It breaks my heart. Brown children and families are afraid to go outside. They are terrified of being shot.
On August 3, 2019, a white supremacist drove from the Dallas area to my hometown of El Paso, Texas. Most of my immediate family still lives there. His one goal was to kill as many people who were immigrants and first-generation Mexican Americans. Being brown and speaking Spanish were the primary offenses. Twenty-two were killed and many more injured.
With anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric being spewed at the highest levels of governmental power, like many, I am left wondering…am I American enough? Are any of us, those who represent black, indigenous, and communities of color ever enough?
I am a fierce advocate for bilingual dual language education. And yes, this type of educational programming is about empowering children to leverage their multilingualism as part of a global society. But this ideology on its own is not enough.
Dual language is also about critical consciousness and sociocultural competence. It is about an overt effort to dismantle systems of oppression that have marginalized so many communities that have historically not fit into a white, middle income vision of life in this country.
Toni Morrison’s recent death, and so much of what she advocated for, reminds us that, “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
Dual language, when done right has the power to change this. When we move beyond bilingualism, biliteracy, and grade level academic achievement in two program languages, we have the power to change this. If we are not afraid to disrupt white spaces in the name of equity, we can do this. As we engage in critical discourse alongside our students, at every age level, we have the capacity to become a better people.
I am so proud of the C6 Biliteracy Framework, used to lesson plan specifically for the dual language classroom, because this type of targeted instruction is the foundation of all that is academic in dual language programming.
The Commit component of the C6 Biliteracy Framework specifically addresses this need in the dual language classroom.
In the articles shared in the last couple of months, via www.duallanguageschools.org, we have now taken a look into the first five components of the C6 Biliteracy Framework, including Create, Connect, Collaborate, Communicate, and Consider.
In this article, we will move on to the sixth c—Commit.
Commit, in collaboration with students, to creating a learning environment that is focused on continuous improvement and service to others.
- Personal and academic growth
- Sociocultural competence
- Global citizenship and service to others
Whether you serve in an elementary or secondary classroom, ask yourself:
- What bias do I bring into the classroom?
- What tools do I have that help me keep that bias in check?
- How do I empower students to engage in conversations about equity and social justice?
- Is my classroom truly an inclusive community?
- Do I facilitate instruction via a monolingual and monocultural lens?
- In what ways, does our class community serve others?
- Are we working daily to dismantle systems of oppression that continue to marginalize black and indigenous students of color?
Most dual language educators understand the need for our students to be exposed and to value all others. However, this work, at times, can also be mostly superficial.
We have our students read a poem by a black author during Black History Month or we read a non-fiction text about the life of César Chávez during Hispanic Heritage Month. We might even have one diversity or multicultural night each year where families are asked to share and celebrate varied cultural backgrounds. And, this is great. It is a first step. However, advocacy via dual language programming has to go beyond these isolated events.
In the dual language classroom, equity and social justice is the foundation of all that we do. It must be a part of every lesson, every activity, every content and language objective, and it also has to be how we breathe and live as dual language educators…flawed, openly questioning with students why things are the way they are, how we can make them better, and, ultimately, how do we serve one another as we strive to be more empathetic human beings.
In the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education: Third Edition (2018), the authors ground all research and instructional recommendations on the idea that students enrolled in dual language programs must work to achieve the three goals of dual language. Sociocultural competence and critical consciousness cannot be ignored. They must be the vehicle for all that happens in the dual language classroom setting.
In the end, what good is it if students leave our classrooms as bilingual and biliterate human beings, if they were never allowed the opportunity to critically examine their own bias, prejudices, and privileges? How will they ever be able to actively seek continuous self-improvement as they honor and cherish all those they come in contact with?
Lesson planning through the C6 Biliteracy Framework cycle, and specifically through the Commit component, empowers educators, dual or not, to see themselves as agents of change. Via lesson planning that moves away from a monolingual and monocultural lens, we become an integral part of creating a better world.
Perhaps, one day, no person in this country will have to ask themselves if they are American enough. Instead, our students will focus on leveraging each other’s talents in collaborative fashion, as a way to create a more equitable and just society.
El Paso, you raised me. You taught me how to love my English y mi español. I am the person I am because you cared for me and showed me how to love the Juárez and the El Paso that is my corazón. Am I American enough? I don’t know. But, I know this. I am El Pasoan and Juarense enough.