Being a Bilingual Educator For All The Wrong Reasons

by multilingualmania on May 12, 2010

in Bilingual Education, bilingual teachers, Personal Stories

Today I was walking in the hallway and I heard a conversation on the other side of the makeshift wall, a conversation that almost caused me to have a conniption fit. As I walked along, minding my own business, I suddenly heard two teachers discussing the education budget crisis in California. I wasn’t paying much attention until I suddenly heard one of the teachers say, “But I hate bilingual education” and then I decided to stop dead in my tracks.

I crossed my fingers and thought in my head, “Please let this not be one of our bilingual teachers. Please, please, please. I’m already having a pretty rough day, and it’ll just push me over the edge if it’s slapped in my face that one of our bilingual teachers hates bilingual education”.

I know that I shouldn’t have been nosy and for a moment I considered walking away. I also knew at the moment that I shouldn’t have put myself in a situation to eavesdrop because I surely can’t afford to expend any energy on negativity, especially when many of us in the education field are under a tremendous amount of pressure at the moment. I actually thought for a split second about these points. But of course I couldn’t control my morbid curiosity, so I decided to conveniently fix the zipper on my boot.

“I’m on the layoff list,” I heard the teacher say. “So the next time that they offer the test for the BCLAD (i.e., bilingual teaching authorization), I am going to take it-even though I hate bilingual education, like I said. Maybe if I have a BCLAD I can keep my job, even though I would have to teach bilingual”.

“Well, at least you’re lucky that you are bilingual, even though you’d have to teach in a bilingual class. How come you hate bilingual classes?” the other teacher asked.

“Because I didn’t need it when I was growing up. I just learned in English and I came out fine. So I think that the kids should just learn in English. But hey, I’ll act like I like bilingual ed if it keeps me from having to leave,” the first teacher responded.

“I’ve heard that some English teachers in the Dual Immersion program might be able to stay because they are Dual Immersion.  Do you think that I should tell them that I want to teach Dual so that I won’t have to leave too?” the second teacher inquired.

I started to have a slight inner meltdown for a brief moment, and then I suddenly remembered this book that I am reading about how I can choose to react to situations. I decided that it wasn’t even worth it to get upset about the conversation because it’s an inefficient use of my time.  Yet the following questions continued to linger in my head for a bit: Was that teacher one of my current bilingual teachers? If she were to be taught about bilingual education, might she think differently? How many of our bilingual teachers think this way?

I finally decided that it was no use in obsessing over questions that I don’t know the answer to, and I thought it might be more productive for me to think about strategies that I can employ to begin to address these questions with some of my current bilingual teachers. I know in my heart that there are certain bilingual teachers who do not believe in bilingual education because they don’t understand it. I know that there will always be people who are firm opponents of bilingual education, but I also think that there are many more teachers who would buy into the program if they really had a firm understanding of it.

I don’t even know how to begin to address this issue on a large scale when you have over 300 bilingual teachers in a district. Tonight I’ve been pondering the possibility of starting a professional development certificate program that provides a comprehensive understanding of the foundations of bilingualism and bilingual education as well as effective leadership for bilingual educators. I can only imagine and hope whether bilingual educators in such a program would positively influence and build capacity with other educators throughout the district.

One can only hope.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhonda February 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

If you don’t want to have your children learn English, then stay in Mexico!

multilingualmania February 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Hi Rhonda, I’m actually a White woman so my children aren’t learning English nor are they from Mexico. I also thought I’d point out that your comment doesn’t have anything at all to do with the content of the post. In addition, not every child who is an English learner is from Mexico. I think that it would be safe to say that people come to the United States from all over the world. Furthermore, not all children in bilingual programs are English learners-there are tons of native English speaking children across the country who are learning another language in Dual Immersion programs. Since I noticed that this comment was left in the middle of the day and that your IP address is coming directly from a school district in Texas, I sure hope that you were at lunch or on break while you were writing discriminatory comments on the blog. Have a nice day!

Tara February 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Yes, Rhonda ALL students who are in bilingual programs are illegal immigrants and only from Mexico. I can not even believe that anyone who works (as apparently you do) in a school could be as ignorant as you are to make blanket racist statements. Why don’t you use your work internet searching for facts next time!!!

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