Archive for bilingual education

NABE’s annual conference – Feb.3-6 – Denver, CO

The National Association for Bilingual Education is holding its annual conference this Wednesday, February 3rd until the 6th in Denver, Colorado. I’ll be presenting as part of the World Languages and Cultures Special Interest Group (SIG) on Thursday. During the presentation, I’ll review research findings on the different communication styles, value dimensions, and cultural behaviors and beliefs that can help us develop intercultural awareness in the classroom. I’ll focus on what is relevant for educators to help them work more productively with their multicultural classrooms. We will also discuss common cultural misunderstandings and share practical strategies to overcome them. The objective of this presentation is to help parents and educators develop mindful intercultural communication skills.

It’s been fun putting the presentation together because it brought me back to the excitement I felt at the beginning of my degree. The first time I came across this research – during my Master’s program – I realized how different the French and American cultures were – and it was reassuring to me – because as a “hidden immigrant” – someone who looked like most people in my 7th grade class in New Jersey back in 1982 – I struggled for many years trying to figure out why some of my behaviors and some of my values and assumptions clashed with mainstream America – A lightbulb went on, and I could look at the strengths and weaknesses of each value system and I could stop feeling like I had to be one or the other.

I became bicultural and that’s what I hope for – for all the kids today who relocate to the U.S. and find themselves straddling two cultures. We want them to become comfortable as bicultural or even multicultural students. As they learn to integrate different cultural values, beliefs, and assumptions, they naturally develop a broader definition of identity. They learn not to define themselves by a little box on a census form, but rather by the many layers they deem relevant. Ideally, our children will learn not to box people in either and not impose limits on how others identify themselves, and instead, become open-minded to different perspectives, and mindful during conversations with others who come from a different cultural background.

That’s a future that makes me hopeful.

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