The unit I prepared has been developed for kindergarten, first and second grade and 3d and 4th grade students. I am a Special Education bilingual teacher who works with a multi-age grade students. I have taught for eleven years, the past eight in New Haven with students who have special needs and are also bilingual. They receive part-time support from aids when they are with me. The total number of students I work with are twelve, five of them present more disabilities than others. It seems to be the most demanding position in the profession, but is also the most rewarding. Routines are clearly understood and followed. Students learn to help others and serve as positive role models. There is a vast variability in student’s needs. More advanced students learn together in mixed-age groups while less developed students are given the time they need to master skills at their own pace. At other times, children are put into groups of differing levels of ability to learn from each other. I have faced the challenge of balancing the teacher’s future preparation to deal with these children, and the student’s learning needs. The activities and experiences I am offering in this unit are based on the developmental readiness of the students.
My students, and many in the school come from different ethnic backgrounds, whose lives seem totally unrelated. That makes them feel like “outsiders”. The complex world of ethnic and minority language children bring is rich and full of potential for reflection. I have often argued with progressive educators, friends, and colleagues over issues of curriculum content and the role of the past in the development of educational programs, but at one point we unanimously agreed: that we have to include in our teaching the way different groups of students experience and learn, developing activities that emphasize meaning, facing the student’s background of experiences, and preserving their native or primary language.
The primary language of an immigrant child needs to be considered seriously. Heidegger said that “without the language that maintains a connection with the past, without the ability to name, the past ceases to exist or to have any reality for a person”. (Heidegger, “Sein and Zeit” 1971).
The child’s perspective on immigration and second language literacy is well known to me, for my childhood was shaped by three uprooting experiences-first, in a temporary transplant from a German _ speaking home in Germany to South America, Argentina, as a 6 year-old -- and later, in my permanent immigration from Argentina to Chile as an eight year old. However, it was not until I began here in the United States to teach immigrant children myself that I embarked upon a serious reflection about my personal experience and the importance of the children’s world, recognizing the effects of social backgrounds and reconsidering their own feelings, helping them to look at alternative ways of handling situations.