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Posts Tagged ‘burlington’

Photo: Ben James/Connecticut Public Radio.
Teacher Susan Blethen supports ESL students in a normal high school classroom in Burlington, Vermont.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, I assist teachers at two different Rhode Island agencies where they lead English as a Second Language classes. Since Covid, the classes have been online. I think it’s harder for the adults to learn a new language than kids, but our students are very motivated. They have their reasons — “to get a better job,” “to help my children with their homework,” “to talk to the doctor,” “to go to university.” It’s satisfying to watch them progress.

Young students from other countries also have reasons. Ben James of Connecticut Public Radio has a story about a few in the public school system of Burlington, Vermont, where multilingual liaisons smooth the transition to American schools.

“In an office at Burlington High School, just off Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, Chacha Ngunga made a phone call.

“ ‘Jambo jambo,’ he said, greeting a student’s father in their shared language, Swahili.

“Ngunga is a multilingual liaison — one of 12 employed by the Burlington district.

“A few feet away, Noor Bulle, another liaison, made a call in Maay Maay, one of the two major dialects of the Somali language. He reaches a Somali Bantu mother whose five children would soon enter district schools. The mother expressed amazement that her family was already on Bulle’s radar.

“Tens of thousands of Afghans who left their country after the Taliban took over in August will be resettling in the United States. Many of them are kids, so schools across the country are preparing to get these students up to speed. According to Bulle, the multilingual liaisons act as cultural brokers, helping refugee families understand how the U.S. school system works.

“Bibek Gurung, a graduate of Burlington High, is now a junior at Champlain College in Burlington, studying criminal justice. He arrived in Burlington during fifth grade, speaking almost no English. He said his Nepali-speaking liaison helped him with high school and with what he calls life stuff.

“ ‘I was actually looking for a job, and he advocated for me,’ Gurung said. ‘Through him, I was able to work for the Burlington Police Department as a beach-and-park patrol officer.’ …

“Shawna Shapiro, an associate professor at Middlebury College whose research focuses on the high school-to-college transition for refugee students, says many English learners in the U.S. finish high school unprepared for college. Part of the problem, she said, lies with English language learning programs that place students in lower-level academic classes, leaving them bored and underchallenged.

“Shapiro said educators underestimate not only refugee students’ abilities, but also their cultural and family resources.

“ ‘When you talk with students … you hear [them say,] “I feel underchallenged,” and then you pursue that a little more, and they say, ‘That’s frustrating because my parents were leaders in the refugee camp, and my mom was a professor, and my uncle was a police officer, and we’re here, and it feels like no one recognizes any of that,’ ” she said.

“Samjana Rai, a college-bound senior who arrived from Nepal when she was in seventh grade, has heard a similar frustration from her peers about low expectations.

” ‘A lot of my friends want to go to college,’ Rai said. ‘But because of classes that they had to take in sophomore year, freshman year, it’s a little harder for them to go to the college that they want to go to.’ …

“Down the hallway from the multilingual liaison office, 30-year veteran teacher Susan Blethen introduced a lesson to her integrated class of native English speakers and English learners. It’s taught by two teachers: the regular subject teacher and Blethen, who is a specialist in English Language Learning. …

“One purpose of the mixed classes, Blethen explained, is to make sure the English learners are being taught material that stimulates and inspires them to take on more challenges. In previous years, many of the English learners in this class would have been placed in what’s called ‘sheltered instruction,’ separated from their native-English-speaking peers.

“Blethen was the first teacher in Vermont to become certified as an English language learning instructor. She recalled a moment from early in her career.

“ ‘I actually had a social studies teacher yell at me when I was a young teacher, saying, “Why are they in my class if they can’t speak English? You have to teach them English before they can come into my class.” ‘ …

“Standing with a group of her peers, [Somali student] Aden said the languages and cultures of refugee students are still undervalued. …

“ ‘Bilingual people aren’t dumb. [They] can be challenged, and they can be doing higher things.’

