Submitted by: Matt Hajdun
Date: March 2020
Photos courtesy of Columbus School
With our new tagline, ‘Create, Connect, Inspire,’ The Columbus School (TCS) is beginning its WIDA system journey. At just more than 8,000 feet (2,440 meters), TCS occasionally finds itself immersed in clouds or with spectacular views of the ever-changing City of Eternal Spring, Medellín. TCS is home for more than 1,700 students from preschool (K4) through Grade 12 and around 340 staff members. With 94 percent of students coming from our host country of Colombia, and 98 percent of the student body made up of native Spanish speakers, TCS is building our school culture to embrace the multilingual identity of everyone learning on our campus. Almost 50 percent of our staff are bilingual, with many employees working hard in language classes or chatting in the hallways to develop and/or maintain their language skills while building meaningful connections in our community.
This year, TCS formed a new role – Language Development Coordinator – and has created both a teacher and student committee designed to explore the language learning strengths and needs (both Spanish and English) of all our students. During the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year, we began an Appreciative Inquiry process. We are collecting data through surveys, interviews/focus groups, policy reviews, student work analysis, and classroom observations. With this data, our school is working to build upon its assets and develop a five-year plan that meets the language and learning needs of our students.
To support this discovery and planning process, the WIDA Essential Actions, Guiding Principles of Language Development, and WIDA focus bulletins have served as backbones to our work. We have used the focus bulletins and Essential Actions in designing professional development for teachers, administrators, and families. Our Language Development Team has unpacked the Essential Actions and Guiding Principles during our work to envision our school-wide language policy, our short-term and long-term goals, and to support our thinking in developing the best bilingual education instructional model for our socio-cultural context. As part of this journey, in February, we hosted a WIDA Institute and we will begin to make a determination about how we will include WIDA MODEL in our program by starting with the assessment of 50 students in our middle school and high school to determine how we might best move forward.
We are currently working on a short-term goal on “Embracing Multilingualism” and we leave you with one of the images soon to be on our campus that strives to remind all stakeholders at our school, the beauty of living in a multilingual world!
Image reads: "Ser bilingue es una regalo, and here at our school, I can use that gift every day."