La Maestra Bilingue

While I have more or less settled into my “non-teaching” life, the teacher in me still threatens to sneak out on occasion. This morning I woke up in the middle of a dream where I was spending my last day at the school teaching and I was questioning whether I was making the right decision. I do miss my students and the staff. I don’t miss the endless testing and piles of papers to be graded. I really enjoy working for myself and setting my own schedule. Granted, I sometimes don’t get as much done as I’d like to, but I also take time to enjoy life more. I might walk around the ranch for an hour before coming to work in my office or I might just take the laptop outside and work for awhile. Better yet, take a horse-riding break!

I haven’t forgotten my mission to provide resources for bilingual teachers. I have a ton of ideas that have been stewing in my brain for the last year. Some of them are almost ready to come out into the real world. I have a project I’m working on right now that should be available to the public within a month or so. I am really excited about it. I have found a way to create some of the apps that have been floating around in my head without paying an arm and a leg for the programming. They might be a little simpler, but I think they will still be good tools for teachers (and other language learners whether in a school setting or not). Hopefully as I get more experience, they will be a bit more complex and a few more bells and whistles. I’ll definitely keep you up-to-date….hopefully soon I’ll be posting an announcement of where to download my next project!


Posted on: June 29, 2012

My book is available free on Amazon today and tomorrow.  Let me know what you think!

Posted on: June 24, 2012

Most teachers are also book lovers. I enjoyed reading this post!

Two Different Girls

I found this cartoon on a blog the other day. Unfortunately, I can’t furnish attributes, so whoever came up with this drawing, well done. You must love books, too.  

I was offering tips and tricks to my new Kindle owner friend Jason, when I pulled mine out of its cover to look at the back. The cover doesn’t see the light much, and collecting autographs is a bit of a silly thing, in my opinion, but I got in the habit of asking speakers at The Amaz!ng Meeting to sign my Kindle, if I actually had one of their books on my device.

My first signature was Scott Sigler, which I obtained when he visited Houston a couple years ago during a book promotion. My second autograph was Eugenie C. Scott, who is director of the National Center for Science Education.

Other signatures I’ve obtained include

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Oral practice.


Although this post is really written about a Spanish class, this activity can be used in bilingual classes as well.  I personally used a similar activity to help my kids practice their oral English or their written Spanish.  When you add in the writing component, you can focus on spelling, punctuation, writing complete sentences, and other skills.  I found that my students really liked it when I used “silly” pictures.  We would give “classroom money” for really original or creative statements.  The students would decide who deserved these rewards.  Soon the level of the sentences were getting quite complex and interesting.  Later, I showed the kids that putting these sentences together we could begin to write a story.

Bilingual teachers have most of the same difficulties that all teachers share, yet they have more problems that other teachers do not have to face.  Probably the most difficult issue that exists is the lack of high quality resources that are readily available.  Textbook companies are getting much better at providing for the bilingual classes, but most teachers pull activities and lessons from a wide variety of resources.  Sometimes, it’s possible to do a quick translation of an activity and make it work, but more often than not, the translation takes quite a bit of preparation.  Even assuming that the translations are quick and easy, that still adds quite a burden to the bilingual teacher’s planning.  Another issue bilingual teachers face is creating a workable schedule.  They have the same amount of time each day that all other teachers have, yet they are expected to cover the same material, with the same rigor AND fit in a time for ESL.  In my experience, this created quite a juggling act between which lessons could be done in English to facilitate the language learning and not have the students have academic struggles.  One way that I helped fulfill the ESL requirements was to give most basic classroom instructions in English (put your books away, get out your folder, etc).  Even though that was mostly listening comprehension, it was still very simple to assess which students were understanding the instructions. As the year progressed, I gave more and more of the classroom instructions in English as well as including many of the “personal” conversations with the children.  This was not a very formal way to include language learning, but it was one way that I could make sure that the students were being constantly exposed.  I realize that this creates a bit of “code-switching”, but in my experience it didn’t seem to cause the children any issues.  Besides they loved it when I caught myself speaking in the “wrong” language.  I can’t count the times they reminded me, “English, miss, English”.  I’d just laugh and repeat everything in the other language.  Bilingual teachers are also faced with an extra dose of paperwork that has to be completed.  Every state and/or school district has its own requirements, so I can’t speak to all of the different requirements.  However, I know that in my case, I had to conduct several assessments in both languages and fill out several pages of paperwork for each child.  Perhaps the most frustrating situation is when no one recognizes the extra challenges these teachers face.  What difficulties do you face as a bilingual teacher that the other teachers don’t have to deal with?

Coming back to school as a substitute after almost a year has allowed me to see things in a different light.  I have spent my time in this last year working with my husband at his businesses and at my horse ranch.  This last year, I have been a business person instead of a teacher.  The contrast between schools and a business is quite obvious and maybe even a bit disturbing.

First of all, teachers work many extra hours and take on so many extra projects.  Nevertheless the extra pay is non-existent.  Businesses are quickly entering the technology age, but lack of funding causes our schools to be major tree killers.  I applaud the schools that teach the importance of recycling!  There has to be some way to use technology to replace all the worksheets (and maybe even save the teachers some grading time).

I have watched teachers trade paper, staples, and tape in order to get the supplies they need.  Our administrators are having to put limits on the basic supplies in order to balance their shoestring yearly budget.  I imagine that our government offices are not having to barter for refills for their staplers!

Somehow our society has to help our education system.  Most of us agree that it has some major flaws.  We have to find some way to support our children.  I realize this is not a new issue, but this week has served as a wake-up call to me.  Our schools have so many needs it’s overwhelming.  Yet, I’m reminded of the story of the little boy and the starfish.  I may not be able to change the education system as a whole, but I can do something.  If more people will pitch in however we can, maybe we can help spark a change.

To all my friends at school…I love you and appreciate you so much!!!!!  It was wonderful spending time with you this week and I’m so thankful for everything you do.  Hang in there and keep up the excellent work!


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