Time of Remembrance – Larry Ferlazzo
Luther Burbank High School teacher Larry Ferlazzo interview from the Time of Remembrance Oral History Project – The Secret War in Laos.
00:45 Clip 1 – Explains background and how he got into teaching. Influenced by his own immigrant parents: father was from Italy; mother from Trinidad. His father was a linguistics professor and taught ESL (English as a second language). Larry earned his teaching credential around the same time that the last refugee camp closed in Thailand. He learned that some of the teens would be attending Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, CA – leading him to teach ELL there.
02:56 Clip 2 – Shares about his first year of teaching and how rare it is for a first-year teacher to be able to say that his entire high school class had never attended school before now – also admitting that the first day was a little rough just teaching the basics, how to hold a pencil, etc. Views his first few years of teaching as “magical” – spending 4 hours a day with 24 Hmong students, teaching English, social studies and science. Learned to look at students as “assets” rather than “deficits” – “they bring so many gifts through their life stories.” Talks about field trips and starting a community garden to enhance the students’ learning experience.
07:45 Clip 3 – Discusses the concept of home visits and their importance of connecting with parents, which led to conversations about how helpful it would be to have a home computer and Internet access to complete technology-based lessons. These discussions inspired Larry and the school to find funding to provide Internet access to 50 immigrant families, resulting in 60% increase in their scores on English assessments over a 6-month period. Families were reading together.
11:31 Clip 4 – Explains using inductive teaching promoting higher level thinking. Instead of Larry giving the rules, he creates opportunities and examples for students to study and compare. Also shares the difference between inductive and deductive teaching and gives examples and how it’s an effective strategy for teaching literacy.
17:22 Clip 5 – Talks about a memorable student and realizing how much impact a teacher’s words (both negative and positive) can have on students and how they will remember it for the rest of their lives.
19:24 Clip 6 – Explains that teaching is about relationships. A key way to do that is to recognize and acknowledge other people’s cultures. Gives the example of female students fearing a “spirit” in the girl’s restroom and how staff addressed it as a school. Talks about the need to want to be “right” vs. being effective.
22:05 Clip 7 – Discusses the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. In involvement, we lead with our mouths – schools determine what the right thing is because they are the experts. Engagement is leading with our ears and looking at parents and students as our partners. It may mean changing a lesson plan you had been using for years; it may mean changing a lesson you had planned for the day. Shares a story about “testing” and how he changed his lesson that day due to a student comment written on the board.
26:17 Clip 8 – Shares examples of bad vs. good professional development. Explains that professional development should be relationship based and focused on the needs of the students that teachers have identified. Can be local – pulling from teachers within the school – or outside resources. Administrator observations are designed to strengthen staff’s teaching skills. Discussed how they conduct student panels at staff meetings to talk about how they feel they have been treated positively and negatively and how that has affected them.
30:19 Clip 9 – Talks about what we don’t do enough of: encouraging students to make mistakes and helping them to see the benefit in making them. In learning another language, the fear of making a mistake is one of the biggest impediments. Feels that error correction has a place, but also feels that it should be kept in its place in the classroom.
32:36 Clip 10 – Shares a memorable “neighborhood” lesson he’s done with his students.
34:43 Clip 11 – Explains that having immigrants in our community is a gift. They are gifts that keep on giving through stories, hard work and lessons. English Language Learners make all teachers better, not just the ELD teachers.
To learn more about the Time Remembrance Project, please visit: http://blogs.egusd.net/tor/
For more information about the Vietnam War, please visit: http://blogs.egusd.net/tor/interviews/vietnam-war/