Navigating the New World: Dual Language Administrators
Whether you are back in the classroom or digital learning, this year’s back to school creates unique challenges for many dual language school administrators and teachers. We invited experts from the field to share their insights on the most important things administrators and teachers should pay attention to. This is a four-part weekly series. The first 2 articles will focus on dual language school administrators and the last 2 are for dual language teachers.
Rubi Flores, Director of Professional Learning, California Association for Bilingual Education
In the times of COVID-19, many districts and administrators of dual language programs across the country are dealing with an unexpected dilemma: Should districts continue to offer dual language education through this pandemic? It’s important to keep in mind that how leaders answer that question, will be a reflection of their priorities and values about equity in education for English learners. As administrators and advocates of educational equity, we need to ask ourselves, what is the vision and mission of our dual language program? How will our decisions about the program affect our English Learners this year and for years to come? It is critical to remember that as researchers have concluded, dual language programs have the capacity to act as equalizers for English learners since they are the only research-based language program that have the ability to close the achievement gap for English learners. Now more than ever, it is essential to prioritize access to dual language programs for students who are learning English as a second language.
Undoubtedly, this will be a challenging year for all the stakeholders involved in the implementation of dual language programs as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing a virtual or distance learning DL program. However, administrators must continue to support the DL program and ensure meaningful access to the curriculum for all students participating in the program, especially for English learners. One way to provide support is by establishing a district/site dual language leadership team whose focus would be to develop the necessary systems to effectively implement the dual language program through a virtual/hybrid/ or face-to-face setting during the pandemic. Tasks for this team could include (1) the creation of a language allocation plan that will sustain the implementation of a virtual dual language program across sites and grade levels, (2) gathering and mapping out the curriculum resources needed for instruction in English and the target language, (3) and creating a continuous coaching/professional learning plan to support teachers and staff in the development of bilingualism and biliteracy, high academic achievement, and sociocultural competence for all students in the program. Advocating for access to dual language programs can and will make a difference in ensuring the long-term success for students learning English as a second language during and after the pandemic.
Dr. Mariana Castro, co-author of Advancing Equity in Dual Language Program, A Guide for Leaders
Now more than ever, we need Dual Language Program administrators who have a sharp eye for understanding systemic inequities and to have the courage to dismantle them. We need administrators who are excellent communicators, especially who are good listeners, so that they can understand the big picture of how the needs of all stakeholders confluence in to shape their priorities. It’s important for administrators to focus on student and staff wellbeing and removing the barriers that impede or compromise student learning.
Families most impacted must be part of any decision-making and planning for moving forward. All decisions must be made considering the burden on families and communities. This includes what school will look like and function, but also any contingency plans. Having a leadership team that is inclusive of diverse voices that is representative of the school community will help offer the best direction to move forward.
In light of the current pandemic and need for virtual learning, DL Administrators should focus on providing DL teachers the online tools and resources to continue to deliver a quality DL program to students with as much fidelity as possible. Online resources/tools should include supporting DL teachers on how to engage students with one another via electronic formats, how to support bridging of academic vocabulary in the two languages, how to support intentional vocabulary development in the two languages, how to support students to learn rigorous lessons that include higher order thinking, such as project-based learning. In summary, students need to continue to receive a DL program with high fidelity through virtual learning.
Karen Beeman, Co-Founder of Teaching for Biliteracy
During times of change, compassion is critical: compassion for families, students, and teachers. And compassion can be demonstrated in many ways. One way is to be as transparent and timely with communication as possible. While none of us can predict what is going to happen, keeping stakeholders informed about decisions, about changes in decisions, and about why the decisions are made is key. Teachers will require support in communicating these decisions to parents and students. Providing teachers with the time to meet with each family individually at the beginning of the year, especially in Kindergarten and first grade, to explain the goals and structures of dual language, will be critical for establishing the relationships between the teacher, their students, and their families, and for providing families with an understanding of how language, biliteracy, and content can be developed in an on-line or hybrid model of instruction.
Joan LaChance, Associate Professor of TESL, co-author of The Dual Language Education Teacher Preparation Standards©
Given the rate and frequency of changes, the preparations for the return to school should include intensive IT support for teachers. In the recent interactions I’ve had with teachers who are faced with remote learning to support any kind of hybrid approach–much of their struggles were associated with learning the web-based platform and how to utilize its features for instructional delivery. Additionally, a priority regarding access to instructional materials and resources in the program’s languages remains critical. If students will have daily schedules that are altered, administrators need to determine language allocations for when students are in school with access to teachers face to face and, how to determine what can be done from remote settings with regard to program languages, shedding light on materials needed in both contexts.
Sheri Spaine Long, Ph.D, Executive Director, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
The focus and the main concern of every administrator shoud be the safety and well-being of all students and faculty. As we bring them back onto campuses and into classrooms, dual language program administrators will need to set the stage to meet the academic needs of students while providing a safe environment for them to learn.
Along with this, our Dual Language administrative teams need to acknowledge and value that our Emergent Bilingual students are coming “back to school” with funds of knowledge from their time at home and their immediate communities. We want these funds to be leveraged as assets and not assumed to be gaps or deficits.