By Coby Bryan Campbell
Latinos In Action is an elective class taught by Mr. Valle. Participating students are of Hispanic descent and many are the children of immigrants from Central and South America. As part of their mission, they tutor middle school children at nearby schools to help them become proficient in English. With Mr. Valle, students explore their bilingual identity and both languages are spoken in the classroom. The class is part of a national program.
I recently spent some time with the class and asked them about their experiences. I conducted interview with Group 1 – Angelica, Jose and Steve. Group 2 included Vivian and David. Below are excerpts from the most revealing responses per group.
What is it like having to speak English and Spanish?
Group 1: It feels good because in this country it’s good to know various languages. I enjoy speaking both languages. It’s fun, but English can sometimes be hard.
Group 2: It’s stressful if you can’t formulate the words properly.
What’s it like living in America as a Latino American?
Group 1: I feel proud. I want to demonstrate that Latinos work hard. There’s a certain pride in being able to show others our worth.
Group 2: It’s good and bad at the same time, and very difficult for undocumented immigrants who worry about their safety.
What do you think of the USA and the state of it right now?
Group 1: The biggest difference with Latin American countries is that there are a lot of rules and laws here.
Group 2: It’s a big melting pot.
What type of friends do you hang around?
(Group 1) Mostly, Latin Americans.
(Group 2) My friends tend to be Hispanic friends and occasionally African-American.
What do your parents think of English and speaking or learning it?
(Both groups) It’s good because it helps with getting work and getting help in certain situations. If you can speak English, bosses tend not to underpay you at work or mistreat you.
What do you think of the school you attend and the teacher’s at the school?
(Group 1): Some are nice and able to mix in the teaching of English within the lesson .
(Group 2) I thought it would be bad, but the teachers are nice. It’s pretty good and there are teachers who are cool.
How does this culture differ from your home countries.
(Group 1): It’s different because of the fast-paced environment and the fact that it’s not hostile in terms of security concerns.
(Group 2) Here, some people are ill-mannered. Back home, we’re more aware of our ethics and manners.
Questions For the LIA teacher, Mr. Valle:
What is your background?
Puerto Rican. I grew up with both parents, but mostly my mom.
What was it like growing up?
Growing up, I lived in Plantation, Florida. It was quiet and I was into anime.
What high school and college did you attend and what was it like?
Piper Hiigh and FAU. It was smaller back in my day and quiet. I drove to school every day.
What was it like becoming a teacher?
At first it was hard working and trying to get my teaching license. I fell out [of the profession] and then I got back in again and got my license on my second try.
What’s it like speaking English and Spanish to your students?
It’s hard because my Spanish isn’t that strong, but I learn more as I go along.
Do you love your job?
Yes, absolutely! It’s fun.