Margarita Robledo

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Margarita Robledo is a Colombian native who currently works as a teacher in a fourth grade, dual-language classroom at Carrboro Elementary School in Carrboro, N.C. In Colombia, she worked for many years as an English language teacher at an international school in Bogota. She decided to move to Chapel Hill, N.C. to gain new experiences for herself and for her children; her father was a diplomat and she spent time in Washington, D.C. as a child. Because of her own experience as a recent immigrant and her close work with Latino students at Carrboro Elementary, Robledo is able to provide insight into key challenges that Latino immigrants and Latino children face in the education system, as well as to describe the mixing of languages and cultures that is currently occurring in our community. In the interview, Robledo describes how the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program from her previous school in Bogota, Colombia compares to the dual-language program where she works at Carrboro Elementary. She mentions that she serves as a “bridge” between parents, the school administrators and her partner teacher, who teaches only in English. Robledo stresses the challenges that she faces finding adequate resources in Spanish to teach her classes and how it is more difficult to plan her lessons in Spanish. In addition, students tend to speak in English more often and place more importance on the English language, so she actively struggles to show them that the Spanish language and culture are equally important and useful. Robledo specifically highlights the unique situation in Carrboro, N.C. and the surrounding community, which respects Latino culture. She says that this area should be an “example for the world,” to show how cultures can mix and share with each other.



Claire Archer: Ok, so it is April 2, 2013 at 7 pm, approximately, and I am here with Margarita Robledo to talk about the dual-language program at Carrboro Elementary. We are in Margarita’s apartment in Carrboro. So I guess, to start, if you could just explain briefly why you decided to come to the US and why you decided to come to Carrboro and then how you ended up working at Carrboro Elementary.
Margarita Robledo: Well my story begins – I’ve been a teacher for more than 23 years. I worked in an International Baccalaureate. Most of my experience comes from the IB diploma. I worked in an international school for more than 15 years. I used to do this project-based learning and I used to teach in English. I always wanted to come to have the experience. In my country, I was like the guest receiving people coming from all over the world to work with me, so I was pretty much – I had the experience to work in an international environment. I always thought about – for me and for my family that since my kids also started in that school, the real internationalism is to go abroad.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: And that was one of the things I wanted to do. Pretty much, I lived here when I was a kid. I also wanted to have that experience. I applied. I got different – I applied different places, but when I applied to this dual program it really held my attention, knowing that even though it wasn’t an IB diploma school, they worked pretty much the same. They have this project-based learning. When I did my interview, they told me that I was going to do what I was doing in English, but I needed to do it in Spanish. So I thought that it was very interesting, I wanted to learn what a dual program is because I always worked in a bilingual school. I thought that it was going to be more or less the same, but it’s not the same. It’s interesting what I have found here, because it’s given me a different perspective, different experience.
CA: So how is it different from a bilingual program?
MR: In a bilingual school, in an IB diploma school, you have – you do this 50-50 as it is here. They call it 50-50 here because you have 50 percent of the day in English and 50 percent in Spanish. In an international – in a bilingual school – you have all day long, you are a self-contained teacher. You teach all the subjects in English, for example. And they only – the students only have in Spanish, just like the Spanish class, some special classes, some specialists. But here it’s been really interesting because I have to work with another teacher. We have the same students. We work two classes together that are practically like one class. That are separated by a door, so whenever the kids come to my class, they need to switch, you know, to speak Spanish.
CA: Right.
