From the Teachers of Color
Tobey Cho Bassoff
On November 4, 2005 I attended the Teachers of Color Summit
in Boulder, CO. The conference was thoroughly engaging and brought
about some wonderful dialogue about how we go about educating
our diverse student population. The following article highlights
some of the thoughts shared by Gloria Ladson-Billings, PhD -
Professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her address
encouraged me to be more reflective about the way I teach and
the way I look at the ELL students I teach as a whole.
Keynote address: Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings - University of
Wisconsin, Madison "What if we leave all children behind?
The challenge of teaching in the new millennium"
The following statistics on the state of our nation's children
came from the Department of Labor and Statistics:
- One in two children will live in a single parent family.
- One in three is born to unmarried parents.
- One in three is a year or more behind in school.
- Two in five never complete a single year of college.
- One in five is born poor.
- One in five is born to a mother who did not graduate from
- Three in five of pre-schoolers have a working mother.
- One is six is poor now. One in seven has no health insurance.
- One in seven has a worker in their family but is still poor.
- One in eight lives in a family receiving food stamps.
- One in eight never graduates from high school.
- One in twelve has a disability.
- One in twenty-four live with neither parent.
- 1,056 kids will be killed by guns before Age 20.
In my state, Colorado:
- A child is abused or neglected every hour.
- A child is born in poverty every hour.
- 9th among states in children who are poor;
- 10th in infant mortality;
- 33rd in per pupil expenditure.
Dr. Ladson-Billings spoke about the deleterious effects that
the term "at-risk" has on our nation's children. She
believes that this terminology implies that the students can't
learn. As an alternative she spoke about "school dependent"
and "school independent" children. School independent
students go to school, but because of the support and resources
available to them at home they could get by without formal schooling.
Their parents can provide them with opportunities that allow
for experiences not otherwise offered through formal schooling.
School dependent children are students who need school, with
all of its resources, in order to learn.
She also replaced the term “student achievement”
with “student learning” because of the negative
association that student achievement has with tests. Dr. Ladson-Billings
asserted that student learning encompasses more than tests.
Student success involves student experiences and histories,
and teachers teaching with cultural competence and socio-political
As educators, we know how vital it is that we teach from a
framework that encompasses knowledge about the student populations
that we serve. Our responsibility to our students does not end
with imparting knowledge to them. We know that it begins with
being lifelong learners ourselves. Dr. Ladson Billings raised
the awareness of a dozen or so educators from our district,
including myself. We formed a committee to begin to seek out
ways to use what we learned to educate others and to eventually
have an impact not only on our classes, but also our schools.
For those of you who have emailed me about how to break down
barriers between native English speakers and ELLs, both teachers
and students, perhaps this journal will give you another place
Good luck and as you celebrate your successes and process your
challenges, please share
them with me!