Page 1

Community Language and Literacy Mapping Project Dr. Jane M. Saunders

Robert Leal Reading 5331 • San Marcos Adventist Junior Academy • June 16, 2012

Robert Leal • email: rbl24@txstate.edu • San Marcos Adventist Junior Academy

1


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

Community Mapping Project RDG 5331 - Summer 2012 ROBERT LEAL

Front view of the San Marcos Adventist Junior Academy

Introduction My family  and  I  moved  to  San  Marcos  last  year  in  order  for  me  to  attend  graduate   studies  at  Texas  State  University.    Before  that  I  had  worked  two  years  at  Hawaiian   Mission  Academy  in  Honolulu  as  the  Head  Dean,  Athletic  Director,  and  teacher.    That   was  my  Birst  teaching  experience  and  the  beginning  of  my  second  career.              In  2009,  I  had  retired  from  the  U.  S.  Marine  Corps  after  22  years  of  active  duty   service  and  had  earned  my  B.S.  in  Secondary  Education  (Social  Studies)  from   Chaminade  University  of  Honolulu  while  attending  evening  courses.    Early  this  year   I  interviewed  for  a  teaching  position  at  San  Marcos  Adventist  Junior  Academy   (SMAJA)  and  was  hired  to  teach  a  variety  of  subjects  in  grades  7  through  10.     Although  my  schedule  looks  and  sounds  crazy,  I  am  really  looking  forward  to   teaching  this  upcoming  school  year. One  of  the  things  I  had  planned  to  do  at  the  beginning  of  the  school  year  was  to   conduct  my  own  surveys  and  interviews  with  students  and  their  parents.  I  saw  this   a  s  great  way  to  gain  some  background  knowledge  about  my  students  and  to  see   what  areas  of  interest  and/or  challenges  might  lay  ahead.  This  assignment  helped  to   begin  that  process  and  to  open  my  eyes  to  some  improvements  needed  by  my  new   school.


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

Before addressing  my  Bindings  about  SMAJA,  I  should  probably  provide  a  brief   review  about  Seventh-­‐day  Adventist  education  as  a  whole.    SMAJA  is  a  private   Christian  school  run  by  the  protestant  denomination   of  Seventh-­‐day  Adventists.    In  the  1870s,  founders  of   the  Seventh-­‐day  Adventist  church  decided  to  focus   on  initiating  a  worldwide  system  of  parochial   schools.  While  colleges  and  similar  institutions  were  the  Birst  to  be  established,  a   number  of  K-­‐12  schools  soon  began  to  open  in  the  early  1900s  (Greenleaf,  2005,  p.   10).    The  Adventist  education  system  has  grown  considerably  through  the  years  and   now  boasts  the  second  largest  denominational  education  system  in  the  world,  only   behind  Catholic  schools.  “Today  the  worldwide  Adventist  church  has  over  15  million   members  in  more  than  200  countries  [and]  operates  [over]  7200  schools  worldwide   with  nearly  1.5  million  students”  (NAD  Education,  2012). Rationale

My wife and I are products of Adventist education. As a matter of fact, we met at Valley Grande Adventist Academy in Weslaco, Texas as high school students and married soon after we graduated. While my wife was fortunate enough to receive financial support through her church for most of her school years, I was able to afford tuition only during my high school years. But my short time in Adventist education made one of the biggest differences in my life. I was not only challenged to become a better student, I was also encouraged to become a better person. Since Adventist schools are private institutions, they can focus on spiritual as well as social, physical, and academic aspects. It is this combination that enticed me the most and helped me decide to teach at Adventist schools. However, just like any other school system, Adventist schools have their share of problems too. There is room for improvement, and in the course of my research, I found a number of areas where SMAJA should refocus their efforts.


