Leslie Brown*

As Interviewed by Sasha Konradi, March 23, 2019

Leslie Brown*: In Her Own Words

It has been really interested listing to the stories that some families over time have told me. I think that the people that are coming, in their former country they had a really hard life with extreme poverty. It’s often with corrupt police and lots of corruption so that they weren’t safe. So they come very motivated. They want to do the very best that they can. They want to make a better life for their kids, it’s usually about the kids.

They usually live in a small apartment or small house. If it’s just a single mom they might have four kids sleeping in one bed sharing a closet and the mom sleeping on the couch. They unplug everything if they aren’t using it so they save on the electricity bill.

I would say seventy percent of the student have parents that speak only Spanish, but the kids have been in school long enough that they speak English but even though they speak English they aren’t fluent in English. They still need a lot of help with vocabulary in order to be successful. I think that people that speak two languages and know two different cultures understand other people better.

I’ve heard it takes seven years in order to fully develop a language so if they start in pre-k they won’t have mastered English until they’re in the fifth grade. Even in the third grade they are expected to take the STAARs and pass them in the third grade, and there’s all this pressure to pass these tests when really their vocabulary level and language development isn’t there yet.

So dual language is when students are being taught in Spanish and in English at the same time. I think that is the best way to do it, because they are still developing their Spanish. It’s getting stronger and stronger just like a normal kid but they are also developing English at the same time. It’s also important because it is important for Spanish speakers to learn to read in Spanish. This is what a lot of people don’t understand, they need to learn how to read in Spanish because there’s a lot of concepts that go into reading because as they are reading they need to be making all these different connections in order to create meaning. The kids are told to read only in English and they don’t really understand so it takes them longer to understand the sentences.

I think they live in fear to a certain extent. I think that all of them, undocumented or not, are all afraid of being deported. It also means they're really well-behaved. They follow as many rules as they can and they want their kids to behave, because they don’t want to to stand out. It also means they are very good citizens, because they always obey all the laws and teach their own kids too.

I think that the way immigrants are treated now is inhumane. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it reflects well on us as a country, and I think one thing we could do is prepare people that speak Spanish. For example a child comes to America and is put in schools and is only taught American schools and English, then how are they ever going to go back to their country?

We as a country could do things that could make that different. We could raise their kids in a way that they could go back and make a difference. I mean can you imagine if we don’t educate them? Then we will have a bunch of uneducated, teven poorer people and they are still going be in our country. I think not educating them in their original language is an example of discrimination. It’s not best for the child and it’s not best for anybody.