By definition, empowerment is the process that creates power in individuals over their own lives, society, and within their communities. Women are empowered when they are granted equitable access to opportunities without limitations.
But what does female empowerment look and sound like in a dual language classroom? I posed this question to my own dual language staff which is comprised of only strong females. One teacher described female empowerment in her class as “being a Latina who serves as a role model for the young girls in my class”. Another teacher stated that female empowerment to her meant “modeling equal leadership opportunities for women from various communities and cultural backgrounds”. If our teachers could speak out, I know they would share all they do for children which goes beyond empowerment in the classroom.
Female empowerment in dual language classrooms means strength in solidarity in caring for children. Amazing, emergent bilinguals, who more than often experience trauma before getting in the classrooms, require the teacher to pause instruction for some playtime in order to build community participation and make the student feel safe and welcome. It’s hugging students daily and pointing out all of the amazing things each brings with them. It’s telling them to dream big and know that they can achieve all their dreams. These are the things that often go unnoticed and it’s exactly what makes them the rock stars that they are. This means taking it upon themselves to help families of students in their class without the need for praise or recognition. It’s purchasing holiday gifts so students have something to open during the holidays and, oftentimes, it’s as complicated as being the closest thing to a mother a child may have at any given moment. Female empowerment in a dual language classroom means windows and mirror books depicting powerful women from all walks of life and varying cultural backgrounds. It’s fully embracing the linguistic power and repertoires that children bring with them and tapping into it through translanguaging, providing a sense of linguistic liberation.
I speak in confidence knowing that dual language teachers across the nation go above and beyond their classrooms to ensure emergent bilinguals, from all walks of life, are supported through a whole child approach espoused with best instructional practices, a warm and caring classroom environment, and an equitable education. ¡Sí se puede!