How Do You Best Support Dual Language Teachers When Returning to the Classroom? Advice from Dr. Sonia Soltero

The Dual Language Leadership Institute is finally here! With presentations from Drs. Mariana Castro and Silvia Johnson, Drs. Elizabeth Howard and Shera Simpson, Dr. José Medina, Dr. Kris Nicholls, and Dr. Sonia Soltero, it is sure to be an educational and informative experience for the dual language community.  In preparation for the Institute, we sat down with Sonia Soltero to discuss what we can expect during her presentation and what she views as the biggest challenges for the dual language community at present. Below, find her insights and more information about registering for the institute here.

The challenges ahead will be around two broad buckets: the immediate from now until the end of the school year; and the longer-term needs starting in this coming fall. District and school leaders must take every opportunity now to both support teachers, students, and families while also starting to plan ahead for next year and beyond. In the short term, the immediate challenge is to address the fatigue and socio-emotional stressors after a tough year of teaching and learning. Teacher retention under the pandemic is a troubling trend, and more so for bilingual teachers who carry a heavier load. District leaders should provide support systems, additional time, compensation, and acknowledgement of the heavy lift that teachers, students and parents have done this past year. Districts could also consider postponing, modifying, or removing administrative requirements or practices that are not essential or have lesser importance. In addition, high stakes assessments need to be considered in light of a year like no other and therefore should not drive decision-making that results in increased remedial teaching and rote learning. Rather, students more than ever need social interaction while learning, engagement with high interest topics and reading materials, and activities that include critical thinking and problem solving. This summer will prove to be a busy one preparing for what we all hope will be a semi-normal return to school. Summer preparation should include revisioning existing systems and structures that directly address the probable gaps in learning, especially around ESL, the language other than English (LOTE), and cultural competencies, as well as rebuilding a sense of school community.  


This is the time to move away from the heavy doses of testing that has taken over so much of teachers’ instructional time and students’ learning over the past decade. The heavy emphasis on accountability at all cost is something that we need to rethink and reconceptualize. The toll on academic progress due to the pandemic will be compounded by the many years of spending more time testing than teaching/learning. For dual language programs this is even more critical because of the need to assess students’ progress and learning in two languages. Districts need to reduce the number of tests, the amount of time teachers and students spend on testing, and rely more on authentic and performance-based assessments. While the question asks for one piece of advice, I will offer a second very important one: the most critical tenet of dual language education is adhering to the language allocation of the model being implemented, and therefore districts and schools leaders must ensure that this is not sacrificed due to pressures for increasing English.  


My presentations in the Institute include: 

The Path Forward: District Leadership as a Catalyst for Dual Language Education Excellence

Part 1

We know that the most effective and successful dual language programs are guided by visionary district leaders and long-term districtwide commitment. District leaders have a defining role in decisions around budget allocation, personnel, curriculum, adoption of instructional materials, assessment, family outreach and so much more. Because teachers are the fundamental backbone of dual language education, they must have the right conditions, resources, and ongoing supports needed to be succeful. In Part 1 of this session, we will discuss two ways of thinking about dual language education from a district leadership lens that I developed: Districtwide Dual Language Framework that speaks to district level aspects and decision-making processes; and Dual Language Building Blocks that offer a blueprint for creating and maintaining sustainable quality dual language programs.

Part 2

In the second part of the session, we will explore ways to address equity, access and inclusion in district level decision-making; characteristics of effective dual language leadership; redress the potential academic, linguistic and socioemotional impact of the pandemic on dual language students and teachers; considerations for language allocation and scheduling; and planning for a post-pandemic full reopening that includes engaging in program needs-assessment, prioritizing areas of need, and revisioning pre-pandemic dual language education in ways that maintain fundamental program principles.


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