a day keeps failure away.

5. Children can be trusted as learners. We don’t need tests to hold them accountable.

4. The only guaranteed outcomes we can expect from the use of textbooks and commercial programs are profits for the publishers.

3. There are no magic bullets to “fix” education. Out best bet is teacher knowledge and caring.

2. Government officials and politicians can standardize the curriculum, standardize the tests, threaten to standardize the teachers, but they’ll never be able to standardize the learners.

1. Teachers know more about what to teach and how to teach it than corporations or politicians.

As an individual teacher, I might touch the life of a single child, but by myself, I cannot transform all the years of education for that child or others. We must become politically active – make our voices heard – together with parents in school board assemblies, in the halls of government, and at the ballot box. We can’t be intimidated by those who profess to know what’s good for us and our children. We need only look in our own hearts and in the children’s faces to find the strength and courage to act and perservere.

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