MR: Whenever they go to the other class they need to speak in English. We don’t teach exactly – I mean, we plan together. My partner, she teaches mathematics in English and I have to teach reading or writing in Spanish. But in the afternoons, that are this project-based learning, we have to do it in both languages. It’s not that whatever they do in English they’re going to do it in Spanish. No. We plan together. We take the same subjects and topics, but each one of us takes care of different aspects of what we need to teach. We need to work in a cooperative way. So it’s been very interesting for me because, firstly, to teach my own language, I found it kind of difficult [laughs] at the beginning getting the resources. But I found it wonderful to see how the kids are – they switch back and forth, back and forth in the two languages. It’s only one door that separates one side to the other, and that’s something that I – I even see how differently they act, they react. They even behave differently whenever they go to the English side. It’s interesting because they act in a different way, then when they come to me and they have to speak. Of course, because they were a bit afraid sometimes to speak the language. They understood – I found that they, these kids they have been exposed since, I think, kinder [Kindergarten], to the Spanish. This school managed the program in many different ways, but when they come to fourth grade, they wanted them to be like 50 percent in each language. So it’s been a challenge. It has been really a challenge, because the students, they found, you know, whatever they do in English, of course they want to do it more because they have the [unintelligible], they have the resources. It’s their own language. So I always needed to fight with that, you know. I needed to put my class as, as attractive, as fun for them too, to realize that no matter where they are, here or there, we’re all the way [unintelligible] – something that is really, you know, meaningful for them.
CA: And is it as challenging for the native Spanish-speaking students? Is it as challenging to engage them in your class?
MR: I think that something that I’ve found wonderful in this program is that we put it in the same balance. I mean, when the Spanish-speaking students are in the English side, the level is the same as any native speaker. As I do the same in Spanish. I don’t do any differentiated programming for the – because that’s the challenge. The challenge is to bring everybody to a higher level. Of course, there are some students that they found, especially to write, as being like the, the – I found that the most challenging part of this program is writing. Because they read – they can read, they can understand, comprehend. They are able to speak, but even for the Spanish speakers, the Spanish written form is not that easy – to conjugate the verbs. And we also found with my colleague that whoever is a good reader, no matter what language they are, they’re gonna be good readers. They manage to spell and punctuation. So it’s not just a matter of a language. It might be skills.
CA: Ok. And so, I guess could you describe what you do on a normal day. How do you plan for your classes? Just a day in the life at Carrboro Elementary.
MR: This is really, really – this has been the challenge. Because in a bilingual school you plan in English, yeah. We will plan the same – we will plan together in the project-based. It’s like cooperative planning.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: As it is here, but here the thing is I have another colleague who is in traditional – the traditional English program but we plan together the language. I mean, we need to plan language. So we plan it in English, but whatever I do in the Spanish language, she has to do it in the English language. So we plan together reading, writing, listening and speaking.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: As a language. And then, I do that once a week, and then twice a week project-based learning subjects. And that’s – that’s very interesting because we – it doesn’t matter what language we’re doing. We’re doing--. We have to bring things at the same level. So, we have to bring ideas, we need to – we need to plan in a pretty much cooperative way, according to the Common Core, that is like the curriculum--
CA: Uh huh.
MR: --that is changing, in which I have most of my experience. That’s why I like it here because it’s nothing different from the IB diploma. That’s exactly what we do. In the IB we plan in a cooperative – and we try, we try to integrate as much as possible, you know, the subjects to the same topics that we have to teach.
CA: Ok. So, I guess, if you could just describe the dynamics in the classroom. If there are any differences between the native Spanish-speaking students, the native English speaking students, or how the students interact with each other.
MR: Something that I found from the very beginning – that it was, because of the experience I had, I always used to work in groups. And I think this is the advantage of this program. You need to integrate. The more you work in a cooperative way, the more the kids – I mean, I always try to have in every group kids that are very strong Spanish speakers with the American kids, because that’s the only way we can bring them, you know, to speak and to work in a cooperative way. That’s—that’s one of the styles. Sometimes we do individual work, but I do most of the work in a cooperative way. Whenever we start a project, they’re gonna start with a new group.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: Sometimes I also let them choose because it’s nice that they have the opportunity to choose with who they want to work. That’s according to the purpose of the lesson. But the nice thing with these projects is by the end of the year, they have had – they have worked with everybody in the classroom.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: And I design rubrics so they know that everybody takes an important role, a part, in order to produce – I give them choices. What would be the – they know in advance what’s going to be the final project. Whenever we start a unit – for example, this unit of health and nutrition – they know from the beginning that the final project was to produce, like an international recipe, healthy book. But the way they want to do it, the way they want to present it – I give them a lot of freedom, especially at this time of the year because they’ve been exposed to doing videos, posters, pamphlets, so they have the skills. And I – something interesting in education, is the more you share the responsibility with your students, the more engaged they are in doing things. It’s not a teacher telling them “You have to do this, you have to do that.” You give them the guidelines, you tell them about the expectations. That’s the good thing about project-based learning. They’re really getting to – into these projects. They feel like it’s their, you know, they’re really, really engaged in what they do.
