Archive

Archive for August, 2009

Exciting Distractions

August 21, 2009 1 comment

I’m trying to finish up my guest post for Spanglishbaby, but I keep getting distracted with the conversation that is happening in the comments section here.

Someone, please save me! I need to get back to my writing!

Categories: Uncategorized

Blue

I’m feeling a bit blue because one of our dear teachers passed away over the weekend. She was only 37 and it appears that she may have died of a heart attack. I don’t know all the details, but it seems that she has been complaining of symptoms that the doctor couldn’t diagnose. I’ve heard that she thought that she had acid reflux. I’ve read somewhere that heart attacks manifest themselves differently with women and that a burning feeling like acid reflux might be a symptom. It appears that she possibly died on Friday and wasn’t found until Sunday by her mother. As a single woman living alone, something like this has always been my biggest fear– that something could happen to me and no one would know for a while because they would just assume that I was busy, as I often am.

Sad and a big wakeup call for everyone to manage their stress and take care of their health. The world won’t be the same without her as she was a wonderful teacher.

Be back in a few days.

Categories: Uncategorized

Providing Encouragement and Feedback to Learners

69542427_9e39c451a7I’m excited about the fact that I will be writing a guest post on Spanglishbaby.com!! I have somewhat of an idea of what I will be writing about, but I am still in the brainstorming phase today. I am a little nervous about it because I really admire the blog and all of the fabulous writing and articles on the blog. It will be a good thing, because it is forcing (for lack of a better word) me to sit my rear end down and practice writing. It seems to come more naturally with practice, as Ana and Roxana from Spanglishbaby have advised.

I’ve always had a phobia with writing, but I’ve always loved to write. When I was in the second grade I entered into a writing contest and poured my heart and soul into it. I wrote a five page story about an angel and I waited every day to find out who the winner would be. I never received any feedback from my teacher about the story that was so near and dear to my heart and it crushed me. I’ve always remembered this as a teacher–students who entered my classrooms always perceived that they didn’t write well and I did everything I could to try to encourage them. I rarely met a student who felt confident about their writing.

When I got into high school, I entered a writing contest in Spanish and won. One day, they announced that I won first place on the loudspeaker and I was made fun of for an entire week. That was the day that I decided to make my writing a personal act and didn’t let anyone else see it.

Throughout middle school and high school I held a phobia about writing and I have always wanted feedback from teachers about my writing ability. I yearned for some sort of confirmation because I carried around a feeling that I didn’t write very well. Every time that I would receive my writing assignment back from a teacher I would run straight to my desk, flip through the pages and look eagerly for constructive feedback. I rarely received anything more than a grade and a few comments.

I’ve often wondered if it might have been because I was somewhat of a decent writer and teachers didn’t feel that they needed to provide any feedback. Or maybe it was because the teachers also didn’t perceive of themselves as effective writers, so they lacked the capacity to provide constructive feedback. As a teacher educator, teachers have often told me in staff development sessions that they don’t know how to write well, have not had enough exposure to writing in the school setting, or have never been taught how to teach writing.

Not much changed when I was at the university level. I was accused twice of not writing my own papers, once by an English teacher and a second time by a Spanish teacher. I actually had to sit down in front of them and write something in order to prove that I was the person who had written my assignments. I suppose that I could have inferred that they thought that my written assignments were of decent quality, but I didn’t.

I carried around the idea that I was a horrible writer through my teaching credential program and my masters program. When I was in the doctoral program I would take my writing to my previous professor that I had in the masters program. In my second year of doctoral studies, she told me one day, “I don’t know why you think that you can’t write well. Your papers have been kicking ass and you should try to publish them”. (Pardon my language, but I’m trying to be accurate here). It was then that I began to feel a little more confidence about writing and decided to start blogging.

Last year, I went to a management conference that had a speaker with a similar story to mine. The key note speaker was a phenomenally gifted artist, having created three amazing paintings in front of our eyes within fifteen minutes. He told a similar story about how he loved to paint and color as a child. When he was young, his teacher told him that he shouldn’t color or draw because he couldn’t stay within the lines.

What happened as a result? He never painted again and went into the field of business. It wasn’t until his thirties that he turned to painting and drawing in order to emotionally deal with a traumatic situation in his life. He has since left the field of business and is now a successful artist.

