by Francisca Sánchez, President of the CABE Board of Directors
Two years ago, I wrote When I Dream/Cuando Sueño. The central theme is that of having visionary leadership to ensure a sustainable world for our young people — a world where all their gifts and talents can be realized. Unfortunately, today, too many of our English Learners are being deprived of such an opportunity. As educational leaders, however, we can change this. We can dream big dreams for our English Learner youth. Through our efforts, we can ensure that English Learners achieve and sustain high levels of academic, linguistic, and multicultural competency and are successfully prepared to thrive in the 21st century.
While these are big challenges, we mustn’t forget that we do already have many of the answers, that we do have resources. In fact, right now, in some of our schools, we have programs in place that are yielding world class English Learner results. How can educational leaders and committed parents build on these programs and resources?
Will this be controversial work? Absolutely. Any effort that turns the status quo on its head is controversial. As English Learner leaders, however, our leadership role should include standing out in front of the controversy, relentless in our efforts to create the sorts of excellent educational environments that guarantee that English Learners will succeed in and beyond school. This requires that we develop multiple, connected ways of demonstrating local leadership that yields global results. We can play a tremendously powerful leadership role by adopting specific leadership strategies in three areas: policy, support, and advocacy.
As we work with our school boards and staff, we can, for instance, help them think about strategies for POLICY leadership that should include establishing “multilingualism for all” as a priority goal. This would certainly fit in with what business leaders are telling us we’ll need to compete in the global market.
We can engage our board members and staff in dialogue about how our own schools can provide SUPPORT leadership by showcasing success in local innovative programs for English Learners. This will lead to greater community-wide support for local efforts that yield results.
And with regard to ADVOCACY leadership, we can encourage our boards and staff to be overt and explicit advocates for the types of programs that accelerate and sustain achievement and develop 21st century skills, including multilingual competency. By becoming advocates of this type, we can ensure that programs and approaches that work are recognized, supported, and expanded.
After all, as Nobel Prize-winning scientist Ilya Prigogine once said, “The world is richer than it is possible to express in any single language.” To a remarkable extent, it remains in our hands whether our English Learners will be able to both contribute to and partake of those riches. So, let’s dream a better world for them where they can do exactly that.