Why write this Blog?
Having worked for more than 20 years in the educational sector, I could confirm that pedagogy is more an art than a science, and as such, requires a perennial practice full of kindness, passion, and creativity. Teaching is a craft full of constant challenges as varied as the number of students and the circumstances that surround us at the time of practicing it.
For several years, I worked as a teacher in various educational institutions in Venezuela (my home country), but I faced real challenges the day I had to work as a bilingual 5th-grade teacher at a school in North Texas. It was a grueling first year. I felt extremely frustrated upon realizing that after what seemed endless days of work, most of my students still did not understand the basic concepts that I had tried to teach them for hours. It was right then that I recognized the enormous challenge of having to work with children who speak only Spanish while having to teach the rest of the class in English. Especially when it comes to subjects—such as Science and Math—which are heavy in the academic vocabulary. I also felt unequipped when I saw the material provided by the school to teach in Spanish. It was poor, to say the least, and the final product of what appeared to be a rushed and literal translation completed online with a technical and academic vocabulary full of errors. That was my first year as a 5th-grade bilingual teacher in Texas. A year where just 20% of my students passed the state test for science (Reading and Math showed similar percentages). A year in which I felt I was a ‘bad teacher,’ with all the pressure and emotional strain this involves. It was a disastrous year, but I knew that I should and could do a better job as a teacher.
By now, you are probably wondering, If you’re such a ‘bad teacher,’ how is it possible you are writing a blog for teachers. Well, I write it because that’s not the whole story. The other part of the story is, because of that reality and frustration, I embarked on a quest to find a solution to that problem. And that’s how I managed to identify the educational strategies that allowed 100% of my students to become successful on the state tests, thus becoming the teacher of the year and dedicating myself to supporting educators in the use of best practices for effective teaching. Over the recent years, I have had the opportunity to train over a thousand teachers in different states, and I have created different materials and educational systems to support teaching in both languages. In this blog, I will try to summarize the essence of those workshops and training sessions so I can share it with a larger number of teachers. If you are interested in increasing the levels of participation, comprehension, learning, and performance of your students, this blog is for you.
In this blog, I will share with you my experience inside and outside the classroom, along with the required mindset and skills that allowed me to grow professionally and become a successful bilingual teacher. I intend to write it in a simple way to tell the story of what has worked for me over the years as a teacher. You will notice that I regularly use the subject ‘Science’ as a reference for the strategies I share with you, but you’ll also observe that those same strategies can be implemented in other subjects such as Math, Reading, and Social Studies. You see, I found the ideal strategies to teach any subject—while looking for a solution to my problem—with the subject of ‘Science.’
Many of the strategies came from using the work of Leonardo da Vinci as an inspiration for my everyday work with the students; also, a simple example—using chicharrón (Pork Rinds)—reminded me of a common-sense approach to teaching. I also incorporate ideas gained from conversations with bilingual teachers during my presentations across the country. I invite you to tailor these ideas to the specific needs and characteristics of your students, your school environment, and school district requirements. Remember that it’s only when we try new ideas that we can expect new and better results. If you apply what I propose in this blog, I can assure you immediate results.
Finally, I would like to continue this conversation through the various social media networks:
But to continue the conversation, we must first start it, so shall we?