CA: So with the curriculum, and I know that you’re doing the health and nutrition unit now, is that something that you and your co-teacher can decide? Do you design the curriculum or is there some direction from the school administrators--
MR: Yeah.
CA: --or the principal?
MR: When I arrive here I have heard that they’ve been changing the curriculum, that this Common Core, which is called the curriculum. They have in every level – there is one person that is in charge of, you know, meeting with these teachers and meeting with the principal. And there is a special group that is called PTL [unintelligible] I don’t remember how you….but there is a special team. They decide, they have ben deciding the topics. That’s something that is being – how we do it is up to us, but we have pretty much like the guidelines that we need. there’s some things that the sate decide, like nutrition. I mean, they give us like, we have to teach North Carolina history. Everybody has to do that, no matter what school you are.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: Mhmm, the specific topics, the way – I think the topics are being chosen, but the way you deal with them, the way you, you really plan and develop them is up to the team.
CA: Ok.
MR: PDL? PDL, I think. I think it’s PDL that they call… [unintelligible]
CA: I guess sort of to switch topics a little bit, you mentioned a few weeks back, when I was in your classroom the different motivations of parents to enroll their students in the program. So if you could just, sort of, share your opinions on that.
MR: Yeah, that’s something that is very interesting because the parents decide – they make the decision if they want their kids to be in a traditional classroom, which is everything in English, or if they want them to be in a dual-language program. And that’s been the – you know, when I started here, that’s something that I found in the motivation of the students. Because at the beginning I saw, like, some of them were, like, “Oh, I have to be here because my mom and dad wanted me”. So, something that I’ve been working a lot with them is to let them see the importance of learning a new language. How this will give them more opportunities, will put them into a more privileged place, and the advantage of knowing new people, and everything. Because parents – I think they believe the importance of knowing another language, especially Spanish because they have a lot of immigrants, and a lot of relations with Spanish speakers. So if you don’t speak Spanish here, you won’t get the same opportunities as everybody will. I always keep telling my students I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t bilingual. I mean, that’s an opportunity I had. If I only spoke Spanish – well, I need to speak English too because I work in English, I teach in Spanish, but I have to – all day long, I do the same thing that they do. I have to switch back and forth, back and forth. And something that I learned here that I didn’t know before is there are all these studies are written that somehow the brain works in a different way. It makes you, you know, I would say smarter, in a way, when you have to – yeah, there are some parts in your brain that they activate whenever you’re doing that, especially when you start younger. I mean, at the end, that’s what they said. These kids are going to get higher results in their, you know, tests that they have to take for college, so they have an advantage. There is a stage that they get, like, that you don’t see that. But once they go to high school that’s when they have – they start getting all these--. Oh, and it’s a whole advantage. I mean, it’s not only to know a language. You know culture. You know – you get to know the world. Being here in this – that’s something that is very cool in these classes because they like people – they like to bring people from different parts of the world that they speak the language. And we come here to share our culture, too. It’s not only to teach subjects, but also -- so, for example, in my class we travel around Latin America. We’ve been in Cuba, we’ve been in Puerto Rico, we’ve been… because we talk about – we read books, we talk about culture, we studied the – so I think that’s a really good way for the kids to get to see the world.
CA: Uh huh. Well I guess in terms of the, the motivations for Hispanic parents, what are those for enrolling their children in this program, instead of just a regular English classroom?
