Sheldon:

Welcome, advocates, to another episode of the Leading Equity Podcast, a podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their school. Today's special guest is Dr. Robert Bruce Scott. So, without further ado, Robert, thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

Thank you, Sheldon. I appreciate it. I appreciate being here and talking about something that I care a lot about and that's had quite an effect on my life, been a big part of my life for some time.

Sheldon:

Well, it's definitely a pleasure. We've connected online on Twitter and you shared my post and I appreciate your support and retweets and just bringing awareness to the Leading Equity Center and the podcast and everything. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a post that you posted on Twitter where you said, "My book is out." So, I wanted to have you on. You're the author of Teaching Content: Skill Building in Inclusive Contexts. So, before we get into today's topic about second language acquisition, I'd love for you to share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do.

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

I'm a consultant and my areas that I consult in are English as a second language, special education, and a little bit in educational technology. I try to help out. I'm volunteering currently on an online conference that'll be going on in a few weeks. As part of that, I co-edit an online magazine called C2C Digital Magazine. I'm a co-editor with several others and we bring articles together related to educational technology. Those are some of the things I'm involved in now, and I've done teacher education and I've done teaching, and I've done that at the university level. I've done it in adult education settings.

               My first big teaching job that I was excited about was high school English language arts and journalism at a small school north of where I was finishing up my master's at KU, and that was fantastic. The Kickapoo Nation School, that was my first. Then I already had a plan. I was going to go overseas. So, the rest, I've been some places, Ecuador, Japan, Saudi Arabia. Also, in my international experience, I'd have to say New York City. I spent 10 years in New York City.

Sheldon:

Wow.

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

So, that's kind of real quickly my background.

Sheldon:

Got you. Got you. All right. Well, thank you for that. Now, you specialize, like you said, special education, inclusive classrooms, and things like that. So, you do a lot of work with second language acquisition, and I'm just curious, share with the audience how you got into that.

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

Well, I'd have to say it goes back to ninth grade in Great Bend, Kansas at Harrison Junior High. The first chance there was to study a language was Spanish. I took a Spanish course and I got a pen pal and we wrote back and forth. 40-some years later, almost 50 years later, we're still good friends. He's in Quito, Ecuador and I started going down there. His family invited me down when I was almost 16 and my dad thought it would be good for me to spend a week in Quito, Ecuador. It was quite different for someone from Great Bend and I just kept going with Spanish and doing different things. Time goes on and you look at some of your career options. I studied a lot of Spanish in college and I studied a lot of different things, but my main thing was an English literature degree.

               Then I started looking at spending some time, I had an opportunity, I was going to be living in Ecuador for a while. So, I got the master's in teaching English to speakers of other languages. I got the master's in TESOL at the University of Kansas, and then I went with that. That was considered a useful piece of paper. You could get a job many different places. I did that in Ecuador. I did that afterwards, the other places that I've mentioned that I've been. Japan, it worked well. Also in Japan and New York City, I did similar work teaching English as a second language and then I got a big chance to come back to Kansas. The demographics in Kansas where I had grown up had changed considerably and there was a need, they needed at a little college, Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, about 60 miles from where I grew up in Great Bend, they needed someone to help school teachers work more effectively with children from families where the home language was Spanish, and those are bigger and bigger numbers.

               They were such big numbers that, for example, Dodge City, not too far from Hays, we're thinking some time ago, Dodge City, now everybody understands, it's just there's a lot of Spanish language in Dodge City. But you started to catch on in the late '90s, in entering kindergarten classes in their school district, they were coming in at 60%, 70% Spanish speaking families. So, they realized this was changing their whole school system. So, the training of those teachers, that's what I was involved in at Fort Hays State University. There was a grant that was part of that and I got really interested in it and we had some conferences. I got involved. But I was doing that with some people who were also very interested in special education.

               So, looking at those things together and also separating and knowing the difference between a special need and just the process that someone has with learning English as their second language, being able to tell that difference so that kids get the support that they need and that they don't get labeled and they don't get treated as if learning a language is the problem or anything. I think it's enriched Kansas. It's enriched towns like Dodge City, liberal Garden City, Kansas, Great Bend, to large extent, other school systems in Kansas. It's just been a wonderful thing for the state, this demographic change. So, I came and there was a need for this, and I got involved and then I just went on and I looked at multicultural transition when I did my doctorate. I looked at students from culturally, linguistically diverse backgrounds in Kansas and those specifically who had special needs, who had exceptionalities, and I got a chance to write this book. I wanted to write the book while some of these things were still fresh in my mind.

Sheldon:

Well, let's talk about the consulting side of things because I know, especially with things going on, we have a lot of what we call new Americans coming into our country for various purposes or reasons. So, I've talked to a lot of teachers that have a lot of students and they want to make sure that the students, especially if English is not their first language, make them feel included within the school's culture. So, I'd love to ask you some questions. As a consultant, what are some of the strategies or tips that you might have for teachers who are working with students that are, English is not their first language, maybe they're coming into our to our schools, transferring in from a different country? What are some of the starting tips that you typically provide to teachers having these experiences?

