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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clayton, December 8, 1988. Interview K-0132. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Student interactions, cultural understanding, and impact of testing

Clayton continues to speak about her thoughts on the growing Latino student population during the mid-1990s. Previously, Clayton had focused on efforts to build bridges between the community and the school. Here, she focuses more specifically on student interactions, arguing that her experience had been that the students were overly protective of new students and wanted to help them however they could. The passage concludes with Clayton's comments on what she sees as the negative impact the growing emphasis on testing has had on teachers' efforts to focus on cultural lessons and collaboration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clayton, December 8, 1988. Interview K-0132. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ANGELA HORNSBY:
I think again we've covered a little bit of this but I just wanted to see if I could get a sense from you in terms of just the overall impact that Latino students here have made on Eastway as a whole. As far as demographically in terms of how teaching approaches, interactions between the students. What's your sense of all of that in the three years that you've been here and the three years that the school's been here?
REBECCA CLAYTON:
Personally, I feel very fortunate because mine have all been working together very well. I find my regular students versus Hispanic students are really protective. Because I have one little girl that moved in from Mexico that does not speak any English but is picking up things pretty rapidly. But if I forget to give her something in terms of what we are working on in class, there is always one child that says, "You left Sophia out. You didn't give Sophia something Ms. Clayton." I also have found too that I can put the students together with my Hispanic students for them to read together or to work together and they're really protective and work with them. I've found that out. I've just been real appreciative of that. Yeah, they pretty much—and they'll try to explain the assignments to them so they'll understand it. But what I'm doing with the little girl that just came straight from Mexico here is to get my one who was born in Brownsville, Texas but also with a Hispanic family, get him to translate to Sophia and let her do some of her lessons in Spanish. Because like her writing a story, letting her write it in Spanish and then we translate it back. And I think some of the classes have more Hispanic students in them. Some teachers have no background at all in Spanish. I took two years in college of Spanish, I mean Spanish in college so I could get a BA degree instead of a BS degree. But I would not have been taking anymore Spanish. I mean growing up in Madison County, the only foreign language, extra language we had in school, was Latin. So I didn't have any foreign language until I got to college. That was two years of Spanish. So I have a little background there, not only of the language but of some of the customs and history and things like that, that I can draw on. Whereas some of the other teachers may have had all French or whatever. I think that's more of a problem for them. But we have some good students around here. Hispanic students who can translate and we know who to call on. Or the other teachers know who to call on. I have Juan in my class so usually he can take care of it for me. And sometimes he gets called out. And last year Ugo would get called out to the other classes to work with students. So he could translate for them or explain the assignment to the child so they would know what they were doing if it was a math assignment or whatever. And that would also give them a real sense of being somebody. Because I call them my interpreter or my translator or whatever else. Thank goodness they are there with that.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Are there other things—in essence would you say that your teaching style has changed somewhat because of—?
REBECCA CLAYTON:
No. I think the only thing that has changed our teaching style somewhat is dealing with the testing. No, not for me. For me, it makes it more interesting. Because I had a girl who was born in Los Angeles but her family was from El Salvador. So I mean to me what can I get from them that I can share with the class. So her grandmother would send in homemade bread and things like this that they did in their family. We would talk about those kinds of things or so several times while I had her, her grandmother sent in homemade bread to share with the class. I've been wanting to get someone to come in and show me how they cut that tissue paper in Mexico because it's so beautiful and so intricate. So but then again we hopped onto, we've got to pass these end of the grade tests. We've got to get test scores up. We haven't had as much time for that lately since we've been concentrating on test scores. But that's the kinds of things that I would like to do. I think when you ask the parents to do those kind of things, they will do it. You just can't say, "Oh no they're not doing anything." Because you haven't asked, if you ask you can usually get some response back. I find that.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
You mentioned Ms. Perez is now gone—
REBECCA CLAYTON:
Yes—
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Are there any other concrete things that Eastway has done to try to adapt to the changing school population?
REBECCA CLAYTON:
Well, I mentioned the PTA. And then again, I'm sure Ms. Wagstaff told you about where the parents came in to work together on learning language. They did that last year or year before last, maybe last year. I really don't know right off hand. And then we have a full-time—not every school, I believe, has a full-time ESL teacher—we have a full-time ESL teacher here. There's one and a half. So we've done that. I really don't know of anything else right now.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Would you, probably an obvious question, but you would say that these different strategies for coping or dealing with these changes has been successful?
REBECCA CLAYTON:
I think so. I think we are very fortunate that we have had the adults working together over here. I think we are very fortunate that we translate our PTA meetings because we have a good turnout of the families for our meetings. Any PTA meeting or general meeting that we have over here, we have a good turnout of the Hispanic families, mothers and fathers. I think that's very good for everybody. So I believe it's going to be very successful.