MR: Well it’s something I have seen that they want, is for them to keep their culture. Because these kids – I mean, it’s going to come to a point that they will lose their Spanish if they don’t practice. So this is another way also for parents to try to – yeah, to continue with their roots, because most of these kids, they don’t speak – I mean, they speak English all day long if they were not in that program. And also to show them the importance of their language and the importance of their culture and roots. That’s something that is nice to see because they feel proud. I always – in a dual program you bring their culture. You don’t talk about something that is in a book, you bring what they –what your students have, and they have the opportunity to talk about their culture, to talk about their family life. This program that the state has, that is called Cultural Heritage.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: That’s a program that I’ve been enjoying a lot, that I integrated in my classes, because that’s a program that has been designed for, you know, bringing the cultures together, and reading about people from different places, Latin places, and you know, story tellers. There is a lot of nice books that we’re reading, but at the same time, it brings values.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: You know, it talks about stereotypes. So the kids have been learning a lot, and I think it’s a beautiful program that the state is giving for the schools to use.
CA: That interesting, I didn’t know that existed. So then, how much interaction do you have with the Hispanic parents? Are they more involved in the classroom, and especially with you because you speak Spanish as well?
MR: That’s also been interesting because I’ve been like a bridge for my colleague and I and myself, because she’s a really open mind person, the person that works with me. But the language is something that – that is like, you have to break the rules. I mean, you need to be able to speak with the parents, because most of them, they don’t speak English. They don’t receive Internet, you know, they don’t receive emails, so the way to communicate is by talking on the phone. So I’m like being in the middle, being a bridge between these teachers and myself to talk about their kids, to be able to communicate. And they feel really – they feel, you know, incredible because they know they can call me. They sometimes – most of the time they call me because they wanted to say something to the other teacher. And that’s the way it is. I mean, my colleague is really open-minded and whenever she needs to communicate something to the parents, I either call them or I write a letter. So I think its vital to have – to be able to – to be bilingual, to be able to bring – to give the importance. It’s something that I also found really nice is that in a school like this, they make them feel important, because whenever there is a meeting, parents’ meeting, we have the opportunity to translate. Whatever they said in English, they always take into account the Latin community. They always take into account those parents. And they’ve been telling me that they have seen – for example, in a classroom like mine, and in a dual-language, they have seen that the interaction of the Latin parents is huge. Because they come to the events, they come to share with the kids. Otherwise, they won’t come because they wouldn’t be able to understand. For example, if they do a science fair, they will feel like out of place because they wouldn’t be able to understand.
CA: So do the same resources exist for Hispanic parents in regular classrooms? Because they wouldn’t have the advantage of a teacher being completely bilingual like you are. How do you think their experience differs?
MR: I think it’s completely different. And they are some cases – in traditional classrooms there are parents that are Latino, there are Latino parents. I think they have to rely on their kids to translate, or to – because, well in these kinds of schools they respect. I mean, the way to communicate is always in both languages, which I found really nice, very respectful, very… They do care that they understand and they’re taken into consideration. And they go even farther. For example, this colleague that I have. I respect her very much because she takes part of her time, you know, asking the kids to come early in the morning or to stay after school and take the advantage of using the computers. And that’s something that I’ve found really nice, because we know that most of these students, they don’t have computers at home, so they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do extra practice, for example. So that’s something that I’ve found really open. They’re very caring community. They care for others. And I respect her for that a lot.
CA: That’s great to hear. And so, how does – how do you think that maybe parents’ legal status affects their involvement in the school system, if at all? Or their involvement in their child’s education.
MR: The American parents?
CA: The Hispanic parents. If they – if they were in the country without papers, how would that affect their involvement in their child’s education?
