Every day that world language teachers step into the classroom to inspire and motivate their students to acquire another language, they are advocating for world languages education.
However, just as the language skills that are being developed in the classroom need to expand beyond the confinement of the classroom walls in order to become real, meaningful, and useful, so does advocacy for world languages. In order for advocacy to be made “real, meaningful and useful”, it must not be hidden away or coveted or exalted among ourselves, but rather be shared with those in communities beyond that of the school environment.
Advocacy is part of every world languages teacher’s “calling” to make a difference, to open hearts and minds to cultural and linguistic diversity, and to touch that part of humanity that can be found in all of us! It comes from a place of PASSION, which when we just rearrange the letters a bit, becomes I PASS ON. What will we pass on? We have a choice every day as to what kind of experiences we will create for students and for ourselves and for the profession overall. Will it be positive and empowering or will it be negative and debilitating?
We cannot do it alone. Teachers touch the lives of everyone around us…students, parents, administrators, colleagues, our community, and even the world. To “advocate” comes from Latin, meaning “to call to one’s aid”. So, who and what can we call to our aid to create and promote a better story about the power and positive impact of language learning? For me, the three R’s of advocacy are Research, Resources, and Relationships.
What is the latest research from the experts that can support and inform my teaching and student learning? What are the best resources that I can put in my toolbox to build the most empowering and positive experiences? And finally, how can I make more powerful connections to parents, colleagues, businesses, and community members in my immediate environment and then, around the world to create partnerships and pathways to build bridges of greater understandings to our human community.
We need to stop isolating ourselves, putting our heads down, and hiding away from the reality outside our classrooms because we think others won’t listen or believe or share the same perspective that we have. Passion is formidable, but not passive. I PASS ON indicates action. Sure we love the kids, but our calling is much more than that. We must reach out beyond our classrooms to INSPIRE + EDUCATE + INVITE + INCLUDE those in our communities beyond our doors. Here are some ways in which to do that:
#1- Create a positive world language learning legacy in your classroom that will promote legendary stories to be shared outside the classroom for generations to come! Create experiences for students that are meaningful and motivating; that connect to them personally and to the real world in which they live. Share your passion to ignite a lifelong learning “fire” within them. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (Yeats) Light a fire of curiosity that will fuel their passion to explore and learn more and pass on that “fire” to others.
Create a nurturing environment that allows them to be risk-takers with the language. Empower them to explore content and develop their proficiency more or less at their own pace and in their own way. Help them “own” the language for good!
#2- Promote your programs – share and highlight what your students are doing through newsletters, social media, newspapers, business partnerships, present at conferences, connect with other teachers and schools. Student presentations, that allow all students to “share and shine”. Create opportunities for students to participate in a WL Honor Society, in the Seal of Biliteracy or Global Seal, in cultural events or immersion programs offered through the Language Flagship, or in a local cultural club in your area.
#3- Develop relationships and create WL communities of support and advocacy. Invite, share and connect with parents, colleagues, district personnel, businesses, PTA, local/state/national organizations and your local/state legislators or policymakers, Sister Cities, Rotary Club, international businesses in your area, exchange programs, ePals, or even old-fashioned pen pal programs with schools around the country and perhaps, across the world. Find the cultural and communicative connections in your community, and take students on field trips to experience these connections firsthand. Or bring these community members to the classroom as guest speakers, mentors, and partners in the education of the students. Create a family-like context among your language classes and provide opportunities for students from one language level to mentor and guide those in other levels. Create memories together through cross-level activities and service-learning projects. Foster connections, relationships, and feelings that we are all in this together.
#4- Partner with teachers in your school from other disciplines (art, music, history, etc) to create cross-curricular lessons, experiences, and connections that highlight the relevance and relationship between the subjects. There is so much emphasis on STEM, however, there is still more power in the ARTS of the heARTS of all people!
#5- Hold a school-wide World Languages Awareness Day in which the school announcements are done in other languages, signage around the school is in another language, “translators” are stationed in the cafeteria/media center/admin office/ guidance/attendance to facilitate” communication with anyone who doesn’t speak English as their first language, etc. Invite community members in to share their stories about how knowing another language has positively and powerfully impacted their lives, the lives of others and that of their community. Hold a language field day or a Language Performance Passport activity that involves everyone in the school, not just the language teachers and students.
#6- Hold a district-wide and/or state-wide event that allows world languages students to “share and shine” …a festival, conference, field day, community “hook-up”, a global job fair with businesses who have international connections and whose employees are required to have multilingual/intercultural skills, etc. Reach out to a Language Flagship near you and get involved in language and community cultural events they are sponsoring. Get your school, district, and local newspapers/magazines to cover events your students are involved in. Provide your students with the opportunity to get the Seal of Biliteracy or the Global Seal of Biliteracy or any other recognition/certification such as AP, IB, or AICE that can provide even greater access in pursuit of future college and career opportunities.
#7- Join and partner with professional organizations at the national, regional, and state levels. Most of all, get involved with JNCL-NCLIS by signing up for their newsletter and stay informed and engaged with all language policy actions that start at the legislative level. Meet with your local and state legislators, join their social media and invite them into your world of languages!
We all have a calling and a story to tell, and we always have choices of what that story will be! I PASS ON…hope, heart, and humanity through world languages! What will you choose to pass on? Who will you call to your aid?
RESOURCES FROM VHL WEBINAR – January 2020 Advocacy for All: From the Classroom to the World Linda Markley.
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