Personal Narrative about my Education

Category: Writing
Date added
2021/10/20
Pages:  6
Words:  1839
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It was not until college when I realized I was considered or called an English language learner (ELL) back in elementary school. When I was young I always knew I was bilingual but never heard the negative term of ELL or students with English as a second language (ESL) until middle school. My first language was Spanish, and English did not get introduced into my life until I was 3 years old. As soon as I heard my older brother use English with his friends, I began to mimic his words; I had no idea what he was saying or what I was saying but the new language got my attention and even more once I began to attend school. In this essay I will be covering parts of my educational experience that affected me back then and have shaped the person I am today.

Elementary School Experience and Reflection

Once I started Pre-K I was put in a bilingual classroom where I was taught both Spanish and English. When I first began to use English, I remember I did not want to speak Spanish anymore and I think that is what helped learn English faster. According to the assessments I was told to take, I was no longer considered a student with English limited proficiency (ELP) by then end of second grade, but my mother wanted me to stay in a bilingual classroom. From third to fourth grade I remained in a bilingual classroom but was placed with the students who were “proficient” in English. My classroom was like a dual language program (not sure if it was called that) where half of the students seemed to be proficient in English and the other half were not. Many professors ask me about my experience as an ELL however, I don’t remember having any major issues learning Spanish and English, being humiliated, or frowned upon for speaking Spanish or looking Mexican. I may have been oblivious back then, but I do not think I experienced a different treatment from students who were English native speakers or saw that they acted as if they were smarter. However, after reading so many articles about discrimination, race, identity, status, language, educational goals, and more I now realize things that my teachers did or did not do that impacted who I am today.

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Overall, in elementary school I was able to see how my bilingual teachers did include Mexican traditions in the lessons, but I never felt like they inculcated the second language as something we should keep and maintain, as something valuable. By the end of first grade, when I passed the test that stated whether I was proficient in English or not my teacher was so happy and congratulated me, telling me I could move on to an English only classroom. Passing a test is never a bad thing and I was extremely happy as well; I went home and told my mom and she was proud of me but wanted me to stay in a bilingual classroom. Now that I am older, I realize that even if that comment had good intentions, it was a subtle comment that stated English was better than Spanish. Back then, I was proud I was longer going to be with the bilingual students and I now realize that’s sad because we are categorizing bilingual students as less valuable.

Something else I was also able to notice was the questions teachers and students would ask me about myself and my family. Questions such as, “Where were you born?”, “Where do your parents work?”, “Where were your parents born?”, “What language do your parents speak?”, “What language do you prefer?”. According to Susan Ferguson, “we actually use these questions as indicators of more important social and cultural experiences and background that we associate with time, place, and work,” (Ferguson, 2016, p. 6). Even though these questions are used to get to know someone and their family I also see how it allows people to judge us. We automatically want prove stereotypes by asking specific questions which will allow us to categorize someone by their race, color, job, and location. Then when these stereotypes are ‘broken’ we act surprised and make statements such as, “Wow! You have a good job.” As if due to their race we wouldn’t expect them to have a good job.

Middle School and Reflection

During this time, I was a Jehovah Witness and did not celebrate; nevertheless, I still did not see my culture or Mexican traditions being portrayed. I was an introvert and didn’t really interact with many students or my teachers. However, my orchestra teacher changed that, my purpose was more than just to sit next to strangers and try to memorize facts. I do not regret moving to orchestra, my instructor loved her job and did more than she had to because she gave us different opportunities to succeed and show off our talent/abilities. Before I had my orchestra teacher, I believed my role as a student was just to be in the classroom, do my work as best as possible, and then go home.

My music teacher helped me shape my identity and be proud of who I was but not by teaching me how to link content to current events. In elementary I went through a phase where I did not want to speak Spanish and did not embrace my culture, but my music teacher changed that. She created two new groups; mariachi and rocking strings. I joined both extracurricular activities because music seemed to be the only place I belonged in middle school. Joining mariachi made me realize that Spanish was part of my identity, it was the language I felt a strong connection to despite not using it as often as English. I can relate to Gloria Anzaldu?a’s statement, “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself,” (Anzaldu?a, 1999, p. 81). Through mariachi I learned to take pride in myself because no where else in the school was my culture represented or anyone else’s.

I may not have been oppressed as others but by eight grade I was able to defend my beliefs, culture, and language. I loved speaking Spanish to those who knew the language and would sometimes talk in Spanish to those who didn’t know it and would have to translate myself. I was able to identify with Alejandra Elenes’ words because, “I am not a one-dimensional person; I do not need to have one tongue, one language, one discourse,” (Elenes, 1997, p. 366). It is crazy to think back on how much an after school program can change the way I identify myself. This was the only class where I was able to be confidence, most of the time I was very negative about myself but having someone show this much dedication helped me be proud of my culture and see my potential. It makes me think, can you image what a positive impact it would have had on me if I would have had a teacher who taught me to critically think on who I am, why society is the way it is, how we can advocate for certain things, etc? Being teachers is not just spitting out facts but getting the students attention and creating a desire to learn the material by linking it to their life experiences.

High School and Reflection

Many of our professors in college teach us to be the opposite of what we normally see, which is a teacher centered lesson. Educators need to be efficient teachers who include everyone in their lessons and connect it to the student’s life experiences. This means we need to talk about oppression, more than just Martin Luther King Day and more than concentration camps. We want our students to critically think about why this was happening in the past and why it may still be happening now. I only learned the basics of history, as most students do in different districts. My language, history, economics, or politics teacher did not encourage us to critically view this world. As Douglas Kellner and Jeff Share mention, we want to use “literacy education to critically analyze relationships between media and audiences, information, and power,” (Kellner & Share, 2007, p. 1). My teachers did teach us not to rely on any random resource, we had to polish our research skills and make sure our websites and articles were credible. However, they did not emphasize on teaching us how to maneuver around the internet. We want to show and encourage our students to make connections between the information they are reading, by who is it given out and the power it has or doesn’t have. Not everyone is able to read a text, whether long or small, and realize if it’s giving a subtle message against a certain group. Therefore, it’s important to view things with critical eyes and learn how to read text from the media and question it.

One teacher that did changed my life in high school was my anatomy teacher in senior year. I was not close to him but the way he engaged with the students was phenomenal; he made the classroom fun and interesting, something most teachers did not do. He was the only teacher I’ve had that was what most people would consider an ‘effective teacher’. This teacher tried to hit different type of learning styles, whether it was oral, written, hands-on, and more. His sole purpose as a teacher was not to transmit knowledge through PowerPoints, lectures, or unbeneficial activities but instead to connect with us as students and help us meet those high expectations we should all have for ourselves. Despite what I saw in the classroom, according to other students who had him for robotics said he was racist and that probably discouraged a lot of students.

Conclusion

Throughout all my years in school my parents only felt comfortable being involved in school activities when I was in elementary. Once I moved into middle school and high school my teachers no longer spoke English therefore, my parents did not try to engage. This is a sign that schools, especially those who do not have bilingual programs, should make parents whose native language is not English feel included and welcomed to participate.

Thanks to this classroom I was able to see how our goal as teachers is not just to effectively transmit facts and basic knowledge to our students but to constantly be critical thinkers and connect the content to real life scenarios. Being an educator is a wonderful profession that requires great responsibility because we help shape our student’s identity and confidence. I want to be able to positively impact my students’ lives, help them thrive academically and boost their self-esteem. They need to have pride in themselves and realize they can succeed no matter what their background is. 

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Personal Narrative about my education. (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/personal-narrative-about-my-education/

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