Who Is Advocating for “Regular” Bilingual Programs?

by multilingualmania on June 23, 2011

in Advocacy

Thinking...
Last night I laid in bed until 3:00 in the morning, feeling a little down. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the myths, misconceptions, and comments that I hear people constantly making about bilingual education. What is most frustrating to me is that many times I hear these comments made by many of my bilingual colleagues in my surroundings. And last night I just felt really conflicted about it.

Over the years, I have learned to grow really thick skin over the blatant discrimination that I have to face on an almost daily basis as I’m advocating for the bilingual programs. Many times it’s just right there in my face and some people have openly declared their disdain for bilingual education as they purposefully sabotage the programs. But then on many other occasions it’s much more subtle.

I sometimes feel disheartened when I hear bilingual educators (or people who claim that they support bilingual education) make statements like: “The Spanish test doesn’t even count anyway. Why do we even have to do it?” Or when they say, “It’s not that I don’t support bilingual programs, but I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do to keep out of trouble”.

Yesterday at lunch with my boss, he asked me who exactly at the state level was advocating for bilingual programs. He made a reference to a recent correspondence from the state about an inquiry about the Dual Immersion programs in our local district. He mentioned, “Why are they only asking for the Dual Immersion programs? Why aren’t they also compiling a list of our “regular” bilingual programs? Don’t they count also?”

I couldn’t help but stop thinking about that question–who really is advocating specifically for transitional or maintenance bilingual education programs as opposed to only Dual Immersion?

And finally after weighing so heavily on my mind all day, I suddenly have an answer:

Me. I’m one of those people. I’m one of those people who is a thorn in everyone’s side, a constant reminder that we must fight for bilingual programs outside of the Dual Immersion paradigm. And for the record, nothing is going to stop me. The state can refuse to take the Spanish assessments into account in the accountability system, but to me that doesn’t make the Spanish assessment any less valuable. And you are just never going to shut me down from advocating for what I love and believe in.

Tonight I feel at peace, in bliss. I’m proud of myself to have reflected that I’m really grounded and dedicated to my values and belief systems. And for that I am grateful.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Esther Ortiz Law June 24, 2011 at 6:15 am

Mija, you are not alone! In reading your article here, it was as if you were in my head! I have to share with you, though, that one of the most disheartening things for me is when I make friendships in my bilingual circles and then find out that the person I’ve befriended chose NOT to put their child in a bilingual program then the excuses come: it was too far, I didn’t like the teacher, my child already knows both languages, yadda-yadda-yadda. It is difficult for me to hear the negative because I believe in bilingual programs so deeply and so passionately that once those doubters are revealed in my friendships I tend to keep those friendships at a distance not because I don’t allow opposing views into my life but because bilingualism is who and what I am and I am that passionate about what I believe and know to be true. True advocates for bilingual program immerse ourselves not only in the academia of bilingual programs but in the spirit of bilingual programs–it becomes who we are and it affects all areas of our lives. I’m reminded of a disturbing comment from a bilingual colleague of mine with over 30 years of experience who told me one time, “Oh, Esther, I don’t get into the politics like you do!” Gosh, that comment REALLY upset me. I felt like I was being accused of being critical or gossipy? But then, I was comforted when I recalled a piece of advise from one of my professors over 13 years ago in graduate school: “If you want to be a ‘successful’ bilingual teacher or administrator who is ‘happy’ with you career choice, you need to see yourself as a educator of all people because no matter where you go, what position you take in the field of bilingual education, or even as a parent of a bilingual student, you will always, always have to defend your work and you need to see yourself as one who educates the world.” So, educating the world, for me, includes dealing and educating the doubters even in our own bilingual circles. People can change when they have more information and if they don’t, well we keep moving on with what we know and hold true!! You are not alone!!

multilingualmania June 24, 2011 at 7:27 am

Oh wow, awesome! I feel exactly like you!! It’s those little things that really hurt me. It really hurts me when bilingual educators don’t even place their own children in bilingual programs, or are even afraid to identify their child as a language learner. I don’t mean to judge, but honestly….I wouldn’t want my own child in a bilingual teacher’s class who personally doesn’t believe in it enough to put their own child in a bilingual program. And regarding the politics aspect of it? I get “accused” of that all the time. But really, how you can NOT be political when advocating for a marginalized program that is constantly under attack? The quote by your professor is really inspiring to me! Let’s just keep on trying to spread the word!!

Elsy June 30, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Hello there,
I thought I was the only one going through this too. I get frustrated with comments made by colleagues regarding the bilingual program and the students in them. Just last week, while at a workshop I overheard two mainstream teachers talking about their students, teacher #1 seamed to be bragging about her class, that is until teacher #2 said. “Wow, you seemed to have had a smart class this year!” Teacher #1 replied, “Oh no, I didn’t, they were ESL.” I got so angry and couldn’t hold back. I defended the ESL students from this so called “ESL” teacher. Of course she back tracked and tried to deny what she had said. I was also disappointed with a bilingual colleague of mine too. She had a student teacher this year and on the first day she told the her that she did not believe in bilingual education. The poor, discouraged girl came to me a few days later after observing me teach and asked me what I thought about the bilingual program. At the time I did not know that my colleague had given her discouraging information. Of course, I gave her positive information about bilingual education and its benefits. She smiled, hugged me and said she was glad to hear that not all teachers were like her mentor.

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