¡Bienvenidos to all of the new families in the Lincoln Elementary Dual Language Program! It's hard to believe that we are beginning the third year of the popular dual language program at Lincoln. It's just as hard to believe that three years ago, we had roughly 60 children in the inaugural two classes and we now have close to 200 children in the k-3rd grade dlp classes and over 50 students in the Spanish preschool. It is truly amazing and a testament to the community demand for dual language education.
As I watched all the new families enter the school these last few days, I couldn't help but feel excited for them and scared at the same time. It conjured up memories of the first week of our dual language education journey with our oldest daughter Alec. My husband and I felt as if we were taking a HUGE leap of faith, but we knew in our hearts it was the best opportunity for our daughter. So, when I came a across an article posted on Spanglishbaby.com entitled Tips For Non-Native Speakers with Children at Dual Language Schools, I realized that I have a few tips that I think are worth sharing. I hope these are helpful for all our newbie dual immersion parents.
1) Be confident in your decision to enroll in a dual immersion. As most parents know, children are very intuitive and they pick up on almost everything. If your child senses your apprehension, it's more likely that he/she will become apprehensive. I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't have questions, concerns or doubts; however, I would bet that you all have done your homework and your research on dual immersion programs. You chose this program for a reason, believe and trust in your choice and give it a fair shot. The only reason a student has voluntarily left Lincoln's dual immersion program after the first year is due to a major relocation of their family. In most cases, those families have found and enrolled their child in a dual immersion program where ever they have moved to.
2) Don't feel like you have to become fluent in Spanish to help your child with their homework or language acquisition. There's no question that being bilingual parent is a major asset for a child in a dual immersion program; however, the beauty of the program is that is designed for native speakers of both languages. Our teachers are so wonderful and helpful. They truly want our children to succeed and will guide you through whatever assistance you need in regards to homework. That's not to say that it's easy- it is a major commitment. But in the end, isn't it worth it to have a child that is bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate? And, if you are a person who loves learning, this may be a great opportunity for you to brush up on your high school Spanish or learn a few phrases along side your child. But don't be discouraged when your child speaks without an accent and you sound like a total Gringo:)
3) Lean on other families in the program. Over the past three years, we have developed a very supportive and caring community of dual language families. Don't be afraid to reach out to other families in your child's classroom or some of the families in the older grades. I'm confident that there are a lot of families that have experienced what you are going through right now. So, don't be shy. We are here to support one another.
4) Try not to freak out if your child says they don't want to learn Spanish. I have heard so many great stories about English speaking children in dual immersion programs and the funniest things they say. Some children adapt quickly to the non English environment and others take more time to warm up to the concept. If your child is resisting, it's important to realize that resistance is very normal and with support and encouragement your child will adjust. It takes time, patience, courage, strength, and will power to not give in to the child that vehemently resists. But with the right encouragement and support at home and at school every child should succeed in the dual immersion setting.
5) Do your homework. As I mentioned previously, I am confident that almost every parent that chooses a dual immersion program does their research. Now that your child is actually in a program it's important for you to delve even deeper into the most common and successful practices of a dual immersion program. It's imperative that you FULLY understand the 90-10 model and that you become the biggest advocate for your child's education. As you may know, our school holds dual immersion parent meetings 4-6 times a school year and one dual immersion conference. I highly encourage all of you to attend as many meetings as possible and stay well informed. As great as our program is, it is still very new. Our teachers are doing incredible work, but there are a lot of wonderful dual immersion practices that we have yet to implement at our school. The more we know the more powerful our voices are.
There are so many more tips that you can find online or ask any parent of a 3rd grader in the program. On behalf of the Dual Language Program Advocates, I wish each and every one of you a fabulous first year and Bienvenidos a Lincoln!