As educators, we are engrossed in a world that pushes us to critically examine what is. Particularly in language education, we explore the various theories and practices involved in learning new language(s)—or expanding our linguistic repertoire, depending on your paradigmatic stance. No matter our position—whether it refers to our jobs or to an ideological stance—we are advocates. We are thus challenged to understand our diverse roles as advocates, which, as Foley and Valenzuela (2004) demonstrate, come in many forms.
We expand Staehr Fenner’s (2014) definition of advocacy—working for students’ equitable and excellent education by taking appropriate actions on their behalf— by recognizing the importance of including the voices of those most affected by the issues, and not simply speaking for them. The them in this case is a group that we refer to as emergent bilinguals, students who, in the United States, are in the process of learning English as an additional language. Most often, this group is referred to as English language learners (ELLs) or limited English proficient (LEP). However, we know that “ELLs are in fact emergent bilinguals” (García & Kleifgen, 2018, p. 3) since through school (however it is defined, depending on age) and English, they become bilingual, functioning in their home language(s) and English. To ignore their bilingualism is to perpetuate educational inequity by failing to recognize that bilinguals differ from and have unique learning needs compared to monolinguals (García & Kleifgen, 2018). Knowing and referring to these students as emergent bilinguals recognizes bilingualism as a cognitive, social, and educational resource, and has key consequences both for students and for teachers, policy makers, parents, the language education profession, and U.S. society at large (García, 2009). What follows is a compilation of examples of advocacy from our TESOL community in Florida. Because our understanding of advocacy is broad and inclusive, the examples provided range in who participated, in what capacity, and for what duration.
Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (SSTESOL) has become a source of forces for empowerment in advocacy. Its diverse members continue to fulfill their roles in ways to positively impact emergent bilinguals’ language development, cultural development, and academic achievement. As such, they work diligently to help emergent bilingual students succeed while holding schools and education leaders accountable for their performance outcomes. Their voices as advocates for emergent bilinguals and their families, teachers of emergent bilinguals, and the various programs that serve emergent bilingual students are crucial to preparing them for academic success in and beyond the classroom. This chapter sheds light on a few of them, namely classroom level advocacy, policy/legal advocacy, and research as advocacy.
We begin this chapter by providing questions that may be useful to SSTESOL members, readers, and friends. How can I build a purposeful community for language development that leads to positive effects on emergent bilingual learners PreK-12 and beyond? What can I do in my classroom, school, district, college, university and community? How can I collaborate with other non-school based communities and organizations?
Pontier, R. W., Castro Feinberg, R., & Costello, A. (2021). Voices from the Sunshine State: Program and Policy Advocates. Journal of English Learner Education. (13)1. 25-35.
Retrieved from https://stars.library.ucf.edu/jele/vol13/iss1/1
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