What’s the moral of my story? Provide opportunities for reading, writing and other creative endeavors in the home and school setting. Provide encouragement and constructive criticism, even if you think that children may not need it. Sometimes children who have a knack for something might need just as much encouragement as a child who is struggling. Lack of encouragement and constructive criticism can affect someone’s confidence for years.

Coming Soon: I’ll be exploring this topic a bit further in an upcoming post with a focus on bilingualism and second language acquisition. Second language theorists often describe this phenomenon as the “affective filter”, an impediment to learning sparked by fear, self-doubt, lack of confidence and anxiety.

Categories: Education

Friday Finds

August 14, 2009 1 comment

This morning this is what I have been reading on the internet:

Spanglishbaby- ReadMe: I Know the River Loves Me (Review of a new children’s book and giveaway opportunity)

Bilingual Readers- More Benefits of Reading to Kids

PapaedPief- Je Confesse, tu confesses, elle confesse (Confessions of a dad raising his daughter to speak french)

Learning the Language-Social Ascension in a Farmworker Family

What have you been reading that you find to be interesting? Feel free to post in the comments section so that other readers as well as myself can learn about interesting finds that others have made. Have a nice Friday

Categories: Education

My Personal Pledges-Old and New

The foundation of my philosophy of bilingual education, and education in general, is the notion of social justice. As an educator, I can only hope that everything that I do to serve children, parents, school personnel and the community will have a positive effect towards making this world a better place for all children, including those who have been historically marginalized or under-served.

As the great educator Paolo Freire once said, “Teaching is a political act”.  Advocating for students who are often marginalized within the school system is not an easy task. The politics of bilingualism, immigration, racism, class, and other socially constructed categories can be divisive and volatile. Advocating for change in a system that tends to perpetuate the status quo is a never-ending struggle.

There are times when I just want to “throw in the towel” and give up the good fight. There are times when I just want to remove myself from the field of education and take on a new career. There are even times when I think that it is too emotionally grueling to constantly fight for the implementation of quality bilingual programs when it seems that so many other people don’t seem to care if programs are in threat of being dismantled. I wallow in self pity and exhaustion temporarily, yet I somehow seem to snap out of it.

Today I’ve decided to publicly document a few promises that I have made to myself over the years about my passion for bilingual education. I am also going to make a few new promises to myself, after having attended a conference about staying positive in difficult times.

My Old Pledges:

  1. I vow to always promote, defend and improve bilingual education programs even if I am the only person in the room who is doing so.
  2. I vow to help, nurture, and mentor teachers, parents, and administrators who are interested in multilingualism and second language acquisition. I would love to help every teacher that is out there, but my passion is bilingualism and second language acquisition.
  3. I vow to examine, dispel and reject myths, rumors, deficit forms of thinking and the distortion of research regarding bilingualism, bilingual education, and second language acquisition.
  4. I vow to teach people “the system” and attempt to make research, the school system, the law, etc accessible and understandable to people who might not have expertise in the field of education.

My New Pledges:

These pledges are as a result of a conference that I attended today about staying positive in challenging times. I’ve always known that I have the tendency to overextend myself when serving others and I therefore can be prone to feelings of burnout as well as feeling that I am not making a difference in the school system. Today was a reminder that I can only serve and love others if I am in the best physical and emotional shape to do so.

  1. I vow to take care of myself physically by eating well, exercising on a frequent basis, and sleeping well. My physical health affects my energy levels and my emotional health. My energy levels and emotional health affect my ability to accomplish my previously mentioned vows. I literally have over one hundred pounds to get rid of and I am ready to take the next step to do so. It is a bit hard to stand up in front of teachers all week for a forty hour training when my weight, lack of sleep and poor eating are contributing to lack of energy.
  2. I vow to surround myself with positive people who are dedicated and supportive to the field of bilingual education and bilingualism. While I may have to work often within systems that are not responsive to bilingual learners, I will continue to cultivate my face-to-face and online support systems in order to maintain my emotional health. When someone makes negative comments about bilingual programs, students or parents, I will not let it eat me up as it often does.
  3. I vow to begin traveling again. Removing myself temporarily from the  to day-to-day grind of the school system will allow me to return with a renewed sense of creativity and innovation.
  4. I vow to reach out more to monolingual teachers and people in the school system. As bilingual teachers, we often self-segregate ourselves as a defense mechanism because we have been isolated or mistreated. I vow to try to try to extend a hand more often to people who are not in the field of bilingual education.

