All Souls is a member of Boston College's TWIN-CS, a dual language network for Catholic schools across the nation. As a TWIN-CS school, All Souls offers two language immersion tracks. In fact we are the only Catholic school in the US to do so with Spanish and Mandarin. My daughter is enrolled in the Mandarin strand. Neither my husband nor I speak Spanish or Mandarin. This is where I got a lot of questions from family and friends. Wasn’t it enough that your daughter speaks three languages? Won’t it be too much for her to take on another? Then there was the dilemma that I was facing myself (yes even me!) we don’t have anyone immediately around us that speaks Mandarin. Mandarin also uses its own characters! Additionally, this would also be the third set of characters that my daughter would have to learn (English/French, Arabic, and Mandarin). As her parents were we willing to put even more onto our 4 year old? We decided to forge ahead and give it a shot.
As in all TWIN-CS schools, the class dynamic is made up of native speakers and language learners. This was another aspect that I was a bit concerned about. Would my daughter be at a disadvantage since she would be with all those native speakers? I very quickly learned that the answer to that question was no! Not at all! The way the program is created is to enhance the language of the native speakers and to completely introduce and nurture the language learners from A to Z. Through Teacher bi-weekly emails informing parents about what students are learning about in class and different take home activities and updates I have never felt lost or confused when supplemental learning activities are sent home in Mandarin. YouTube links are sent out in order to practice songs and pronunciation. This all made sense to me when I realized what the culture of the school is based on and what really the dual language program in the archdiocese is also built upon, and that is the Growth Mindset. For those of you who are not familiar with Carol Dweck’s theory on Growth Mindset I highly recommend you take a look at her TED talk.
Dweck’s findings can be summarized as such: “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset, those who believe their talents are innate gifts” (Dweck, Harvard Business Review, 2016). In the TWIN-CS network, students are asked to be lifelong learners, ever growing their mindset not focusing on perceived areas of aptitude. This is how it is at All Souls. No one has ever told me your daughter is not good at this or that is always how can we get them there.
The proof came to me one weekday evening in the Ikea cafeteria. My husband, my daughter and I were enjoying a great dinner of those incredible Swedish meatballs when all of a sudden our daughter picks up her tray of food and informs us she would be back in a couple of minutes. My husband and I looked at each other dumbfounded. Where was she going? She quickly disappeared around the table separators. As we looked up to see what she was up to we saw that she had made her way to the table where an Asian American family was sitting (Mother and daughter, around Magdalene’s age, and a baby). Just then we heard Magdalene ask the mom if she spoke Mandarin. After the lady had informed her that she did but her daughter was still learning at home Magdalene asked her if she could join them. Our daughter than sat down and proceeded to attempt to hold a conversation with the family in Mandarin! My husband and I could not believe our ears! After they had finished their conversation and parted ways I asked Magdalene what made her go over there? She looked me straight in the eyes and said “well mom, I need to practice!”
Now not only have I been fortunate enough to be a part of the TWIN-CS Network as a parent but I also have the privilege of joining the Network as a school administrator. I focus on the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Math) portions of the curriculum and looking at these topics through a Dual Language lens has been amazing!
During the 2017-2018 school year for the first time we implemented Math into the partner Language (Mandarin and Spanish) for the 3rd and 4th grade. At first the program appeared to be challenging for the students, especially when they were trying to complete the homework in the other language. Math was challenging enough but Math in Mandarin and Spanish for primarily English speakers!? This transition required all hands on deck, a parent, teacher and administration meeting was set in order to see what was happening with the homework and what the parents were seeing at home. It was then decided that a homework audit would be set in order to monitor the students homework completion and for them to vocalize what they were struggling with the most. Once all the data was analyzed we were able to decipher that content acquisition was not the issue, after all Standardized testing scores had improved since we implemented the Math program in the target language! What was stumping the students was the decoding of nouns and decomposition of sentences. Once this was identified we were able to implement strategies within the lesson and teach certain skills in order to get the students over these hurdles. Ever since then homework completion and acquisition has improved significantly.
As a parent, as a teacher and as an administrator if there is one take away that I have gotten from the true spirit of dual language immersion is the fact that we are all in this together. In this day and age where continents are connected with lightning fast speed through the internet and business is no longer conducted in your neighborhood but globally I know that I want to give my children and students the best possible chance in life to grow and participate in our every expanding society. For me I truly believe that this is made possible through a dual language Catholic program where students not only learn how to speak the language but also learn about the culture and how to truly love their neighbor. For me the TWIN-CS Network offers our kids the full package and dual immersion is the future of our education system. So why not get one step ahead and give your child this advantage today?
About All Souls World Language Catholic School
All Souls World Language Catholic School provides an innovative and competitive educational experience that promotes global awareness through dual language immersion in Spanish/English or Mandarin/English. The school is committed to science, technology, and mathematics, and is dedicated to the Catholic tradition. Grades: TK-8. To learn more, please call 626-282-5695 or visit the school website: http://www.AllSoulsLA.org