Choosing the right bilingual program for you or your family can feel a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, more options are slowly becoming available with the increase in dual language programs, after-school language programs and camps. This series of posts addresses important attributes to consider when choosing a bilingual program. In the most recent post we focused on the need for finding a program with the right developmentally age-appropriate curriculum. This week we address the importance of finding quality bilingual teachers.
#2 Quality Bilingual Teachers
With the growth in bilingual education and bilingual programs, institutions all around the United States are looking for bilingual educators. Many schools and programs are actively recruiting teachers from abroad. Unfortunately, just because someone is bilingual does not mean that that individual will be good at teaching his/her bilingual skills. Teaching is a wonderful but demanding profession. It requires considerable investment in time and training as well as an agreeable personality.
5 key traits of Quality Bilingual Teachers:
1. Able to tailor their lessons and activities according to students’ age, development and different learning style. Having a clear understanding of what is developmentally age appropriate and the various learning styles is only the first step. Being able to execute on that knowledge requires real skill. Effective teachers are both mindful of these developmental and learning differences and tailor their lessons accordingly.
2. Know how to maintain a positive atmosphere for learning. It only takes one student to disrupt a whole class. Maintaining a sense of calm and order while redirecting a disruptive student is one skill that sets a quality teacher apart from others. For example, I once witnessed a teacher pleading and begging elementary students to do a required activity with only half the class paying any attention to her. Later in the day in her desperation to regain control she resorted to threatening the students with extremely harsh punishments (something I found to be on the borderline of cruel). This teacher was clearly unable to create a positive learning environment for her class and in her effort to retake control she actually made the situation worse. Quality skilled teachers are able to address any disruptive children in a loving yet firm manner while maintaining calm and order in the classroom. They combine knowledge with an even temperament to create and maintain a positive and respectful learning environment.
3. Able to establish a good rapport with each student. A recent study shows that the relationship a teacher has with a student has a direct impact on the student’s performance. The ability to personally connect with each child helps to both validate a child’s feeling of self-worth and boost her natural desire to learn. A quality teacher understand this and is willing to take the time to build trust and respect with each student to create this rapport.
4. Able to facilitate effective associations with content and context through meaningful hands-on project and theme based learning. Bringing a new language to life in the heart and mind of the student goes beyond rogue memorization. To be meaningful and useful, a student has to be able to make strong connections through association and context. Effective teachers incorporate project based and theme based learning to help students make these connections in a meaningful way. For more information about project based learning, visit our blog on How to use Project Based Learning to be Bilingual.
5. Able of engage students to ask questions and discuss relevant topics in the language being learned. Creating an environment that not only encourages the students to speak but to also think and generate questions and discussion points about a topic is essential for building fluency and confidence in the language (as well as critical thinking skills). A quality teacher will go beyond having the students recite written material or answer formulated questions by giving ample opportunity for students to provide self expression in the language being learned.
We want to hear from you. Please feel free to add traits that you think are equally important to look for in quality bilingual teachers in the comment section below.