Partner Teachers: The Dual Language Marriage

Norma and Jackie are phenomenal dual language educators. When participating in professional learning sessions or actively engaging in advocacy conversations during meetings, they finish each other’s sentences and are so uniquely connected, that it is difficult not to notice and feel the joy! Having served as dual language partner teachers for several years, now as district leaders, their collaboration continues to light the way, as they engage in work that better serves the district’s emergent bilingual students.

This kind of dual language partnership – a marriage of sorts, between partner teachers, is the thing that dreams are made of! And, these happy partnerships can be found all over this country, as we collectively advocate for the only additive model of educational service for language learners – dual language education.

A volatile marriage between dual language partner teachers, much like in a real marriage, can have a negative impact on the children involved. It is rare, however, that as educational leaders we openly have conversations about the delicate nature of having two educators serve in this type of partnership. It is imperative that we begin to engage in transparent dialogue regarding this important factor in dual language education. For if we don’t, it becomes difficult to create educational access for students, to grade level standards in two program languages.

Some practices that could ease the road to dual language marriage bliss are delineated below.

  • Administrators should involve grade level teachers in conversations regarding the importance of dual language partner teacher teams. Without input into the process of selecting who will be “married” for the duration of the school year, the opportunity for a successful union is minimized.

  • It is also helpful to collaboratively create a dual language social compact that includes personal and group expectations for the dual language partnerships, learning styles, preferences for communication, and general guidelines for collaboration and lesson planning.

  • Whether a dual language strand or whole school dual language program, teachers must have time to be a part of a grade level professional learning community (PLC) to effectively plan as a team. If a monolingual strand exists, those teachers would need time to plan alongside dual language partner teacher teams, as well.

  • In addition to grade level PLC planning time, dual language partner teachers also need additional time to more closely work together on ensuring that the work in both classrooms is aligned to the three goals of dual language education: bilingualism & biliteracy, high academic achievement in both program languages, and sociocultural competence.

Continue reading to learn more about Jose’s thoughts on Dual Language partnership…

In the third edition of the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (GP3), explicit guidelines regarding the “deliberate planning and coordination…of instruction across the two languages of instruction” can be found in the program structure strand (p. 26). This is an extremely important part of dual language best practices because the two partner teachers need to support, extend, and continuously support the instruction that is taking place in the partner teacher’s classroom. Only in this way, can the two teachers be able to facilitate biliteracy instruction without having to reteach content.

It is also an integral part of this dual language equation, that instructional coaches, interventionists, special education teachers, and those staff members that provide gifted and talented support, also be a part of this collaborative planning process.

It is also recommended that dual language educators, especially in grade level and partner teams, review the Instruction strand and accompanying rubrics in the GP3 (pages 57-69). Using the most recent research addressed in the accompanying literature review, it is imperative that partner teacher marriages be strong because without that unified vision, it will be difficult to implement elements that are essential in the dual language classroom. These include the following:

  • Coordinated biliteracy instruction promotes the three goals of dual language: bilingualism/biliteracy, high academic achievement in both program languages, and sociocultural competence.

  • Differentiated instruction for all students is planned for, and agreed to, by the two partner teachers.

  • Instruction in one language builds on the concepts learned in the other language.

  • Student groupings allow for all students to be peer and language models for each other.

  • Partner teachers strategically plan for cross-linguistic connections that allow students to use each of the two program languages as a resource to strengthen the other.

Although dual language partner teachers do not have ceremonies where vows are exchanged, as a former dual language school principal, I wish I had thought about this possibility sooner!

Continue reading to learn more about Jose’s thoughts on Dual Language partnership…

Imagine fun, wacky, but honest commitment ceremonies where dual language partner teachers get an opportunity to share their hopes and dreams for the upcoming school year. This would be a time, surrounded by professional friends and family, where we agree to do whatever it takes to better serve the needs of our wonderful emergent bilingual students.

That’s a dual language marriage that we can all applaud!

I believe that Norma and Jackie, as well as the many dual language partner teachers in fabulous dual language marriages around the country and abroad, would agree!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *