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Bilingual Education

September 08, 1986

I would like to add a different point of view to the article by Papadakis.

I, too, am concerned about the little Spanish-speakers that come to my second-grade classroom. So much so, that, seven years ago, I volunteered to teach in the bilingual education program that was being initiated at my school.

My motivation was simple. I was frustrated with my inability to help the little 7- and 8-year-olds from Mexico. I would watch them as they slipped farther and farther behind their English-speaking peers, because they lacked the language that was in use in the classroom. They could neither read, write, speak, nor understand what was going on around the.

Day by day, the hope of learning faded from their eyes. The bilingual program held out a hope that the Spanish-speakers could keep up with new concepts (taught to them in Spanish) while they learned to speak and use English.

Here is what the bilingual program at Mar Vista School accomplished. Little "Juanito," struggling to read in English the previous year, found that decoding was simpler in Spanish; and hooray! he could now understand what he was reading! And now, he could write his stories in Spanish--so much easier to think and write his thoughts in a language he knew. (In third grade, his Spanish reading and writing skills would make it easy to read and write in English.) Science and social studies took on new meaning. And he was not receiving daily instruction in spoken English. You can imagine the boost to Juanito's self-esteem to realize that he really "belonged" in this school! That the school had a program that fit his needs!

I realize that bilingual programs are difficult to organize and to staff. Good programs require dedicated teachers, well-trained classroom aides, a sensible plan and direction, and total support from administration. Remove any one of these ingredients, and the program fails.



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