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

Findings Since the  school  year  is  over  and  many  of  SMAJA’s  students  and  parents  are  gone  for   the  summer,  I  was  limited  in  the  number  of  people  I  could  contact.    Nevertheless,  I   was  able  to  interview  people  from  three  different  points  of  view:  a  school   administrator,  two  parents,  and  one  student.    My  Birst  interview  was  with  the  school   principal,  Mrs.  Nichols  (see  all  interview  questions  here).    I  began  by  asking  her   about  the  school’s  history.    According  to  Mrs.  Nichols’  best  recollection,  SMAJA  was   originally  established  circa  1965.    It  was  mainly  started  by  several  inBluential  church   families  to  provide  their  children  with  a  Christian  education  in  the  local  area.    From   its  early  beginnings  to  up  until  2006,  SMAJA  averaged  just  around  20  students  per   year.    By  2008,  a  new  Adventist   church  had  been  built  and  

!

membership subsequently   increased.    As  new  members   arrived,  many  enrolled  their   children  in  the  school.  Since   2007,  enrollment  has  increased   approximately  5%  each  year,  and  the   past  school  year  (2011-­‐2012)  saw  the  enrollment  reach  its  highest  total  of  54   students. Unfortunately,  except  for  gender,  diversity  has  not  grown  equally.    The  school  is   mostly  composed  of  white  students  ranging  from  middle  to  high  socioeconomic   status.    While  Hispanic  students  are  increasing  in  number,  there  are  no  African-­‐ American  or  Asian  students.    Consequently,  when  asked  if  the  school  had  an  ESL  or   ELL  program,  Mrs.  Nichols  admitted  there  has  never  been  one  at  SMAJA.    She  also   conceded  that  the  school’s  reputation  has  suffered  among  the  local  Adventist   Hispanic  community  because  the  school  has  been  unable  to  accommodate  past   Hispanic  students  who  needed  assistance  with  English  language  skills.    Asked  if  the   school  is  presently  doing  anything  to  rectify  this  problem,  Mrs.  Nichols  stated  the  


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

school now  has  two  Hispanic  teachers  (Ms.  Chong  and  I)  that  could  better  deal  with   such  issues.    Surprisingly,  however,  she  also  stated  the  school  was  not  actively   reaching  out  to  non-­‐English  speaking  families  and  had  no  plans  to  implement  any   diversiBied  language  program. On  the  positive  side,  the  school  does  have  a  Hispanic   professor  from  Texas  State  University  who   volunteers  to  teach  the  school’s  Spanish  curriculum.    

Kindergarten Graduation

She has  two  children  currently  enrolled  in  the  school   and  encourages  all  of  her  students  to  respect   different  cultures  than  their  own.    I  have  also   witnessed  how  Ms.  Chong  (she  was  my  son’s  kindergarten  teacher  this  past  year)   integrates  special  activities  dealing  with  Spanish  into  her  lesson  plans.    Regrettably,   though,  I  found  no  books,  magazines,  or  other  types  of  foreign  language  literature  in   the  school’s  library  or  classrooms.    This  is  deBinitely  an  area  of  concern  and  one  that   will  need  to  be  emphasized  if  we  are  to  provide  equality  in  literacy  for  all  our   students. I  also  conducted  phone  interviews  (see  questions  here)  with  two  mothers  who  each   enrolled  two  children  at  SMAJA  this  past  school  year.    Both  were  very  forthcoming   about  their  thoughts  and  opinions  of  the  school  overall,  however  they  could  not   elaborate  speciBically  on  the  issue  of  literacy  within  the  school.    One  possibility  for   this  is  that  both  ladies  are  white  and  come  from  stable  socioeconomic  status   families.    It  did  not  seem  that  either  parent  had  considered  the  school’s  literacy   issues  outside  of  their  children’s  needs. Nevertheless,  each  mother  is  very  involved  in  helping  her  own  children  outside  of   the  school  environment.    They  both  read  to  their  children  and  take  them  to  the   public  library  routinely.    They  encourage  their  children  to  excel  academically  and,  as   one  parent  emphasized,  to  become  critical  readers.    There  was  one  notable  

