A student learning // Stock photo via Pexels
This article is part of A+’s new community-focused blog program, where we are inviting parents / families, teachers, organizations, and students to share their experiences of education in Colorado. This is a first-person narrative and all opinions are those of the guest author.
Cynthia Camble is a Colorado Springs area grandparent, and community organizer. She founded the organization “Loving Our Children,” which mentors and advocates for youth in El Paso County. She also works as a system administrator professionally. She is involved with STAND for Children Colorado, which trains and mobilizes parents, educators, and community members to demand that local and state decision-makers do what’s right for kids.
Hijo, por favor, siéntate aquí. (Son, please come sit down here).
“My words to my child had school staff members rushing to bring me paperwork to sign us up for ESL. As they proceeded to direct me to another setting so I could get registered,” Angelia said.
The young lady continued, with both sadness and anger.
“I’m a US citizen who is bilingual and at that moment I felt attacked and was concerned that my child would be labeled.”
Often this story is told over and over with those unconscious biases. I listened to parents both that have ESL, and those that are gifted to speak many languages feel that their child(ren) are automatically being set up and labeled before they even started the school year. This is one unintended consequence of setting up programs without looking at how it impacts those that are supposed to benefit.
Another parent stated,
“Why do they feel we are inferior just because we speak another language than English?”
A parent overheard a teacher telling a student-teacher to not worry about the BIPOC children, “they need to learn they are less than.”
As the conversations continued, story after story poured out.
It reminded me of two conversations with my own grandchildren. The first one was when the girls were in second grade and kindergarten, they said if they speak Spanish that they are made fun of, therefore they won’t do it in public, and now are not wanting to do it at home. Their mother can speak several languages, and hearing this tore at her heritage. The process in place strips the concept of a “melting pot” America.
Another story of unconscious bias is I was told about a seven-year-old who was told by his teacher that he would be marked off for his homework if he didn’t correctly identify his heritage. This child is an A student, so this upset him. The assignment was to express his culture/nationally and what he liked about it. He wrote, “I love baseball, hot dogs, and I am an American.” The teacher didn’t like this answer because she looked at the color of his skin. The child was confused and came home to his parents, who recognized this as bias and advocated for him to the teacher. Many children don’t express these exchanges with teachers to their parents and become disengaged.
To the educators, legislators, policymakers, school board directors, stakeholders in our children’s lives: What will be your response to the bilingual or multilingual students you meet? Will it be thoughtful, impactful, or will it perpetuate stereotypes that are placed on the student? Will the solutions be measurable and with true change or another Band-Aid attempt that is seen threaded across the spectrum?
Share your voice – Do you want to share your voice about your experience in education in Colorado? Parents/families, teachers, students, organizers, and general community members – A+ Colorado would love to work with you to elevate your experiences. Please reach out to Mary@APlusColorado.org with your story, opinion, or idea.
Bio: Cynthia is a motivational Senior Executive Director and Consultant with more than 20 years of success across the Nonprofit,
Government, and Private sectors.
She holds Concurrent positions as CEO of CC Ink, President of Loving Our Child Inc, Chief Editor of Blended Magazine and most
recently founder of Unchurched