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3 Things I learned after becoming a bilingual teacher

In 2014 I received my bachelor’s degree and bilingual early childhood through sixth grade teacher certifications. I was excited and ready to enter the classroom! Over the course of 6 years, two cities and three school districts, I learned so much about myself and about what it is really like to be a bilingual teacher. 

Let me preface this by saying that this was MY experience working as a bilingual 3rd grade teacher in the state of Texas. I understand that situations vary greatly from state to state, district to district and especially based on the bilingual education model your school follows.

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

The bilingual/dual language classroom will never look like your neighboring general, monolingual classroom

My first two years were in a medium sized school. Our third grade team had 4 general education classrooms and only 1 bilingual classroom per grade level. My grade level team was amazing and I leaned on them heavily as a first year teacher. However, I quickly learned that the needs of my students were vastly different and therefore, my classroom would not run like my neighbor’s

At first, I tried to stick with the same lessons and pacing as the rest of my grade level. This often meant, translating activities that were not available in Spanish. It was exhausting! Once I realized that it was okay (and quite frankly necessary) to deviate from the grade level plans, things began to click and my students thrived

It got easier when I moved and got to work in grade levels where there were 2 or more bilingual teachers per grade level. I finally had others who had the same challenges and classroom needs. This made lesson planning SO much easier!

All of this to day, don’t try to replicate the classroom, lessons, teaching style, etc of your monolingual neighboring teacher. It’s OKAY to do your own thing!

The Amount of Parent Involvement is Powerful

Again, I know this will vary from classroom to classroom. But what I generally noticed is that our bilingual/dual language classrooms had an overwhelming amount of parent involvement, and it was amazing! 

Parents in my classroom were eager to volunteer for everything under the sun and were SO supportive. It took me a couple of years to develop a system that would allow me to maximize all of that support and once I put it into practice, magical things happened!

I will talk more about leveraging parent volunteers in a future post

The Injustices are Heartbreaking

Going into this, I knew I would witness racism, inequity and injustice. It became clear that I was not only a teacher, but an advocate and my student’s shield. Nothing prepares you for the cruelty you may see play out between your bilingual students and their monolingual peers. 

Newly arrived students were particularly vulnerable and there were days that I felt like a momma bear protecting her cubs from the world. Being a bilingual teacher means building your students up every single day and cultivating in them a sense of pride, self worth and kindness so that they are equipped to weather the injustices they will likely face.

What would you add to this list? What misconceptions or ideas about being a bilingual teacher did you have before stepping foot in the classroom?

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