Post Winooski/Burlington Day

Wow! That day went by very quickly,and my team and I learned so much about interviewing and Winooski’s ELL program (like I said in my earlier post I only got to go to Winooski).

The day was set up so that some of our team would go to Burlington and have interviews at BHS and UVM. Then, Latter in the morning they would meet the other team members at Winooski to help out with interviews. Imediatly when I got to Winooski, my fellow teammember and I had an Interview with Kristin Van Fossen (who teaches 2nd and 3rd graders at Winooski). She was great to interview and as the interview went on it felt like more of a natural conversation. When we asked Kristin about the struggles of a “Language Barrier”, she quickly told us that it was not something that they like to say. I think what she meant by that was, when saying “Language Barrier” it puts the wrong mindset in peoples brains. It is a hurdle that you have to get around in order to communicate with that person, but not something that totally enables you to communicate with them. So, later on in the day we tried to make sure we did not phrase the same question that way. Her interview ended earlier than we planned, so she offered to see if a Liaison wanted to come in before our next interview.

Luckily, the Vietnamese liaison was free and we got an extra interview in. She was very nice and she talked a lot about how she teaches the kids. One thing she mentioned was that “you have to be patient, and compassionate”  to be a good teacher. I thought that was a great thing to think about not only when teaching ELL student’s but other students as well. After her interview, we got to talk to Tul Niroula who was the Buhtanese and Nepali liaison for Winooski. When we talked to him he mentioned that he was also a teacher in the camps back in Nepal, and he had a lot of meaningful stories to tell. Tul also talked about the contrast between the school he taught in the camps and in Winooski. When we asked abut the transition to Vermont, he talked about the struggle of learning English. He said that even though he learned some English in school, it was British English. So there is different words even between the two types of English, and that he learns new words every day. He was the first to mention the change of climate that Vermont Winter brings, and he said that was (besides having to learn a new language) one of the hardest things to adapt to.

After these two interviews my team members had other interviews, with a 4th grader, an 8th Grader, and an Iraqi Liaison from Winooski. My last interview was with a girl named Tabarik Abdulsalam who is a 9th grader from Winooski. She talked a lot about how her transition into the United states was and her struggles/successes. Tabarik said that her family originally moved to Austin Texas, then decided to move to Vermont because some of her relatives lived here. Moving to Vermont helped her and her family. She said that it was much easier for her dad to find a job, and for her education (which was another main reason why they moved to Vermont from Texas). I really enjoyed talking to her because she is around the same age I am, and it was really interesting to her about the perspective she was living her life in.

I think that the biggest thing that jump outed to me, was that everyone who either went to school in Winooski, loves it! Whenever we asked questions about what they would improve, they would either say more teachers or time. Other than that they had no complaints, and all of the students say that Winooski has helped them a lot in their transition to the United States. We also asked questions to the interviewees about how the Winooski Program compared to other ELL programs. Most of them said that both Winooski and Burlington can not be compared to any other schools. Mainly because they have much more kids enrolled in the ELL program so that is why the programs are much bigger than other schools. Witch I thought was very interesting, but totally made sense, I originally thought that they were going to answer the question with talking about how great the Winooski program is compared to the other schools. Overall, the people from Winooski were very nice, positive, smart people and it was a great experience to talk to them all!

The whole day went very smoothly and besides some cameras dying, camera stands not cooperating, and memory cards getting full we did not encounter that many technological problems.  Luckily each team member ended up bringing a media kit, so if a camera died during an interview we could just quickly swap it out with a different one. All of this could not have happened without Winooski’s cooperation, and willingness to let us use their space. Thank you!

Petra Kapsalis

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