MR: Ahh. I think that’s something that I’ve been learning here, because you don’t see that in my country. This is something that has been new for me. They’ve been – I mean, I don’t know about other schools, but that’s what makes it so special in a dual program because they feel – they know that they’re gonna be, they take care of them. That they do care. This whole community, they have this social worker, for example. They help in everything: food, clothing. They know that they can come for support, for help. Of course they don’t get that involved because I think that those people, I mean, being an immigrant, you only understand when you are. I mean, that’s something that’s – you have to have sensi-[unintelligible] be sensible about it because it’s very easy to talk about or to criticize people but I am not that kind of immigrant. I came here with a job. How does it feel to leave everything you come from. I mean, your family, your friends, your culture, and I am very fortunate because I came in a very – how do you say? – a very fortunate position because the minute I got here I had a job. I’ve been able to bring my family. I haven’t had any lack of anything. I’m not wealthy, but I’m fine. So I really feel considerate with this, you know, whenever I had a student that I know that he has left his family, his friends, coming here for the big opportunity… it’s challenging, its hard. It is hard, because you don’t really see that any other places in the world I mean, people here come for many different reasons. I have the opportunity to see a family that has separated for 8 years.
CA: Wow.
MR: And the mom was here 8 years before. And the kid is now here, so they are united, and I think that makes them very – they, I mean, those kind of communities are very close to each other.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: They help each other a lot.
CA: Well, do you see that children who have, like, more challenging, I guess, pasts or experiences coming to the US, or maybe more difficult family situations – does that affect their performance in the classroom, and do you have to deal with that in your interactions with them?
MR: Sometimes, I really like to – I can be someone that talks about that because I seen so many problems in the American children, in their behavior, emotionally. Kids that have everything in life, that have all these wealthy parents, but at the same time, they lack of, I don’t know, maybe they are very busy parents. They don’t have, really, the quality of time. So you face different things. That is interesting because for the other side you see the Latin kids, they are happy. Sometimes they are not that happy, but they are – I mean, their family, in our culture, in a Latino culture, family for us is everything, and if you are with your family, no matter what happens, it always brings them together. I’m not saying that here it’s not the same, but it’s in a -- but it has, you see other kind of problems. You see – I have seen kids with a lot of anxiety. That’s something that have caught my attention. Spoiled, very spoiled. Very, very, very much. But at the same times, they’re kids, so the nice thing is to see that the two cultures, they come together. And you see on the playground. And they play together and they laugh and they push each other. So you don’t see any – in the classroom it’s a very special place, because inside there – there is no big differences. Outside, that’s another story, because they don’t share outside, their lives. That’s something that is very interesting. Outside school everybody goes on their way. And I understand why, because I had a mother that once told me “Why is that we can’t, you know, interact with these Latin kids after school?’” and I would say, “But come on… I mean, you have your life, your clubs, your things, but they don’t have that.” After school they probably – they need to go by themselves, or they need to – I mean, they have different lives. Maybe in the future when they study a career, and I don’t’ know. But at this – I don’t know – I think that once they start growing, when they are like in high school, because I have that experience with my daughter, at that age it’s important for them to have the opportunity to share after school, because that’s when they start going to the cinema. It’s a reality. I mean, in school they are the same -- for all of us it’s exactly the same no matter what their cultures are, you know?
CA: And so for these students that you have – it’s fourth grade – but they are going to continue being in the same classroom together, as they progress? Does the dual language program extend until high school?
MR: Yes. I don’t – I really don’t know that much, but I know that they can continue. But actually, we – since this program is growing and growing so much, we’re gonna – I mean, we’re gonna be mixing them too. I mean, they’re not always exactly with the same kids in the same classes. Because, as you know, there’s going to be a new school -- a new magnet school, that is going to be all--. And that’s going to be very interesting, because I think that’s the first time that they’re gonna have a whole school as a dual-language program. Not as in Carrboro, because in Carrboro you have traditional, and in every level there is a traditional and a dual language--
CA: Uh huh.
MR: --you know, class. So I think it’s going to change the whole perspective of planning and resources, and to be more bilingual. Because at the moment, it’s not that – I mean, it’s funny, but you go outside the classroom and nothing is dual. The dual happens in the classroom, really. Inside.
