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New course offered providing students with skills to work in ESL/bilingual education

Students will engage with organizations in the Waltham community and in the ESL/Bilingual education program to learn more about the context of education and how to approach teaching individuals who have grown up in a bilingual environment, in a new course “Waltham Speaks: Multilingualism, Advocacy and Community.” 

“A very important goal for me is that both students and the organizations feel like they are gaining in some really tangible way,” Professor Rachel Kramer Theodorou (ED) wrote The Brandeis Hoot in an email. “Whether that is in the form of strong support for kids and families and/or if the class leaves my students feeling motivated to do more in the field of education and community work, I’d feel delighted!” 

The course will be taught in a hybrid format and rather than just having lectures, class time will involve active learning strategies using Google Jamboard, Padlet and Google slides. There will also be many guest speakers and many opportunities to ask them questions. In addition, students will also complete assignments analyzing how bilingualism is perceived by the media. 

The class also requires that students do four to six hours of work each week interacting with families and children through Google Meet and Zoom and engaging in specific volunteering opportunities in the Waltham community such as through mentorship in Waltham, after school activities, community building in homerooms at the Waltham Public High School or adult education of English, among others. 

Students will also engage in an internship in which they will select a semester-long service project that they will work on to serve a specific organization in the Waltham community. Students will be given feedback every week and supervisors in the organizations they are involved in will aid them in their project. 

Theodorou explained that the moms at the Waltham Family School are the reason she decided to create this course. She previously advised a few moms at The Waltham Family School weekly and talked to them about their families, their dreams for the future, the hardships of moving to a new country as a parent and the changes that could be made to the Waltham educational system and support system within the community. 

“I am a white, mostly monolingual person and I am increasingly aware of my privileges in and out of my University life, and keenly sensitive about a ‘white saviour’ portrayal I may convey,” Theodorou wrote to The Hoot. “It’s a work in progress to be able to share theory, research, pedagogy, and my own personal experiences working in and around Waltham from these aspects of my positionality.”

Theodorou explained that she hopes the class can be a space where she can “step back” to make space for students, especially multilingual students, “to share perspectives and action steps toward more inclusive community organizational work.”

This class will require lots of introspection in order to work towards methods that will provide multilingual youth with better opportunities. Theodorou hopes that through spending time involved in organizations supporting youth and families, students will gain the experience they need in order to create meaningful change in other communities. She hopes that students will understand how to work with multilingual individuals so that they can be successful in the future when working in ESL or bilingual education. 

“I’m excited to show my students more of the behind the scenes work Waltham community organizations and the public schools are doing to support but also amplify voices of multilingual children, youth and families,” she wrote to The Hoot. 

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