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

The first thing I'd say is that there's some research, and I was working with a couple of the people that did the research just a year or two after they had done it, Ortiz, I think, and Gus were their last names, and they were at Fort Hays. They interviewed students in the Dodge City school system who had dropped out after ninth grade, I think it was, ninth or 10th grade. That was something you'd see in some of these school systems. You'd see the demographics of the class, of the whole group as they went through ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, and there'd be a big fall off often in, well, there was, it was observed, people noticed it, Spanish speakers. Anyway, they interviewed young people who had dropped out. Why did they drop out? What was the main reason?

               So, you have, lots of times, people have presumptions, like they think, oh, they drop out because families don't appreciate education. Well, actually, Hispanic, Latino families greatly appreciate education. They're some of the best at supporting education for their kids. Or because they had to work to help out at home, and sure, that comes in. But the number one reason that these kids gave, it was qualitative, it was naturalistic, and it was in interview with students that they had in Spanish, and the number one reason that kids gave was they had gotten the feeling in their classrooms that their teachers didn't want them there. I'm not saying and they weren't saying that the teachers ... These researchers were not saying the teachers didn't want them there. But somehow, that's the message that kids were getting.

Sheldon:

Why is that? Why did they feel that way?

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

Yeah. I think it's a really important question and a good starting point for the conversation with teachers. How do you make your classroom a welcoming place? How do you make everybody feel welcome in your classroom? There was something that we also noticed. We would send out student teachers to certain remote places and they would first observe a class where a teacher who had been teaching for some time was in charge and they would see something and they'd come back and report to us on campus there. What they were seeing was something called benign neglect. Benign neglect. That is where the new student comes in, this new student who is not able to express themselves very well in English yet, and they're in the classroom and the teacher, especially sometimes, this was an older teacher who wasn't used to the newer generation of students, the teacher thought that they were protecting that student, protecting that student's feelings by not calling on them, by leaving them out so that they wouldn't have pressure on them.

               But it's actually benign. It is a form of neglect and it's what you don't want to have happen. So, they may have been meaning well. So, some of these things, raising these things, I think, and then looking at the ways that teachers can make everyone in the classroom, and this is what you talk about with the people you interview all the time and I learn so much every time I see one of your interviews, how do you create a welcoming, open, positive environment? Then the other key is creating those ways for a student to participate, even when they're very early in the language learning process. That is done by, well, UDL helps a lot. I saw someone, oh, she went two days telling us, it was in Garden City, all the different ways to get students involved. Her name was Jo Gusman. J-O and then Gusman, G-U-S-M-A-N. My goodness. She just had fantastic ideas.

               But some of them were just real sim- ... Like a green for yes and red for no for a little card. Each person had those. So, she could ask yes/no questions, which are a really important part of learning a new language, to having yes/no questions where you can just say yes or no and you get to communicate about a whole bunch of things if the teacher puts the questions in that form. But this was like, she had the whole class. Each of them had the green and the red and they could all hold up and say what they were doing. Green. Red. They could all put their opinions in there with everybody else, or five cards A, B, C, D. So, you could pick your choice.

               She had multiple choice. What do you like, what does everybody want to do? What do we think about this? You just pick your A, B, C, or D. So, everybody could participate. I think she referred to these kind of like, I can't think what it's called but, day glow. Like when planes are maneuvering around in a big airport and people have those lights that move them around, the people down on the ground moving those orange lights, she said it's like that. You got to give students that kind of a guide so that they can get oriented because they mostly want to know, okay, where am I? Who are these people? What are the rules here? What are we doing? What are we about? So, getting them involved in communication right away, not holding off on that.

Sheldon:

So, what I've gathered from what I'm hearing is, it sounds like one of the things to really keep in mind is well intentioned teachers, like you mentioned initially, you got teachers that, okay, I have a child, they're brand new to the school, English is not their first language, and I'm protecting them by not calling on them in class because I don't want them to feel embarrassed. Maybe they have an accent or I don't want them to feel uncomfortable. However, that is actually not a positive strategy when it comes to supporting our students in that capacity. Then the second thing I heard you say was we can incorporate or make sure the kids feel included by how allowing the entire classroom some protocols for communication, such as those green and red cards, or an A, B, C, D cards and things like that, so that everyone can feel included within the process.

               To me, those are two good strategies right there to support our students because I could see how that can support them academically and socially as well, which I want to hone on that a little bit more. So, when it comes to the social side of things and, again, helping our students feel included and welcomed in the classroom and involved in the classroom as a member of the class community just like everyone else, even those who English is their first language, do you have any other tips when it comes to socializing our students as well?

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

Yes, I do. Carol Salva is doing ... She works with, they're usually older students. They're high schoolers who just are on a really tight schedule because they've got to get English and then they've got to get that high school diploma and they've got to get into training programs or college or whatever they're onto. You can set aside your theory that, oh, people need to listen to the sounds of English for several years before ... They don't have that time. So, she gets them going in even more specific ways of getting them involved in using the language. I think it's just amazing what she does. You got to talk to her about it or watch what she says, but she calls it QSSSA. Three S's in there. QSSSA.