CA: So, I guess, what changes would you like to see in the future, based on your experiences? What things could improve the program?
MR: Well, having a – I think that, having more classes, you know, to be able to interact with teachers that are doing the same that I’m doing in my level – I think that’s important. Because sometimes the traditional teachers, they don’t realize that we have to do double work, always, because we plan in English, we do everything in English. Then, you have to go to your classroom and you have to do it in Spanish. So that is really crazy sometimes, because you find all the resources in English, but you don’t – you can’t – you have to translate them. So that makes it hard. I wouldn’t have – I wouldn’t have to have more time, you know, spending more time in planning, in finding things than just to translate. Or find—looking resources, and we -- we’re having a dual, whole school, they will take that into account, so all the resources will be bilingual. They will be, like, you know, in a library. It’s a shame that you go to the library and they have almost nothing. I mean, they have books in Spanish, but you don’t have texts you know, like, non-fiction books. For you to -- for example, this project-based learning – for them to research in books, there are no books. I mean, they are brining books, because I order and I know, and that’s the good thing. They’re very open now. That you could order now -- for example, in this unit I ordered books related to the five food groups [unintelligible] so that is wonderful because they’re going to be able to research in books [laughs].
CA: Did you – does the school provide you with excess resources to, sort of, bolster the resources that you have available, because it is difficult to find Spanish books and teaching materials?
MR: I think they’re being more aware of that nowadays. Because I don’t know what they did before [laughs]. Because if the goal is to bring 50-50, the two languages, how could you compete with these wonderful English books? On the other side they have all these shelves full of magnificent books and when they come to my side, there is only very few, very gold. That’s the other thing, because they take the Spanish background, somehow, you know… So, it would be interesting to find things that are so attractive and cool for the kids, and that’s something that I’ve been spending a lot of time. “What do you like to read? What things would you like -- what would you like to find in this classroom, that you would like to [unintelligible]”? So that’s something that I’ve been using and the wonderful thing is that the principal are very open to suggestions, changes. That’s what they want. They want people to be proactive, that they want to give ideas. And they give you [unintelligible] I mean, that’s wonderful, because you – you just need to propose. That’s what you really need to do.
CA: Are you – is the program allowed to go on special, sort of, cultural or language-oriented field trips to help with the education outside the classroom?
MR: Yeah, we’ve been trying. That’s something that – since I work with someone that is from here, and they’ve been living – I think she’s been working more than four years in the dual program, so she knows many people around. So that’s very interesting because whenever we plan a trip – we, I either do it in Spanish, or we try to find people who speak Spanish, too. I mean, since – well we talk about this nutrition program, with the other teacher I did the same, but in Spanish. And the other person did it in English, but we had – we had brought people that does it in Spanish, too. Because you find in the community, we’ve been trying – whenever something has this Latin community, they can come to integrate, you know. So, and that’s the idea. Whatever they – that’s why you keep the 50-50 – whatever they have been doing in English, I have to find a way in Spanish. For example, if we go to the zoo, then there is a group that is doing it in English. The group that goes with me will be doing it in Spanish, and we try to – then, we switch. So every time we look for the opportunity to, for them to listen the same amount of language during the day.
CA: So, in terms of, I guess, additional training for teachers… So you have the experience of working at a bilingual school, so you obviously had training in both languages. But for, maybe, native-born American teachers, what are their additional requirements to teach in a dual-language program, or how do they certify teachers are qualified?
