DRAFT: How many of us speak a language other than English?

On Thursday, September 15, I coordinated an Equity Training session at Pioneer Elementary school in New Haven Unified School District in California. Equity is understood here to mean doing what it takes to undo or redress the inequities of schools and society to ensure equality for everyone. Equity is the Approach. Equality is the Goal.

Usually the participants in these training sessions are classroom teachers and administrators. But this time the participants represented all grades and all roles: kindergarten to 5th grade classroom teachers, paraprofessionals from general ed and special ed, custodians, lunchroom supervisors, the principal, and family service assistants.

The mixture of staff provided varying perspectives that helped us in our understanding of equity. We learned about the sometimes hidden or ignored assets and strengths of our colleagues and how to use those assets to help all students succeed. 

For example, there’s one particular student that some of the traditional classroom teachers find challenging at times. A few of the support staff members shared that they’ve known this student for most of his life and have a good connection with him. They also speak his native language. 

Those who speak a language other than english with their hands raised.

Those who speak a language other than english with their hands raised.

In fact, when I asked how many of us in the room speak a language other than English, most of the people who raised their hands were ________. The traditional classroom teachers saw this disclosure as an opportunity, and the topic of English language learners drove our discussion and conversations about equity. This diverse group of professionals began to see each other as allies who, working together, could do more to influence students.