As an extension of important work on behalf of CLEAR, we attended the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) Annual Conference in Anaheim earlier this year. With over 5,000 attendees focused on the needs of English Learners and multilingual/biliterate communities, one of the highlighted celebrations was the overwhelming support by California voters of Proposition 58 during the November 2016 elections. This support allows California public school districts and school sites more opportunities to implement multilingual/biliteracy programs. As a result, this will also provide a choice for parents and the opportunity for students to access language programs to be better prepared and be more globally competitive for the 21st Century workforce.
Having been raised as native Spanish speakers, and acquiring the English language as we began our schooling experiences, being amongst thousands of equity warriors of culture and language was a validating and enriching experience. One of the main event keynote speakers, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, whose work focuses on culturally relevant pedagogy, talked about the complicated manner in which race and language are conflated to delegitimize students’ cultural histories and practices. She also spoke to the new iterations of youth culture that young people are breaking to create new forms of cultural expressions. She encouraged those who teach students to work towards developing and implementing effective pedagogies that are sustainable. Listening to the words of this highly respected and renowned scholar re-energized us. Dr. Ladson-Billing’s message resonated and validated what our lived experiences as second language learners and children of immigrant families, we have encountered. The current educational and political climates have explicitly revealed how some, whether individually or collectively, feel about second language learners; many who come from immigrant families or are immigrants themselves. Even more so, many instances have overtly revealed the sentiments towards undocumented students and their families in our educational institutions. For many of us living in this diverse state, these are personal attacks on our families, our histories, and our communities. At the same time, these are the very conditions that create a time of great opportunity to come to the table, and to together work in a forward moving fashion towards creating a more socially just and inclusive future for the communities in which we live and serve.
For anyone who has ever known what it is like to learn a second language [when you are still learning your first], it is a very complex task; it is daunting, confusing, and time consuming for those learning and those teaching. When students are asked to leave a language behind, they are being asked to abandon their identities. As children, this conflict can be described as one of the many experiences of trauma; although when one thinks of trauma this may not be one of the experiences that first comes to mind. Children experience trauma in many different forms, and being asked to leave behind a language, that is very much integrated within a culture, it is indeed that, traumatic. As we continue advancing the work of CLEAR, it is critical to work collaboratively through conversations that will result in the creation of sustainable policies along with guidelines and supports that students need in order to succeed in our schools and communities. This is a task the students we serve are counting on us to engage in and implement fully. If not us, who? If not now, when? We are pleased to know that many of you have already joined CLEAR in this journey, and invite anyone contemplating… to join us in these efforts. We need each other in this important and timely work.
Adriana Cervantes-González, Ed.D. and Jesús González Jr. , Ed.D.
California State University, Fresno – DPELFS Cohort 6
CLEAR Advisory Board Members
The California State Board of Education will approve guidelines and regulations concerning Proposition 58 July, 2017. More information and resources on this topic can be found at: www.gocabe.org