Open Letter to Dual Language Teachers: Leadership

Dual language teachers,

I have a favor to ask. Really, it is one of the things that must happen if we are to continue this dual language, bilingual education journey successfully. There is no option for us. We must take that next step if we are to serve more adequately the needs of emerging multilingual students and additional student groups who have historically been marginalized by U.S. educational institutions.

It is time for you to become assistant principals, principals, and district leaders! I know what you are thinking: “José, no way! That is not for me.” Believe you me… I understand too well what you might be feeling.

I served as a teacher, in several school districts in Texas, for over a decade. Never in that time did a fellow teacher or administrator guide me to become certified as a school leader. Not once. Did no one see any possible leadership potential in me? Did I see and envision leadership capability in myself? It was my husband, retired Sgt. Major Alvin Antonio Díaz-Cruz, who finally pushed me to become a school administrator.

As I reflect upon my own educational leadership journey, I question how I was ever let in the door in the first place. After all, I didn’t look like most of the school leaders who were charged to guide the instructional practices on the school campuses where I served.

Most of the administrators I met, even in a border state, were white, male, and heterosexual. Many had been athletic coaches in their previous teacher lives. The system was rigged against me and those who didn’t neatly fall into this description. After all, white, male, heterosexual leaders are prone to mentor other white, male, heterosexual leaders.

Yes. You read correctly. Close your mouth. I wrote it. And, you read the words I wrote with intent. Plainly. Let’s call as it is.

School leadership, although slowly changing, continues to strengthen a monocultural, monolingual, and heteronormative patriarchal system where we grow leaders that continue to represent the educational systems of oppression that, instead, they should be working to dismantle.

Me, a school administrator? Hell no! Who would’ve thunk it?

Not American or Mexican enough.
Very brown.
English language learner.
Speaker of Spanglish.
Very queer. Before it was popular.
Not super masculine.
High pitched voice.
Not a former athletic coach.
Not a guy’s guy.
Not a conversationalist about sports.
Drama geek.
Lover of telenovelas.
Academy Award historian.
Parents with an elementary education.
Parents who do not speak English.
Not white.
Not male.
Not heterosexual.
Not administrator material.

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Dual language educators, please do not doubt yourselves.

You are the future of school leadership.
You advocate for bilingualism and biliteracy.
You understand that we are to continue our journey as multiliteracy instructional coaches.
You work countless hours.
You do your job with fewer resources, often lacking support, and still kick ass.
You stand up when others cower.
You acknowledge your own bias.
You know that you are a hot mess, but are actively working on it.
You understand what translanguaging is.
You know what sociocultural competence and critical consciousness are.
You help students engage in linguistic contrastive analysis in all grade levels.
You leverage students’ entire linguistic and cultural repertoires.
You facilitate instruction in all content areas in multiple languages.
You embrace the fact that your job as an educator is to disrupt the system.
You cause desmadre in the name of equidad and social justice.
You serve.
You serve.
You serve.
You are exactly the leaders we need.

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So, dual language teachers…

If you are female, it’s time.
If you are a Black, Indigenous, Teacher of Color, it’s time.
If you identify as LGBTQ+, it’s time.
If you are a language learner, it’s time.
If you have a learning need, it’s time.
If you have a robust linguistic and cultural repertoire, it’s time.
If you are afraid, it’s time.
If you have been oppressed by an educational system that refused to see you, it’s time.
If you are not fully represented in school and district leadership, it’s time.
If you are a dual language teacher, it’s time.

I am so excited that you have decided to take the next step! Assistant principal, principal, and district leadership positions are waiting for you!

Remember that the journey will not be easy. You will cause disruption. Some will try to silence you. Desmadre is inevitable.

But, also know that it will get easier because once a few of us are sitting at the leadership table, we will actively work to open the door, so that you too, can take your seat. We have been waiting for you. Come on in.

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