The ending of a year, whether it is the Gregorian calendar year, a luni-solar year, an academic year, or even a fiscal year, presents us with an opportunity to reflect and commit ourselves to growth. One place where we can never stop growing is in our struggles for social justice.
Because each of us, regardless of our race or culture, is a victim of implicit bias, we will always and forever more be subject to the messages our society constantly sends us. Therefore, when our thoughts, beliefs, or inclinations are challenged, we must refrain from taking this challenge as a personal affront. Making statements such as, “Well, I took a workshop (a class) in equity because I believe in social justice,” as a defense in a conversation about equity is counter productive to the goal of social justice. We must continue to take workshops, continue to listen to others to evaluate what they have to say, and continue to analyze our new learning. Taking a workshop, a series of workshops, or even a class does not make us experts. One class makes us think about equity and social justice for the duration of that time, but that can never be a match for a lifetime of subliminal, biased messages we are subjected to before, during, or after the workshop. We have to keep challenging our thoughts and biases. This means looking for new opportunities such as reading books on the topic, attending new workshops given by different people and organizations, and listening to others in conversations about social justice.
Furthermore, constant growth is important for all of us as nobody is inherently an expert on social justice issues. Ibram X. Kendi, a BIPOC historian of race and systemic discrimination, talks about his own constant growth in the field in spite of having grown up victim of the socially fabricated hierarchy of race. Similarly, being BIPOC ourselves, being an immigrant, being second generation, having adopted children from another country, being married to a BIPOC individual, having marched in the Civil Rights Movement (of the ’60’s or the 2020’s), or any other such experience does not make any of us inherently experts or not needing of further study. On the other hand, this is not to negate the wisdom each of these experiences has imparted upon us or the lens it gives us to understand social justice issues.
Growth in Dual Language
As Dual Language Education is a social justice movement, our need to constantly grow as DLE educators is also important. Cheryl Urow and Karen Beeman (2013) give examples of three, fictitious teachers, each of whom have certain strengths and certain areas for growth. First, they speak of a teacher who grew up and completed her education and teaching certification in a country where the target language is spoken. This teacher’s strengths lie in her ability to teach reading in the target language and her strong foundation of academic language in the target language; however, she may not be as familiar with regionalisms in the target language from other countries or socio-economic groups. While she herself is an immigrant, she may not understand the struggles of transcultural acculturation that young immigrants or second generation Americans face. Another teacher who grew up bilingual in the United States and therefore, may be more exposed to issues of transcultural acculturation and even regionalisms may not have the academic language in the language, the knowhow of how to teach beginning reading in the target language, or the same facility to speak without consistently translanguaging. Finally, there is the teacher who learned the target language as a World Language and therefore, has a strong love for the language, who therefore does not know how to teach beginning reading in the target language and may struggle to understand immigrant culture. And all three might not have had the opportunity to study Dual Language pedagogy through university preparation.
As DLE teachers, we want to do what is best for our students, to close the opportunity gap for our Emergent Bilinguals, but each and every one of us has our strengths and room to grow.
So for the new year, let us accept that it’s okay for us to have that room to grow and commit to continual growth. Whether we choose to read a book on social justice or attend a workshop in Dual Language Education, let us dedicate ourselves to continual growth. And let us listen to each other and rely on each other so that we can in fact stay on that path of perpetual learning.