Friday, February 27, 2009

Finding Qualified Bilingual Teachers

So your district wants to start a language immersion program or you want to start a charter school with an immersion program. You may find yourself with a big problem. No, I'm not talking about funding, although that can be a big problem too. I'm talking about hiring qualified, credentialed, native-speaking teachers. It may seam easy but it isn't. Yes, there are a lot of Spanish speakers in the US but that doesn't necessarily translate into lots of Spanish-speaking teachers. The same is true for any language.

As I have mentioned before, in order to become a teacher one must receive a BA, complete a course of study to become certified and pass several exams, all conducted in English. Now this makes a lot of sense if the teacher will be conducting class in English but teachers in immersion classes are not conducting class in English. They are using French or Spanish or Mandarin or any other myriad of languages. Most of the teachers of these languages speak English just fine but not at the level necessary to pass exams and write academic papers.

Now, if your child were in an English only classroom, would you be ok with a teacher who had the equivalent of an 8th grade level in English? A teacher who didn't know how to spell properly, couldn't write and made frequent grammar mistakes? Due to the English language requirements for getting a teaching credential, many of the most qualified bilingual teachers are unable to teach in the US. I do want to mention that there are those bilingual teachers who are credentialed and who have an appropriate level in the language of instruction but far too often that is not the case. Some bilingual teachers have never taken a formal class in their native language because they grew up in the US and were not fortunate enough to have been provided with a bilingual education.

As more and more districts begin to expand their number of bilingual schooling options they are facing the need to hire qualified teachers. Such is the case in Maryland where language immersion programs have been poping up. Finding the right people doesn't seem to be the hard part, its getting them certified.
"We don't want to diminish the certification, certification is very important," said Bill Reinhard with the Maryland State Department of Education. "But there are ways of speeding certification along."

Providing flexibility in teaching certification, the task force hopes, could help schools utilize the language talents of first-, second- or third- generation Americans.
Yes, we are going to need to reevaluate how we certify our teachers and create ways for getting around the language barrier facing many of our most qualified immersion teachers. However, with increase of bilingual programs we just might be able to produce our own bilingual teachers right here in the USA. Wouldn't that be great.

See full article here.

4 comments:

madre said...

Not only would it be great, it opens up a whole new task force and employment opportunities for those educators with the vision to notice that bilingual education is on the rise. The need must be met...and soon!

class-factotum said...

I had a hard time finding a job where Spanish was required. I was told there were plenty of native speakers in Miami, where I was looking. Although I am not a native speaker, I had lived in Spanish-speaking countries for nine years, starting when I was five and had been learning Spanish in school since I was in kindergarten.

I finally learned to say, "I have studied Spanish formally. I have had 12 hours of upper-level college Spanish. I have studied the grammar. I speak proper Spanish. I have heard the native Spanish that some of the people here speak and it is bad Spanish. They have never had formal instruction."

I finally got a job that involved working with Latin America. :)

Liza Sánchez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liza Sánchez said...

Class-factotum, I would actually consider you a native speaker of Spanish and English since you became fluent before adolescence. Children who learn another language at such an early age are learning it the same way they learned their first. It is, in fact, another first language. You're also right that Miami may be different than the rest of the country in terms of Spanish speakers. I have not spent time there but the community is likely different there.