Embracing Bilingualism in the Classroom: What Role Will You Play?

The nerves kicked in when Papá pulled into the parking lot. This school was enormous; would I be able to make any friends? I was ready with new clothes and supplies, but I wasn’t prepared for what followed.


On my first day of 5th grade as a new student at a Florida public elementary school, I was pulled out of class to go to an English-as-a-second-language class. At that point, I was fluent in both English and Spanish, had tested into gifted classes, and was scoring in the 99th percentile on state assessments.

It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now I’m aware that there weren’t that many students at my new school who looked like me. I experienced profiling because of my last name. Not due to any home language survey or test—just my last name. As a new student, I already felt like an outsider, and this made me doubt myself more.

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