“Aden herself plans to take honors civics next semester. ‘I thought, instead of doing an easy class, I should just challenge myself, because I’d be learning more if I did.’ ”

More at WBUR, here.

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Trust Vermont to figure out how to do this.

The state had a highway rest stop in Guilford that was overwhelmed with visitors. The toilets could not keep up. Portable toilets were brought in to help, and everyone hated them.

“State officials,” says the Federal Highway Administration website, “needed a solution that could be designed and built quickly for the next foliage season.

” ‘We were looking for an alternative because we couldn’t continue with that high level of frustration,’ said [Dick Foster, director of the Vermont Information Center Division of the state’s Department of Buildings and General Services.]

“To further complicate matters, the welcome center was slated to be replaced by a newer facility in 2000, so the ‘quick fix’ also needed to be low cost. Tom Leytham, an architect who had designed other rest areas in the state, suggested the concept of using a Living Machine to Foster. …

” ‘I’d heard about Living Technologies, who had come up with a very elegant, simple solution that cleaned wastewater through a natural process involving plants.’

“Leytham drove Foster to South Burlington, Vt., where Living Technologies had installed a Living Machine to treat municipal wastewater. …

“In December 1996, in response to an inquiry from state officials, Living Technologies proposed a sewage-to-reuse system to reduce flows to the leachfields by recycling treated wastewater back into the restrooms to flush toilets. The Living Machine could be installed to serve the existing facilities at the Guilford center, and because the system was a modular design, it could be moved to another rest area when the center was relocated.

“In only eight months, the system was approved by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services, and installed by Living Technologies.”

The rest of the FHWA story by Molly Farrell, Liz Van der Hoven, and Tedann Olsen is here.

Katie Zezima at the NY Times adds more: “In a wing of the building, in the glass greenhouse, visitors look down on the vegetation from a grated ledge. The room, which offers spectacular mountain views, smells like a combination of mulch and chlorine.

“The building is heated and cooled by 24 geothermal wells. A similar system lies under the sidewalks to melt snow in the winter.” More from Zezima here.

Photo: Federal Highway Administration

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/00mayjun/vermont.cfm

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Once upon a time, mine workers were paid in paper chits that could be redeemed at the company store. (Remember the song “Sixteen Tons,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and “I owe my soul to the company sto’ “?)

A while back I saw a story in the NY Times about refugee gardens, and there was a picture of someone using wooden coins to buy produce. It turned out that people were not being paid in wooden coins as miners were paid in paper. Instead, the City of San Diego was encouraging poor residents to pursue good nutrition by giving them wooden coins for shopping at farmers markets.

The coins were really just a footnote to Patricia Leigh Brown’s story, which focuses on a national movement to help immigrant farmers get back into the occupation they know best.

“Among the regular customers at [San Diego’s] New Roots farm stand are Congolese women in flowing dresses, Somali Muslims in headscarves, Latino men wearing broad-brimmed hats and Burundian mothers in brightly patterned textiles who walk home balancing boxes of produce on their heads.

“New Roots, with 85 growers from 12 countries, is one of more than 50 community farms dedicated to refugee agriculture, an entrepreneurial movement spreading across the country. American agriculture has historically been forged by newcomers, like the Scandinavians who helped settle the Great Plains; today’s growers are more likely to be rural subsistence farmers from Africa and Asia, resettled in and around cities from New York, Burlington, Vt., and Lowell, Mass., to Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Diego.”

Read how it works. (And click on the slide show to see the wooden coins. My eyes were drawn to them because my father’s favorite “good-bye” line to toddlers always was, “Don’t take any wooden nickels”!)

Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times
Khadija Musame, right, with a customer from Somalia at the New Roots Farm stand in San Diego.

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A sunny day for outings. First to the fabled Korean grocery, where salmon and pickled radish were cheap — if you don’t count the gas for the trip.

Then to the town forest for a walk with the Father in Chief.

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