Bilingual programs work against the tide ofEnglish – only assimilation to fosterbilingualism and multiculturalism in ourstudents. While the role of schools is critical tothis charge, we cannot succeed without thesupport of families and communities( Fishman, 1991 ).There is a lot of negative (mis)informationregarding native language use andbilingualism circulating in the media. Toooften, families of emergent bilingual studentsare told to speak more English at home as ameans of increasing their proficiency.
Prominent researcher Catherine Snow( 1997 ) maintains parents can best support their child(ren)’s education by speaking to them in their native tongue. One of the most important gifts that families can give their children id the gift of language.Fluent language allows students tocommunicate in complex and sophisticatedways that will jump – start their learningadditional languages, such as English.
The earlier families can get informationabout the cultural, cognitive, social, andeconomic benefits of bilingualism andbilingual education, the better.Since bilingual educators tend to havestrong bonds with families, you may be ina position to confer with parents aboutnot only your students, but about thenative language use, development, andeventual bilingualism of their youngersiblings.
Districts and schools can create informativebrochures that dispel myths about bilingualeducation, and hold sessions that outline theprocess of ( second ) language teaching andlearning.Even when schools and families stress theimportance of the native language, students oftenget the message early on that English is thelanguage of power.It is important for students to understand the importance of being bilingual and biliterate. At the start of the school year, we can talk with students about why they are in bilingual classroom and now that offers unique opportunities.
Families can be powerful advocatesfor bilingual teachers and programsbecause they can often voice issuesthat would be difficult for teachers tospeak about without reprimand orrisk to their jobs.The role of families cannot beunderestimated as we fight to keepand expand spaces for bilingualprograms.
Teaching to test has become increasingly common asthe stakes associated with standardized tests, such asgrade promotion and graduation, have increased overtime – especially under No Child Left Behind (NCLB).Because standardized testing in all likelihood will be apart of U.S educational culture for many years tocome, simply resisting the pressure to teach to the testis not enough. Allowing students to critically explorethe rationale behind standardized tests, including theways in which they can promote deep thinking andprovide motivation for students to do well on suchtests.
It is impossible to do well on a test withoutacquiring the content that is tested or thestrategies required to deduce the correctanswer. There are, meaningful andrelevant ways to prepare students for thisexperience .While it’s impossible to completely avoidteaching to the test given the current high– stakes environment, we must also becognizant of teaching to the whole child.
Integration of subject areas becomeskey. For instance, there are manyopportunities to combine languagearts ( in English or the LOTE ) withsocial studies.
Russian bilingual teacher Beth describes whathas become far too commonplace for bilingualeducators: Lack of participation in the localschool decision-making process. This is often theresult of a top-down approach to how and whatteachers must teach.The words of Chinese bilingual teacher Xiillustrate what happens when bilingualeducators do find their voice. They often learnthat if they question school policies, they canexpect a lack of concern and institutionalinaction.
Collective advocacy is not only safer, but alsomore effective. As noted parents can often beexceedingly powerful allies. Community andprofessional organizations also play a vital rolein advocacy, and maintaining a voice in themedia is crucial to changing human perspectivesover time.In the proposed Heuristic for Advocacy AmongEnglish Language Professionals (ELPs), Mallett(2009) puts forward a structured framework inwhich research-based knowledge and classroomexperience are positively linked to advocacy-oriented efforts.
The model, comprised of five interwoven and non sequential stages, outlines five stages that propel us toward active advocacy. Stages One – Inquiry: Recognizing a problem that is negatively affecting ELLs and/or ELPs (English language professionals) at the local, state and/or national level• Taking part in informal conversations about problematic issues related to aspects of professional practices• Reflecting on institutional, local, state, or national forms of discrimination
• Noticing unfair practices that effect ELLs and/or ELPs• Being asked to address a language-related social issue that is unfamiliar Stage two-Consciousness: Gathering information related to the recognized problem that is negatively affecting ELLs and/or ELPs at the local, state, and/or national level• Forming common-cause coalitions• Joining professional groups• Participating in discussions• Conducting primary and secondary research to further understanding of the issue• Asking questions
Stage Three-Critique: Addressing the recognized problem that is negatively affecting ELLs and/or ELPs at the local, state. And/or national level• Delivering a conference research paper• Discussing issues with like-minded people• Supporting and inspiring research and advocacy among other ELPs• Arguing one’s perspective with opposing parties• Listening to and respecting those who have different views
Stage Four-Vision: Constructing a plan to ameliorate the recognized problem that is negatively affecting ELLs and/or ELPs at the local, state, and/or national level• Contacting decision maker(s) in order to establish communication• By passing or pushing past gate keepers• Collaborating with others regarding details of the proposed plan for action/change• Preparing to meet with decision makers• Assessing audience in terms of how issues should be framed and what data be persuasive
Stage Five-Action: Communicating with decision makers a specific plan designed to address the recognized problem that is negatively affecting ELLs and/or ELPs at the local, state, and/or national level• Informing the public about the problem and what is needed to improve the current situation• Keeping issue-relevant information in the forefront of other’s minds