               Q is question, ask students a question. S is a signal, have them show a signal, kind of like we were talking about, their thumbs up, thumbs down, or the pencils. Stem is give them a phrase or something that they can use to start the kind of things that work as answers or statements. So, get that stem that everybody's working on together. That gives them access to academic language that they need to state their answers. Share then, share in small groups or in pairs. So, they try to talk together in small groups and in pairs using that little bit that you've given them so that they can practice asking each other the question that's being looked at, it's a discussion activity, giving their answers, discussing, and that gives you the 100% participation and the inclusion. Then assess. A is assess.

               So, QSSSA, and assess means then the teacher, when everybody's been involved and gotten to participate, the teacher randomly calls on one or two students to read aloud their answers. Right? But there's been a whole lot that they've done in order to get to that place. Everybody's pretty much ready to say something and it lets the teacher check to see whether everybody understands what's going on. So, that's a pretty neat ... She just does amazing things, Carol Salva. That idea I just said there, that QSSSA, that is her baby. She's the expert on refugee ... Another area is refugee students and it's called life. I'm sure you're aware of it. Students with Limited, Interrupted Formal Education life, S-L-I-F-E-. That is a big, big area.

               Those people, they get going right away and then she helps the regular classroom teachers get in on it and find ways of showing the students what vocabulary and what kinds of sentences and phrases are key for the concepts being worked on. She has all the classrooms in the school that these students go to, in addition to the English classroom. She has them working on those things. The teachers in all the classrooms are doing part of the teaching and the students are getting involved and moving forward and very quickly becoming quite proficient and learning. That's the thing is there's not a pause. I learned this from going over the CREDE standards, which we don't have to get into specifically, C-R-E-D-E, but one thing I learned from that or I noticed and used to say when I do teacher training some years ago and there wasn't ... Now, there's so much more awareness than there was 15 years ago or 20, but we don't have a pause button on cognitive curiosity.

               When you go to a new culture or new language and you're, let's say a child, a young person going to school, the school should not be asking you and your parents, "Okay, the child is just not going to be involved for a while because, for example, we're not going to let you use your first language or something." Baloney. Bilingual education is just fine. You become pretty good as a teacher doing some of these things that I've talked to you about where the person doesn't have to ... They almost don't have time to refer back to their home language, but for translation or something. But it's not the worst thing in the world if they do a little bit of that. Bilingual education is really helpful sometime and it can help a person feel ... There's something about your own language that is part of you, that is how you feel. It's your heart language, and that should always be valued. It should always be valued and revered almost and considered a treasure.

               Another thing that might not occur to you, parents care a whole bunch and they listen and the schools say do this or do that and gosh, too often, still today, amazingly, you have schools and teachers sometimes today, I just cannot believe it, that will tell families, "Oh, don't use your first language, the first language at home because the student will ... They won't make the progress in English. They'll forget what they learned about English." So, you have families that are almost afraid of using their first language at home. So, Mom and Dad, that's their language. That's their heart language. That's how they share important things.

               Actually, the opposite turns out to be true based on research. The best thing that parents can do is to work on reading and writing activities and skills in their language that they feel most proficient in with their kids and those skills will transfer over to school better than anything else you could do at home is working on literacy in your first language. Don't be afraid to. So, don't tell parents, please, that they need to avoid using their home language. That's really one of their strengths.

Sheldon:

Yeah. You said it well, Rob, and I, and I agree exactly. Sadly, our kids are being told all the time, "English only at school because we don't understand what you're saying." But we forget, well, our students don't always understand what we're saying. So, it's more comfortable for them, like you said, to speak that heart language. So, I think you bring up a very powerful point there, Rob. I consider you as providing a voice in leading equity. I'd love for you to end things off with maybe your final word of advice to our audience.

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

My second grade teacher was concerned about me. I wasn't speaking in class and she talked to my parents and she had a great idea. I didn't know about it. It was like a plot everybody had at home. But the plot was my mom and dad and my older brother and my younger brother and my sister, they were all in on this, around the supper table, when a topic would come up and someone would say something or something, then someone would say, "What do you think, Robbie?" Then they would wait and I was just shocked. What? I get a turn? What? And they waited. I think that might be my message is that sometimes, you need to give students that possibility. Open that door and don't shut it right away. Open it, leave it open so students can express themselves.

               Now, it's been hard, just like you today have had difficulty shutting me up. That's the way it's been for everybody since my family did that with me. They haven't been able to shut me up ever since then because for some reason I got the idea that people cared what I had to say. Every one of our students should have the idea that we care and that people care what they have to say.

Sheldon:

I like that. I like that. Thank you for sharing. If we got some folks that want to connect with you, what's the best way to reach you online?

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

I do the Twitter and I also have, my email is [email protected], and that's D-R-R-O-B-B-S-C-O-T-T. [email protected] But you can also find me on Twitter @RobbScott. @DrRobbScott, I think it is.

Sheldon:

Well, we'll leave the links in the show notes. Once again, I am talking to Dr. Robert Bruce Scott, author of Teaching Content: Skill Building in Inclusive Contexts. Rob, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.

Dr. Robert Bruce Scott:

Thank you very much, Sheldon. I appreciate-

 

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