Spanish Lake Elementary partially opened its doors this school year (07-08). When I say partially, I mean 1/3 of the school started at the new campus & the other 2/3s of the students are in portables at other elementary schools. My kids were among the lucky ones that got to start at the new campus. The rest of the student body should start moving in before the end of the year. The school is located in the Country Club of Miami area, a quiet golf neighborhood, that is in the most northwestern part of Miami-Dade county, just north of Miami Lakes & 20 minutes east of Aventura.
Boy, does this school look amazing! It looks more like a high school or college, than an elementary. It is made up of several different buildings, only 3 are currently open. Designed with blue glass, brightly stained concrete floors, tiled walls & stainless steel…nothing but the best for our children. But it is not the cool design, that has me truly inspired, its the curriculum.
What differs this school from others in Miami-Dade County is language! The school is bilingual (English & Spanish). When my 3rd grader heard this, she nearly cried. You see my darling daughter hates the Spanish language. My 1st grade son had mixed feelings, but he has always been more open to learning Spanish. I know some native South Floridians are shocked to hear that a Cuban American mother does not teach her children Spanish at home. I am guilty as charged, but I have a good explanation. My parents are really from Elizabeth, New Jersey, they came into this country as children & were educated here. My husband also American-born and raised by his mother who lived in Chicago & Manhattan before settling in Miami. Growing up my husband & I were not raised truly bilingual, we raised speaking Spanglish. Spanglish is not the same as bilingual & we do not speak Spanish, 100% grammatically correct all the time. However, once we got into the workplace our Spanish polished up & we have even learned a phrases in French, Arabic, Portuguese & others.
Being raised in the cultural melting pot that is Miami/South Florida, my husband & I have a lot of friends from countries all over the world. The one denominator in our friends who have received educations in places like Tunisia, France, Italy, Panama, Israel, etc., is that their schools gave them bilingual & some trilingual educations. Why do children in other countries learn to speak in multiple languages and not American children? Do we think our children are not smart enough to balance more than one language? I for one, think my little Einsteins are certainly smart enough (whether my 3rd grader likes it or not).
As excited as I have been about the bilingual program, I was also concerned about putting my kids at a disadvantage scholastically with their bilingual classmates. I have been pleasantly surprised by the ingenious way the school has initialized the program. Instead of having a Spanish teacher come for a 1/2 hour at a time to teach just Spanish, as they do in all other Miami-Dade elementary schools, this school does not have Spanish teachers. First of all, they realize that the smaller children (K thru 1st) can grow with the program & so their education is bilingual all day long. As these children move forward into each grade, their education will continue to be bilingual until middle school. The older children are already used to a non-bilingual education so they have a more diluted bilingual program. In my 3rd grader’s class for instance, during the first half of the day she has language arts & reading in English only. During the second half of the day she has math, science, social studies & Spanish all taught by one teacher. This teacher also integrates a bit of the Spanish into the other subjects, so that in the future children can solve a math problem or understand a scientific term in the foreign language as well as English. The teacher also understands that the majority of the class is not currently bilingual & that she has to go step by step with most of the kids.
Well, after 5 weeks of school I can report that my kids are enchanted with the school! My darling daughter has even start to utter some words in Spanish, which she was so against doing. My son has started speaking a lot more Spanish & who knows he may start correcting the way I speak Spanish very soon. Spanish Lake Elementary is ahead of the game & I welcome more schools to embrace this program. They not only teach our kids to speak another language, they also put it into practice so that they can think in that language. In the future, all our children may be doctors, lawyers, ambassadors, business owners, future presidents or even Realtors like me & its important for them to communicate as effectively as possible.