Bilingual education – what exactly is it? When I first became a teacher I didn’t really understand the actual reasoning behind it, but after years of teaching – I can now understand why it should exist.
First, let me give you a little background of myself. I am a Mexican-American who was born here in the United States. I lived in a border town until I was 5 years old, so I knew both English and Spanish when I entered kindergarten. My family moved to Rosenberg where I entered kindergarten. The class I was in was an all English classroom, and I learned it quite easily. Throughout my years in school, I feel that I lost some of my culture because it wasn’t encouraged – I wanted to fit in, and being different wouldn’t work. I did great in school and graduated toward the top of my class.
Well, I didn’t realize what I was actually missing until after I was an adult. The school I taught at for 7 years was a predominately Hispanic elementary school (92% bilingual), and I noticed the great variation of Hispanic students and families. Even the teachers had strong ties to their countries through their language. I realize that my family just wanted me to be successful, so they encouraged English only and didn’t stress much Spanish. But I wish I would’ve been able to be in a bilingual classroom, because I feel I lost a part of me in the transition to school. I am now Spanish literate, but I am far from fluent in the language.
Bilingual education is just that – learning two languages equally. Too often, it’s looked at as a class where students are behind in their English. A “true” bilingual classroom should have students learning both languages and strengthening their knowledge across them. The languages should work cooperatively and not individually. I’ve seen several articles where students that were placed in an English immersion class were more successful in the short term learning English, but that isn’t the sole goal of bilingual education. Bilingual education encompasses both languages.
We, as educators, must look at the child because we know the policymakers don’t. Bilingual education is a benefit to children and their culture – we must learn how to improve bilingual education as opposed to tearing it down. I know from experience that all bilingual classes are far from perfect, but I view it as being an incredible benefit to each child and their overall well-being. Being immigrants, they already have several “strikes” against them – I feel that we have to allow them to develop their education while also developing their ties to their culture and their families…
University of Houston - Downtown