Learning directly from our student’s parents is invaluable - it gives us key insights into their experience and how they can thrive in our district. With bilingual families, this is even more essential.
We are just launching our multilingual program and we held the first meeting of the Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee a few weeks ago.
This past week, I chatted with Guadalupe Oliva-Martinez. The Martinez family have lived in both Mexico and the United States. Their daughters, Atzary and Ingrid, are both in high school. Their son, Edgar, is in third grade. Here are a few of key takeaways from my conversation with Guadalupe!
HINCKLEY-BIG ROCK COMMUNITY
I asked Guadalupe what brought her family to our community and she let me know that her husband’s job brought them here. They specifically had heard about the great school district in this area and were happy to find a home in this community. All of her children started attending school here in the Fall of 2019. Within their family, her daughters both spoke English and Spanish, but Edgar spoke only Spanish.
ADVANTAGES OF BEING BILINGUAL
Guadalupe shared some advantages to being bilingual. She is glad that her children can express themselves wherever they are. When they are in Mexico, her children can fully be a part of the family and culture in Mexico, and they can be fully engaged in the school system in the United States. It is important that they can express themselves and be part of the HBR community. Speaking both languages fluently allows them to communicate with confidence wherever they are.
CHALLENGES OF BEING BILINGUAL
I asked Guadalupe about challenges to being bilingual, and she shared that pronunciation was the biggest challenge her children faced when learning English. They worried that if they didn't pronounce words correctly they wouldn't be understood. Once their pronunciation improved, their confidence grew. Her son did not understand when he started school at HBR why he had to be the one doing all of the work in learning a new language! An additional challenge came in March 2020 with Covid. Edgar had only been in our school for a few months when the shutdown occurred. She was worried that all of the progress her son had made would stop. However, she was delighted at how well her son continued to improve with his English.
OPPORTUNITIES/PRIDE FOR CHILDREN
In her family’s time at HBR, Guadalupe has noticed an increase in the number of bilingual students, especially families who speak Spanish. There is a stronger awareness of the advantages of speaking more than one language. Her children are happy that other students share both of their languages.
WHAT SHE WISHES TEACHERS KNEW
The part I was most interested to hear from Guadalupe’s perspective was what she wishes teacher’s knew about bilingual students. I always want to know how we can improve! She praised HBR for the great experience that her children have had - especially with all of the challenges during Covid. She says students who are learning another language need more time to process their new language. Slowing down and highlighting the main ideas is very helpful.
The story of the Martinez family is now a part of the HBR story. Learning about the connection between languages and the learner’s story can be at the forefront of our goals as we continue to grow as a district. Thank you so much to Guadalupe Oliva-Martinez!
HBR Multilingual Teacher