MR: I have seen – it’s interesting because in this new school that they’re going to open, in that magnet school, I think that the assistant principal, the person that taught the program, is an American teacher. And she’s been teaching Spanish her whole life. She has the experience. I think it doesn’t make any difference. I think its important that whoever does it has to manage the language properly because – and that’s something that, for example, I have seen that they care. They want to bring native speakers, right? Most of them are native. But I seen that in this kind of school they want to keep it, like – if it’s a whole dual school everybody – most of -- the principal told me that only like 8 people are not bilingual, but the rest have to be bilingual, even if they’re Americans or not. People have to be. Because that’s the cool thing about the program. You have to be bilingual. Because no matter who – because you, you have to be able to communicate with whatever parent comes to you, American or Latin, or, you know. All the situations, they have to be bilingual.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: And that’s the cool thing. I think that for the Americans it is a challenge, but it is as challenging as it for me to do it in English, you know, to be speaking and planning and--. And if you manage – if you don’t need two languages, you wouldn’t have any problem.
CA: So how do you see – I know that you haven’t lived here for very long – but because the state has a rapidly growing immigrant population, and especially as more Hispanic parents have children and then those children join the school system, do you have any predictions or opinions about how the public school system will change in coming years?
MR: I think that it’s changing. I mean, it’s already – I never – only I understand it about this program now that I am here, because I never thought that it was so important. I mean, for them, the importance of learning the language and, I think that this is going to cause a lot of changes, because I have seen already in school, I have seen in the religious community that they start realizing that this is important. I mean, the immigrants, the people that are coming here are putting g a little [unintelligible] into here. Because the people, as anywhere in the world, they’re good people. Young people, especially. They’re really young. They’re coming for – they want to work, they want to succeed in life, they want to be – as you said, I haven’t been for long, but I have seen how people interact. I know you will always find people that don’t like to be involved. Or--. I think that there is a space for everybody. That’s the cool thing, because if you don’t want to be involved, you just – you have all the other opportunities. But as I told you before, this anecdote that the American mother told me: if my daughter doesn’t get exposed to this, she’s gonna get behind. She’s not gonna get the same opportunities that these kids will. And believe me, they’re coming with all the energy, with all the goals to learn, to succeed. And I think that’s what makes this community so special, because – as long as they respect one another, I think that’s the important thing, no?
CA: And I know we talked about this earlier in the living room, but if you could just sort of, like – this is slightly off topic – just say a little bit more about your experience with Easter and the dual language in St. Thomas.
MR: Yeah.
CA: That’s fascinating.
MR: I think that’s example for the whole world. What I saw there is something that really touched my heart. Normally, being [unintelligible] – but I also see how the Americans, how they felt this respect for the people, for the culture. Because the people that attends to those ceremonies, religious ceremony, they know that it’s going to be bilingual, and they know that there’s going to be singing and traditional things from Latin America, as well as from America. So, if you are there, its because you care, it’s because you are willing to share, you are willing to be open. And I think that St. Thomas More realizes that the Latin community is as important as the Americans. It’s as big as one another. So they need each other, they need – they, so I think the respect you see there is incredible. As I said, this is an example to the world, to see how communities from far away, from so many different backgrounds can come together. And not only Latins. You see people from many different places of the world in that community. So something so important as your spiritual beliefs is so respected in that community. And that has no language. Because when you have that religious belief, it doesn’t matter where you come from. We all believe, in that sense, in the same things. We react in the same ways. You don’t even -- you don’t really need language, it’s just something that is so, you know, great. I think that’s why its so, so, so, so cool to see those communities, but that is also because the priest is bilingual
CA: Uh huh.
MR: He cares about the community. Because if – and I have seen that most of the priests there, they have to be bilingual, because they switch back and forth, back and forth in English and Spanish. In the normal days, they have the English mass and the Latin mass, but when there is big events, they bring the community together, which is -- I would invite people to see that. Because it’s an example. I saw people – I saw them taking pictures and videos, because this is an example for many places in America, I would say. How could you respect one another and we can be together in the same place, sharing the same--. And you always bring that, you know, that’s because the person that leads this is a very sensitive person for the community.
CA: Right. It’s nice that this community has, you know, dual language in church and dual language in the schools. It’s sort of a unique, unique mix.
