Online learning is tough enough as it is. Now imagine facing this whole new world in two languages. Yvette McAllister, a first-grade teacher at Patrick Henry Elementary, is navigating virtual learning in English and Spanish along with the rest of her colleagues at Patrick Henry and the five other Dual-Immersion (D.I.) schools around town.
It definitely comes with unique challenges. Finding resources can be one of the toughest hurdles to overcome. Online videos, worksheets, quizzes, interactive assignments, and general online academic tools are a bit harder to find for a curriculum that is essentially new and unprecedented.
Dual-Immersion schools essentially rethink the entire scholastic process to make sure their students are being taught in two languages. They don’t “teach” their students Spanish. They immerse their students “in Spanish.”
It’s an ambitious mission, but an important one that has the potential to pay high dividends in an ever-diversifying global world.
Ambitions aside, the problem is… in the here and now… teachers are scrambling for online resources that fit into their Dual-Immersion standards. The concept is just so new that online tools are limited.
But according to McAllister, something good has come out of it. Collaboration. More so than ever, the D.I. teachers of Long Beach Unified are working together to share resources, ideas, and help.
McAllister explains that the district appointed a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) specifically for Dual Immersion in Long Beach (Patrick Henry, Bixby, Chavez, Webster, Willard, and Lafayette schools).
“It’s so helpful to have an expert at the district office who is working, helping, and advocating for the development of Dual-Immersion programs and supporting best practices for our students,” McAllister said.
The district has put together a Dual-Immersion Committee that McAllister thinks will have a lasting impact on D.I. programs. This is something she’s really excited and glad about.
“Everyone’s been so inclusive with respect to sharing resources. We’re more collaborative than ever. It clearly demonstrates the power of collective efficacy.”
There is also a technological potential being realized through the school district’s new online platform CANVAS. It has an immersive reader that allows parents to translate assignments sent home just by hovering over the text. It’s helping close the gap on one of the obstacles in Dual-Immersion. Parents want their kids to learn in two languages but don’t always know both themselves. It’s easier for parents to help and support their children when they understand the assignments being sent home.
“The collaboration piece is powerful,” McAllister says. “But also, I think this idea of taking risks - and we as teachers being stretched - comes with this phase of being uncomfortable. We’re realizing ‘oh wow. I learned something new.’ We’re really getting our creative juices flowing in so many ways.”
“As far as things we’ve taken for granted goes, there is the power of a smile or eye contact. The ability to really read a room. I feel like we kind of take for granted all the high 5’s and all the hugs we get from kids on a regular basis. And RECESS. It’s funny because recess duty isn’t fun for most teachers. But man, I miss the laughter on the playground. Those times when you remember kids are kids. It’s hard to see that sometimes when we’re on the computers.”