Your Dual Language Program in Year One: Tips for a Strong LAUNCH

This piece represents Part Four in a series on effective planning practices for initial dual language program implementation.

By: Dr. Barbara Kennedy (Dr. BK), GlobaLingo Education Consulting, LLC  http://www.globalingoed.com/

This is it! You’ve invested in a minimum of one year of careful dual language (DL) program planning. Your stakeholders have been engaged, your DL language allocation plan is fully developed, you’ve set up  systems for support, and your staff is hired. Congratulations! It is time to launch your new DL program! While every DL program and program launch is unique, there are some key practices that every successful DL program implements in Year One (and beyond). LAUNCH provides a handy acronym to guide your effective Year One DL program implementation:

L is for Learn and Keep Learning!

A is for Acknowledge, Affirm, and Assure!

U is for Unite!

N is for Network!

C is for Communicate!

H is for Hire for Success!

 

Let’s explore each LAUNCH tip.

L is for Learn and Keep Learning! DL instruction is a lot more than just teaching grade-level content in two languages. To meet the DL goals of developing full bilingualism and biliteracy, high levels of academic achievement, and socio-cultural competence, educators need a deep understanding of bilingual brain theory, second language acquisition, student engagement, culturally responsive pedagogy, and more.

With the body of DL research growing, there is always plenty new to learn, even for the most experienced DL practitioners! In Year One (and beyond), look for opportunities to explore and share new learning with school staff, students and their families, members of the greater community, and leaders in your central office (including School Board members).

Professional organizations and associations, publications, blogs, and virtual learning opportunities abound to support you. To learn and keep learning, engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • Attend a DL-specific conference (e.g., La Cosecha, ATDLE)
  • Conduct a book study (e.g., Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education, 3rd Edition 2018)
  • Access on-line resources (e.g., duallanguageschools.org, cal.org, dlnem.org)
  • Follow leaders online (e.g., @DrBK_GlobaLingo, https://www.linkedin.com/in/drbk-globalingo/ )

A is for Acknowledge, Affirm, and Assure!

DL represents a big cultural shift … not just for DL teachers and students, but for staff across the school, for family and community members, and for the district as a whole. Change is hard. It requires energy and a concerted effort. In Year One, DL teachers will likely be implementing new pedagogical strategies, a new curriculum, and new assessments. Staff and students will be using language(s) throughout the school in new ways as they transform the hallways, classrooms, and playgrounds from monolingual into multilingual spaces. The learning trajectory for children learning in two languages differs from that of monolingual children, so grading systems, report cards, assessment tools, and benchmarks will likely require adjustments. Families are frequently both excited and anxious as their children engage in DL education for the first time.

To navigate all this change in Year One, DL educators do well to acknowledge the fact that change is exciting but also hard, affirm that everyone’s efforts are worth it and valued, and assure all stakeholders that while the DL program may not be perfect yet in Year One, it will grow into perfection over time. Consistent acknowledgement, affirmation, and assurances in Year One will remind stakeholders of the “Why” behind your DL program, helping to harness the passion and channel the much-needed energy to stay the course and work together toward DL program success in the launch year and beyond.

U is for Unite!

DL education has the potential to transform traditionally monolingual school culture, even in cases where the DL program functions as a “strand” within the school. Beginning in Year One, be proactive in looking for opportunities to unite school staff, students, families, and community members around the positive benefits that DL programming brings to the school. Devote energy to building united understanding, buy-in and support for the DL program from day one. Providing targeted, bite-sized, ongoing PD is a key strategy to building schoolwide unity and cohesion around the new DL program. Dedicate a few minutes of every faculty and parent meeting at your school to explaining the goals of DL education (e.g., the Three Pillars). Share data and research on the benefits of DL education for students (e.g., Thomas & Collier, The Graph).  Remember to include stakeholders as you brainstorm strategies aimed at increasing multilingualism and socio-cultural competence schoolwide. Work with intentionality to build cohesion among staff, students, and families, in DL and non-DL classrooms. Develop with intentionality the collaborative practices needed so that your DL program will enrich, enhance, and transform your school culture.

N is for Network!

Implementing DL can feel isolating at times. But with DL programs proliferating across the country, there is no need for you to “go it alone.” In addition to connecting via professional organizations, conferences, and social media, reach out to DL school leaders in communities similar to yours. Check out these helpful DL school databases:

Networking will provide a critical source for the energy, motivation, resources, and support we all need to keep going!

C is for Communicate!

In Year One, there will be lots of questions, and some doubts, around DL program implementation. Be prepared for this journey by adopting a strategy of open and authentic communication with all stakeholders (staff, students, families, and community). Provide regular opportunities for information sharing, but even more importantly, for listening. Two-way communication that provides multiple access points and opportunities to share is critical. Consider options that best meet the diverse needs of your community to maximize access and to amplify all voices by using multiple modes of communication (google forms, social media, text messaging apps, monthly open forums, listening sessions) and making all information available in languages that stakeholders understand.

H is for Hire for Success!

Staffing is one of the biggest challenges when implementing a successful DL program. There is a nationwide shortage of bilingual teachers, so competition is steep. Hiring, training, and retaining DL teachers is critical. Cultivate a climate of DL teacher support and leadership development so that your DL staff feels valued, supported, and confident in their growing expertise. In Year One, there are three important staffing needs to address: (a) hire, support, and retain your DL teachers; (b) strategize to recruit and hire DL teachers for subsequent years as the DL program rolls up grade levels; and (c) balance the need to increase DL teaching staff with the need to value and retain current monolingual school staff. Achieve these by working closely with your human resources department to develop a DL teacher recruiting plan that includes careful consideration of potential internal candidates (to minimize staff displacement over time), as well as external (local, national, and perhaps international) candidates. Ensure provision of PD and coaching supports that are aligned to the specific needs of DL teaching staff. Finally, communicate transparently with staff at all grade levels to provide a clear picture of how staffing of the DL program will occur in the coming years and to allay displacement fears. Thoughtful messaging around a well-planned and intentional recruiting and retention plan will provide stability as your new DL program grows and expands.

This article series has provided information on program planning (Part One), language allocation plan design (Part Two), systems support alignment (Part Three), and tips for Year One program launch (above). If you have questions or would like a free consultation on effective DL program planning/design/ implementation/PD/evaluation, contact Dr. BK at globalingoed@gmail.com.

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