By: Brad Bates, Head of School
Dublin School is pleased to announce that it has received a $50,000 matching grant to develop and further explore its new World Language Initiative.
Taking advantage of its unique size, strong community and collaborative culture, Dublin School plans to create an intentional focus on world language learning by developing a school wide program with every student studying the same language. According to Head of School Brad Bates, “schools throughout the United States have struggled to launch their students on a path to language mastery despite the best efforts of their language teachers. At Dublin we believe that the process of learning a world language and developing deep cross-cultural understandings are critical to a student’s education in the twenty first century. We believe that true learning takes place when all members of the community are supporting the specific and individual learning process of our students.” Developing this initiative creates multiple opportunities for the School to collaborate around a single language and create programming that will amplify and reinforce the learning taking place in the classroom.
John Gulla, the Executive Director of the E. E. Ford Foundation in Brooklyn, New York commented that the Foundation’s Board saw real merit in Dublin’s initiative and believes it can provide an innovative model for other schools that are dedicated to serious language learning. Bates feels that this mission driven initiative will build on the success of other recent innovations. The success of the School’s recent Technology and Robotics Program, Writing Initiative, and Endurance Sports Program provide practical models for the three-year development of the language initiative. The School currently has one committee exploring the best practices and methodologies in language learning and a second committee developing ideas for extracurricular opportunities for the initiative, including but not limited to ideas around foreign travel, guest speakers, summer reading, optional language immersion housing, and foreign language meals.
Dublin School will build the program around the Spanish language. According to Bates, “Dublin School has a long history with the Spanish language and we believe it is a cognitively accessible language for a majority of our domestic and international students and provides access to a diverse group of Spanish speaking cultures both domestically and internationally. Of the School’s four current language offerings 81% of the students take either Spanish or Latin and the School is exploring opportunities for continuing Latin in other parts of our curriculum. While all new students will take Spanish next year, current students will be supported in the languages they are learning now. All recent hiring in the Language Department has been done with transparency around this initiative. I understand that something is always lost when considering a new path, but we firmly believe that this new approach will allow us to overcome some of the significant challenges poised by the daunting task of helping students learn a foreign language. When we asked ourselves if schools like ours are doing the very best to teach foreign languages, the answer was no. We believe this path is the right step in an exciting direction.”
The E.E. Ford Foundation grant must be matched by an equal $50,000 sum that must be raised by December 31, 2016. According to the grant, Dublin School plans to use the money to develop a foreign language travel program, to support professional development for the language department, to support optional Spanish language learning for the school’s staff, to help the School build connections with outstanding language teaching colleges, to support student and faculty travel to Spanish speaking countries, and to explore optional language immersion housing on campus for upper level language students. Bates believes that, “while some students may only take the required two years of Spanish, we are creating the opportunity for the serious language student to potentially take an upper level Spanish course along with history and literature courses in Spanish, live in housing where only Spanish is spoken, travel to a Spanish speaking country, and graduate with the skills to learn any language while developing a deep understanding of foreign cultures.”