How Do You Prevent Overwhelming Your Teachers? Advice from Elizabeth Howard & Shera Simpson
While reopening schools concerns are understandably focused on students and the differential and often inequitable access that they have had to instructional activities during the pandemic, we believe that program leaders need to think carefully about the potential overwhelm of dual language teachers, whose job has always been more demanding than that of a general education classroom teacher, and is likely to be even more so now.
We must focus on promoting a positive school climate by leading with the third goal of sociocultural competence. Among other things, this could include:
prioritizing the socioemotional health of teachers, students, families, and staff;
promoting awareness of and compassion for the different experiences of teachers, students, families, and staff during the pandemic and its aftermath, and unpacking the ways in which systemic inequities resulted in vastly different experiences for different subgroups;
engaging with parents to learn more about students’ home experiences during the pandemic and ways in which schools can connect to those experiences as they resume sustained, face-to-face instruction;
asking teachers about their needs, hopes, and goals for the upcoming school year and planning professional development and other support activities accordingly to address those issues;
encouraging teachers to prioritize relationship-building activities with their teaching partners, students, and families, and providing time and support for that to happen;
making time for processing the experiences of school community members, such as through multi-modal, culturally sustaining pedagogies or project-based learning activities within the community.
During the institute, our sessions will include:
Session 1: Sustaining Teachers, Sustaining our Schools: Creating an Affirming Workplace for Dual Language Teachers
Qualified teachers are the backbone of any dual language program, but they are hard to find and sometimes harder to retain given the demands of teaching in a dual language program. These demands have only increased during the pandemic and the resulting shift to online and hybrid instruction, accompanied by differential and often inequitable access to learning resources by students in one or both program languages. In this session, school leaders will reflect on challenges faced by dual language teachers in their building and brainstorm solutions for addressing those challenges, with a particular focus on cultivating a culture of care that prioritizes teachers’ self-care and fosters caring partner teacher relationships.
Session 2: Promoting Bilingualism and Biliteracy through an Affirming Learning Environment
All students and their families have experienced unprecedented disruption to their school routines during the pandemic, and many have experienced considerable trauma as well. In order to resume effective face-to-face instruction, we first need to promote a welcoming and equitable classroom environment for all students. Drawing on a pedagogy of care within the context of culturally sustaining pedagogy, we propose an approach to culturally sustaining classroom management that fosters appreciation and respect among students. By working to implement this approach jointly, partner teachers in dual language programs can strengthen relationships with students and their families, while also reducing their own professional stress through more streamlined classroom management routines. Specifically, we turn our attention to literacy centers as an example of how this coordinated approach can play out in the classroom, and consider ways in which school leadership can support its implementation.