Working with Waltham Family School starting in my junior year of high school sparked my passion for language equality. Being in this school allowed me to see a grassroots organization in motion even if I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t really until the end of this class when we looked into grassroots organizations such as this one that I really started to understand what we meant when we talked about knowledge. I’ve heard the saying “knowledge is power” before, but that really clicked when thinking about what we know about grassroots organizing and urban education as it pertains to dual-language learning. Each author we read stressed the importance of instilling knowledge into the community without being overbearing as well as allowing them to realize the knowledge and potential they already possessed.
I now see what it means to spread knowledge. Knowledge stems from teaching and not telling. It means giving members the skills they need while EMPOWERING them to take direct action in their own lives which was one of Ella Baker’s leading principles. At Waltham Family School, the teachers spread knowledge by teaching their students English. While I was there, I saw the confidence grow in these incredible mothers as they began to learn more of the language. I saw what it meant to feel empowered, and it was incredible and inspiring. Once students go through these dual-language programs, they possess a new form of knowledge (language and culture) that allows them to further spread their voice, ultimately giving them more power. They hold more power and control of their education as well as of how they share their wonderful ideas with their community.
Also, there is not necessarily one leader in grassroots organizations. Since they stem from the community, it is the people that drive it. The people drive it because as we learned from Ella Baker, it is the people that know their own problems the best. For organizations such as Dual Language Education of New Mexico, the people running it are primarily bilingual educators who have direct experience with the topic at hand. This direct experience allows them to know the ins and outs of the problem so that they can come up with a solution that benefits their community the most. Those that have the most at stake should have the most control over the organizations. Each member holds a little share of the organization and knows that what they are doing is making a difference because they are a part of something greater than themselves. They are a part of a group that shares the same goals and hopes which is the glue for these grassroots organizations.
I think another major learning that I have from this course is that organizing can be big, small, or anywhere in between. It doesn’t have to make national headlines (although, it can). All that is required of organizing is that it brings together a community around a central issue in order to make a difference. For dual-language learning, organizing can be those members of Waltham Family School that saw a need for the increased teaching of English and created a local program. A local program that helps those members of their community that are directly affected. It can also be groups such as Progressive Waltham that work to advocate for educational rights in their community. From looking at the various types of dual-language grassroots organizations, I learned that there are many ways to organize around the same issue. Although they may take different forms, they still all hold the same goal of increasing English proficiency so that members can further participate and advocate for themselves in their communities.
Dual-language learning also contributes to acting as a solution to the achievement gap that is often present in urban schooling. We learned in our class that a lack of resources often contributes to this gap. When schools or communities implement dual-language programs, they can help to make sure resources are distributed to kids from all racial and socioeconomic statuses. Additionally, these programs are unique because they maintain the native language of their students. Not only is the language continued, but all students continue to learn about the culture associated with that language. Learning the same content with different cultural lenses helps students to develop more enriched perspectives while leaving them more empathetic learners and humans. They then enter their communities empowered and ready to speak up for what means most to them and their loved ones!