Wish me luck!

Categories: Bilingual Education

Bilingual Teachers of the World, Unite!

Tonight I’ve been networking on twitter and on latinoeducators.com. Another bilingual teacher lamented that there aren’t many bilingual teachers who are participating in the steadily increasing online community of multilingual advocates. There are plenty of parents online who are interested in bilingualism, but where are all the teachers?

Don’t worry, you won’t be able to hide from us for very much longer. We vow to hunt you down, drag you out of your hiding place, and force you to play with us online! It’s only a matter of time.

In the meantime, take a look at some of the links to the social networking sites and blogs that I included in my last post. Join them and do not be afraid to participate. While you’re at it, go back to your schools and tell a few of the other teachers about the networking sites as well and encourage them to join.

To me being a bilingual educator is so much more than just teaching in two languages. It’s about changing the social fabric by fostering biliteracy in all students and making this world a better place by closing cultural, linguistic, economic and other divides that exist between social groups.

We’ve got a big task at hand, and we’ve all got to grab hands and do it together. As Margaret Mead once said, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I’ll see you online somewhere. Feel free to introduce yourself or make any comments in the comment section.

Categories: Bilingual Education

Social Networking and Virtual Multilingual Communities

August 8, 2009 6 comments

social-networking-pic-1It’s easy to feel isolated when you are working in the field of bilingual or multilingual education. Bilingual teachers are often the minority in schools, considering the fact that the majority of English learners in the public school system are placed in English settings. Bilingual teachers grow accustomed to attending staff development that is primarily geared towards teachers in English settings. The lack of school, district and community support systems for bilingual teachers is astounding and can be emotionally and professionally grueling to dedicated bilingual teachers.

Parents who wish to raise bilingual and bi-cultural children often face similar isolation. Many parents sometimes have to confront the seemingly never-ending barrage of criticism from friends, family, and society about the decision to raise children in a multilingual environments. Some parents may not have access to bilingual programs, bilingual materials, or accurate information in order to dispel many of the deficit myths that exist in society regarding bilingualism and bilingual education. Other parents are not multilingual themselves and are often in need of guidance as to how they can raise multilingual children as monolingual parents.

Luckily with the advent of Web 2.0, isolated communities of bilingual educators and parents can more easily come together through virtual support systems of online multilingual communities. Long gone are the days when bilingual education advocates are isolated and alone. Teachers, parents and other multilingual education advocates can find online communities in the following places:

  • Facebook: Facebook is a large social networking site where people can network with others who have similar interests. We just started a Multilingual Mania facebook page-become a fan of our page and send friend requests to others who are fans of Multilingual Mania to meet other online bilingual advocates! If you are a bilingual education advocate and wish to network with others, leave your facebook link in the comments section here and we will post them later so that others can find you!
  • Twitter: Twitter is a microblog social networking site which also connects people with similar interests. You can find Multilingual Mania on twitter, and will find many other people interested in bilingualism on our friends and followers list. Reach out and start connecting with people with similar interests. We won’t bite-I promise! If you have a twitter account, leave your account here in the comments sections so that others can find you.
  • Bilingual Bloggers: I’ve recently began to become familiar with many others in the blogging community who write about bilingualism. If you are a blogger or know of a blog that discusses issues of bilingualism, then please leave the site address here in the comments section. In the meantime, check out the following blogs that I have discovered: Spanglishbaby, Reach for More/Aspira a Más, Blogging on Bilingualism, and Latin Baby Book Club. Spanglishbaby.com also has a list of additional blogs here.
  • LatinoEducators.com: Latino Educators is an online community of bilingual educators and parents interested in bilingual education. They are raffling off a Jose-Luis Orozco presentation for eligible participants who bring additional people to the website. You can read more about the raffle here.

If you are aware of any other online communities where people who are interested in bilingual education and bilingualism, please feel free to leave them in the comments section!