Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dual Language. How Cool!

Today I went to my Region's First Annual Dual Language Conference and Showcase. It was actually one of the more enjoyable ESL functions that I've attended this year. Probably because it wasn't a useless PD but actually, for the most part, was different schools in the Region presenting their Dual Language Programs, how they started, their successes and challenges, etc. (We did of course have to first sit through about an hour of our Regional staff giving self-congratulatory speeches about how great and talented they are--oh, and how great the teachers are for working for our kids.)

For those who aren't familiar, a Dual Language Program is a class that has half native English speakers and half native Spanish speakers (or Chinese or Arabic, or whatever). Instruction is 50% in English and 50% in the other language. The goal of the program is for all students to become proficient in both languages--so the program is just as much for the native English speakers as it is for the ELLs. (This differs from a regular bilingual class where the all of the students are learning English and although instruction is in both languages, the native language is eventually phased out. The goal of a traditional program is for students to become proficient in English only.) Kids generally enter the DL program in Kindergarten and stick with it all through their schooling.

I love this program so much! I am so for kids growing up bilingual. (Hopefully when I have kids they'll grow up bilingual because I'll speak to them in English and their father will speak to them in [insert language here]. I've already thought about the method I would use and everything. Then in school they would learn a third language. B ut since I'm not even dating someone who speaks a another language right now, let alone thinking about having kids, I guess this is jumping ahead just a tad bit. My second choice would be a dual language program though.) And not only do the native English speakers acquire a second language but the kids learning English retain their native language and they feel like it is valued and appreciated. How cool is that?

So, hearing about all of these programs made me so jealous. I would love to teach in a DL program. All of the teachers were young and energetic. They were full of innovative ideas and you could see their dedication to their kids and the DL program. The other thing that was evident was that these programs were in schools that had supportive administrations and generally favorable school environments. (One teacher sitting next to me asked what the kids at my school were like. I asked what she meant and she said "Well, our school shares a building with another school and their kids are always running wildly up and down the halls and it makes it harder for us to teach our kids that they can't do that." I said, "Yep. That sounds like my school.") I loved one small school that was completely DL and had a strong focus on the arts. They believe that kids learn language best through the content areas and the arts is a way for kids to express themselves as individuals. Because no two students produce the same work, they have reason to engage in communication about their art. (Honestly, I think that the only thing that my school believes in making sure everything looks good so that we don't get in trouble when the region comes.)

I feel like I could be really interested in working in a Dual Language school for a few years and then moving on to a new school to help start up a new DL program. Maybe if I am lucky my new placement could be the start of that. (I still haven't heard any news of my changing schools yet.)

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