MR: Yeah, you don’t see that any other place of the world, because as I said, I came from a bilingual – bilingual is so different, because bilingual is--. The parents, they have to pay lots and lots of money for the kids to learn English, for example. This is a British school in Colombia, but it’s just because they want them to learn, you know. But it’s not a community, it’s not as--. You don’t have the interaction, because you don’t have British community in Colombia as big as you have Latins here. I see them on the street, no. It’s just a mini community that costs a lot of money for you to be there [laughs] I would say that this is nice to see it here. And something that have caught my attention is the respect. When you see a little girl from a – Latin girl with an American girl holding hands, playing together, helping each other, there is no distinction. And not only Latin, you know – colored people, Asian people in the same classrooms, so there is no--. That makes it more open. I don’t know how it is in a traditional school. They might have other--. But I presume that in a dual language. Because it’s interesting, in these dual programs people of color, they like to be there, too.
CA: Uh huh.
MR: Because they’re taken more into account. You know what I mean? It’s not just the Latin, it’s people form different races. They feel comfortable. You know, I saw these kids going to this dual, new school. And many people of color, colored people, they want to go to that school. They don’t want to go to a traditional, because maybe in that traditional school they might feel a little different, than they way they feel with the Latino people. And the Americans, I mean, this dual is--. I presume that there might be many, many more from Latino in this school than from, than American. But the principal told me no, that there are lots of Americans going to the new school because the parents, you know, they started. And they love Spanish. There are some students, they really, really do.
CA: I don’t have many more questions, I guess, if you just want to – have anything else to say, or if you have a particularly memorable experience in the dual language program, or a particularly difficult experience, or anything you want to add.
MR: As I said, my challenge is being to put the – I mean, the point as a teacher, to put into the same level the two languages. As a subject, you know. For the kids to understand that one language is as important as the other. That’s something that I found it hard, especially for the American kids, because they think that, you know, only English is important, but since they know that they have to – I mean, we grade together. Everything is done together, so they start seeing that they have to do their homeworks, they have to behave properly. Because in the culture, they behave differently, and that’s the reality. I don’t know why, but it’s true. I mean, they behave – especially because when you’re learning a language, you have to talk most of the time. You can’t just be quiet. So one of challenges [drops microphone] to show them that you’re not here because your mommy and daddy just want you to be here. It’s because it’s important. They care for you, they care for your future. I would say that would be like the biggest challenge. They, as you said, any specific event – no, everything for me has been wonderful. Because it’s been a whole new experience for me to – every single day what I live here, what I’ve been learning, not only in school. Outside, everywhere where I go. Being – I mean, being part of this Latino community, it really makes me feel happy and, you know comfortable to see that they care, you know, they do care. They care so much that they’re opening schools. They want you to be there and they want their kids to share and be there, so I think that’s nice. That changed the perspective of the world. This is about world. This is about people. I don’t think it’s just Latinos. It’s culture. And something that it really calls my attention is we are here in America, you know, the top of the world. And they don’t know much about our world so that’s something that I have found incredible that we could give them the opportunity to know about our cultures. Because I said for the Americans, Latino is one race, is one people. They don’t distinguish where you come from or countries or cultures. But these programs are making them realize Puerto Rico, you know, Cuba, Colombia, Argentina -- we are different countries, different people. And they care. They take the time to learn.. mhmm hmm.
CA: Alright, we thank you so much for sharing all that with me. That was great and really helpful for my project. That’s all I have.
MR: I just want to close saying that this – whatever is happening in Carrboro, here in this community, I think this is something that the world should know. Because this is so – I mean, all these experiences. This transformation. I know the world’s gonna know about this. I mean, United States is going to know, because what it happening here is transforming the perspective of people, the way they--. I mean I even saw at a restaurant in the downtown area, in a beautiful place, and this huge restaurant is a Mexican – I think it’s a mixture of cultures, too. The grill… I don’t know how you say. I presume that it is more Mexican and they have also, you know, food from here, but you see definitely where this is coming. You know, this is becoming an international place, where people can be together, respect each other and be happy, which is – which is what is important, no? Ok, thank you.
CA: Thank you so much. That was great.