2012


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

difference between  these  mothers  when  it  came  to  exposing  their  children  to  the   Internet.    One  mother  allows  her  children  to  freely  access  many  Internet  sites  as   long  as  they  are  appropriate  (she  apparently  sets  parameters  ahead  of  time).    The   other  mom  does  not  allow  her  children  to  access  the  Internet  at  all  at  home.    This   fact  is  signiBicant  to  me  personally  since  one  of  her  children  will  be  my  student  next   school  year.    I  have  a  large  number  of  assignments  and  projects  involving  the  use  of   the  Internet,  and  I  had  not  considered  alternative  methods  for  students  who  are  not   allowed  Internet  access  at  home.    I  will  have  to  be  creative  in  order  to  provide   students  in  this  situation  with  the  same  quality  and  enrichment  opportunities. The  student  I  interviewed  (see  questions  here)  happens  to  be  the  child  of  the   mother  above  who  allows  her  children  access  to  the  Internet.    This  student  is  a   white  12-­‐year  old  girl  with  a  spirited  personality.    She  loves  to  read  almost  anything   although  her  favorite  genres  are  fantasy,  Greek  mythology,  and  action  adventure.     She  is  a  voracious  reader  who  goes  through  books  faster  than  her  mother  can  stock   them.    This  was  her  Birst  year  at  SMAJA  and,  while  she  enjoyed  making  new  friends   and  reading  in  some  of  her  classes,  she  also  admitted  to  being  bored  a  great  deal.     Her  main  complaint  centered  on  doing  worksheets  as  the  main  activity  for  many  of   her  classes.    She  believed  worksheets  were  not  only  unnecessary,  but  that  they  also   gave  an  unfair  advantage  to  those  students  who  could  Binish  quickly  and  then  spend   their  free  time  doing  something  they  actually  enjoyed.    She  impressed  me  with  her   insight  and  so  I  asked  her  what  she  would  change  in  her  classes  if  she  were  the   teacher.    To  this  she  answered  that  she  would  try  to  match  books  to  the   personalities  of  each  student  so  that  they  would  want  to  read  more.    This  girl  has   teacher  potential  written  all  over  her!


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

The last  question  I  asked  her  was  regarding  literacy  outside  of  school.    At  Birst,   she  answered  that  she  normally  didn’t  pay  attention  to  things  around  the   community,  but  then  she  replied  that  at  times  things  with  bright  colors  or  goofy   pictures  caught  her  attention.    This  got  me  thinking  about  what  I  could  Bind  around   the  local  community,  and  the  following  photos  are  examples  of  what  I  found  within   half  a  mile  from  the  school  grounds. ! !

The!sign!for!this!coffee!shop!definitely! caught!my!attention.! ! !

!

!

Pictured!above!are!several!signs!indicating! what!is!offered!inside!the!gas!station!store.!! They!made!me!hungry!and!thirsty!! !

Conclusions I am  very  grateful  for  the  teaching  position  at  San  Marcos  Adventist  Junior   Academy.    It  is  a  great  little  school  with  much  potential.    We  even  began   construction  on  a  new  and  bigger  school  facility  early  this  year  and  should  be  in  it  by   the  beginning  of  this  school  year.    This  should  increase  the  school’s  visibility  in  the   local  community  and  possibly  lead  to  an  even  larger  increase  in  student  enrollment.     Things  are  looking  up  and  I  am  proud  to  be  a  part  of  it.


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

As I  noted  before,  there  is  still  some  room  for  improvement.    I  was  dismayed  by  the   school’s  lack  of  commitment  to  have  a  program  aimed  at  English  Language  Learners   or  to  reach  out  to  the  large  local  Hispanic  community.    There  is  also  a  misperception   of  the  school’s  academics  as  expressed  by  the  student  and  parents  I  interviewed.     The  challenge  to  make  signiBicant  changes  will  be  difBicult,  but  I  am  sure  the  rewards   of  seeing  this  school  help  students  the  same  way  I  was  helped  many  years  ago,  will   certainly  be  worth  it.    I  can’t  wait  to  start!


RDG 5331

SUMMER 2012

REFERENCES

Greenleaf, F.  (2005).  Timeline  for  seventh-­‐day  adventist  education.  Journal  of   Adventist  Education,  10-­‐15. NAD  Education.  (2012).  About  seventh-­‐day  adventist  education.  Circle  Adventist.org,   1.  Retrieved  from  http://circle.adventist.org/services/info/?topic=adventist_ed.

Community Mapping  
Community Mapping  

Community mapping project.

Advertisement