A Review of the ITBE Fall WorkshopBy Barbara GomezOn October 17, 2020, the ITBE held their first ever virtual Fall Workshop, and it was a big success in the number of attendees and in the high quality of the presentations. Although it was the first attempt at an all-virtual event due to the restrictions around this pandemic, educators from across the states came together to present an excellent workshop. As an older member of this year’s board, I have the special perspective of seeing how things have been done in the past and how we can move forward through these challenging times. This new generation of educators has been meeting the challenges and obstacles of COVID and turning them into opportunities to educate our language learners, not only in Illinois, but in other parts of the United States. Distance learning has challenged all of us to be better teachers, even though we really miss the social interaction of our students.
From our keynote speaker, Karina Zuno-Chapa, I learned that her enthusiasm has helped her to overcome many challenges and I could hear in her voice her joy in sharing her knowledge on the topic of revolutionizing language learning in the United States. Distance learning has forced us to bring equity to our student populations, to create more inclusiveness for our special needs students, and to liberate limits that they face. She said, “Language is not a barrier; it is a variable. It is an asset!” I love that! If you did not get a chance to view her TED Talk, please do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMHEygNw6r0 It is true: bilingualism can revolutionize this world!
From Karla Sanabria Vaez, I learned that systemic racism in the United States must end. We must allow our students to speak and write in their own language, free of the boundaries of “whiteness.” Anti-racism means teaching about all cultures and all languages, to allow code-switching, and to abolish what is NOT working! Be willing to study pedagogies that challenge whiteness and injustice. Survival is not enough! The goal is Freedom!
From the SIG meeting that I attended, I learned that we are all struggling with assessing our students adequately and that teachers need to have the support of their administration at all levels if they are to succeed during this pandemic.
From Gina Wells, I learned how to be a better advocate during this unpredictable time and to train our teachers to be more equitable and to advocate for all their students. She gave an excellent presentation on the history of bilingualism in the United States from 1600 to the present, highlighting the landmark legal cases that helped to create language rights for our learners. But despite these legal cases, we still must work hard to ensure equality during COVID and to overcome the lack of resources in many of our neighborhoods, especially in larger cities such as Chicago and New York. How do you become a better advocate? Learn about your local, state, and federal representatives and do not be afraid to write to them, to meet with them, and to speak on behalf of the underserved in your own community.
This is only a summary of a small portion of what I learned from our workshop presenters and I am more energized moving forward to the end of my quarter classes. Learning to be a culturally responsive teacher is not teaching “multicultural education”— it is about allowing students to share their cultures and to be inclusive. As Dr. Kristin Lems shared in her presentation about the arts, teachers can share a little more about themselves through poetry, music, dance, a sermon, or a game. Make jokes, create a collage, videotape a speech, let your students share about all the places they have lived, and ask them to draw or paint a picture and share it with your class. Take a virtual field trip with your students into a museum that might now be closed during the pandemic. Step out of your comfort zone and do something new and different because you will learn more, love more, and laugh more. Education as we knew it ten years ago is not coming back. We have to move forward into the 2020’s and beyond. Our students deserve all our efforts to be better.
Barbara Gomez, M.Ed. is an adjunct professor at National Louis University in Chicago and Lisle and has taught graduate students since 2001. Currently, she is the co-chair of the Higher Education SIG of ITBE.