The day we’d been awaiting for finally came: first day of school at Franklin Language Academy’s dual immersion Spanish class. Camila, my husband and I had been getting all the essentials like the backpack, lunchbox, name tags and such ready, but we had also been gently reminding the girl that this school would be different than her Montessori preschool because it was all in Spanish. I even took her with me on a trip to Cancun last week where she got to visit her cousins so she could reconnect with them, but also with the language she was already rebelling about.
I have to admit, though, that all the preparation and encouragement didn’t really calm her nerves, although she did a great job at hiding them.
The whole familia of three, walked into the school yard at 7:40 am to check out which of the two Spanish Kinder teachers Camila had been placed with. We found her name under Sra. R’s class (withholding full name until I get permission to use it!) and we walked over to where her group of eager kindergartners awaited under the scorching August California sun. The first girl we met was from Colombian decent, spoke Spanish to us and her name was also Camila! To our right, a couple from Spain were snapping away pictures of their girl next to Sra. R’s Kinder Spanish Class sign. She also spoke Spanish. Then a sea of boys came in and the lively chaos began.
Next to Sra. R’s Kinder Spanish class were groups of kids forming to enter their classrooms for either French, German, Italian or Spanish. I relished from looking around and checking out the beautiful diversity in the school yard. Languages, skin colors, styles, countries all co-existing in one school. In awe.
After a welcome from the Principal and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, while teaching my girl how to place her right hand over her heart, Sra. R announced it was time for the kids to form one line and follow her to their classroom. Parents could walk next to them, kiss them goodbye at the door and then watch them go in without us. We did as told, and with every kindergartener step my heart skipped to see my girl so willing and anxious to start this new phase in her (our) life. What I never expected was to feel choked up and be hit with a feeling of emptiness once that classroom door was shut in front of us. That was it. My girl has a new life, and so do we. I’m happy this new life will build her bilingual skills and make her an even more open-armed citizen of the world.
I couldn’t help thinking and being in awe of the parents who’s children don’t speak Spanish yet and trying to put myself in their shoes and how nervous they must be. I mean, Camila understands Spanish perfectly, though she’s been insisting she can’t speak it well, and when I picked her up from school she had a semi-meltdown because she doesn’t want to speak Spanish in school. Or so she says. I didn’t panic, because I figured it was an emotional outburst due to the stress and expectations of the first day of kindergarten. I will admit that it is difficult for her to have a whole conversation in Spanish only, but she will be able to do it in no time. I know she’ll be fine, but even so it’s a nerve-wracking experience and I’m sure it has to be more so for non-Spanish, or whichever target language, speakers.
Would love to hear from parents who already went through this, or are going through it now, and how your first days of immersion school went. Please share in the comments below.
Felicidades, amiga, to both you and Camila! ¡Qué emoción! So awesome that you’re able to give Camila this opportunity in terms of diversity of languages and peoples… I can’t wait to get updates throughout the year as to her progress!
Camila looks excited and nervous! First days of school might feel like starting a new job where everyone has high expectations on you and your “boss” is the teacher, they have to follow new rules and getting tons of information, is exhausting! My son who is starting forth grade next week still has meltdowns once in a while, they need to “decompress” and mami is the most secure ground, expect many more to come…
On a different note how exciting that Camila’s school has more than Spanish immersion! is she going to learn a third language down the road?
I figured it would cause stress on her and also deflated expectations because she tends to fantasize about everything….and then reality hits her!
Starting in first grade she´ll be able to sign up for different after-school programs offered in different languages, so I do hope to expose her to more than Spanish and English!
This chokes me up. I was trying SOOO hard not to cry when my little Celia walked through those doors 4 years ago now ! Can’t wait to hear about how she liked it!
She loves seeing you!
I love this story. My son started kindergarten this week as well and we are so grateful that he has two days per week Spanish. He is not by cultural but we feel it is important that he learn about diversity and other cultures/languages early on in his life. We have an immersion program in our city but it is during his regular school hours or else I would have had him attend there as well. Thanks for the great site.
That´s so great that you want to expose him to other languages and cultures, and you’re actually lucky to have that option at your school!
My daughter’s school starts early—she also started kindergarten in a 90/10 dual immersion program almost 4 weeks ago. She has many bilingual friends, but my husband and I do not speak the language. Although I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and lived in Spain for a few months, I am EXTREMELY rusty and nowhere close to conversational any more : (
I was really nervous, wondering how she would do, but our school spaces out the ratio of students in each class (1/3 English only, 1/3 Spanish only, 1/3 Bilingual) so I knew there would be plenty of other kids in the same situation. I guess I didn’t need to worry, because she came home from the first day of school saying she loved it and she understood “enough.” She was able to tell us what her teacher said and also that she *ahem* got in trouble for playing around on the mat, so apparently she was able to follow along, albeit not with the best behavior (!)
At first she was hesitant to use Spanish or practice it at home, but 4 weeks later and things are going great. My daughter is excited to teach us new Spanish words, and enjoys laughing at my pronunciation. She was reading in English before Kindergarten, but has already begun to read a little in Spanish as well as translate Spanish to English. I also occasionally hear her throw in a little Spanish into conversation sometimes—just this weekend she was playing games in Spanish with her younger brother. I overheard my daughter say, “What do you want to do? Mas juegos en Espanol or should we go back to English?” It’s also been awesome hearing her little brother learning some of the poems she recites for homework!
I am AMAZED at how much she is learning and thriving, and how comfortable with classes in Spanish she already seems to be. Her best friend from preschool is also in a DI program (different school), and is also an English-only speaker so they have been comparing notes. We also discovered that a Spanish-only speaker from her class just moved in right across the street so they have had a playdate already. It was definitely a great decision for us. I’ve talked to several of the parents of bilingual children and they all have said that their kids are starting to speak in Spanish at home a LOT more, so I would bet you will probably experience that soon too. Hope Camila has a great first week!
Lyn, thank you SO much for sharing this story. It definitely helps to hear from other parents and know it’s a process we’ll all go through.
so excited for your family!
My son started a dual immersion program 2 years ago. He understood Spanish but did not respond in Spanish. He did not embrace he Spanish, after his first year he did a turn around. He loved speaking Spanish and helping his non native speakers in class. When he visits his family in Costa Rica he only speaks Spanish even to me and I am a non native speaker, his father is he native speaker.
This is so great! Glad that he’s know embracing Spanish and is even choosing to speak it more. I fantasize that during our next trip to visit familia Camila will be all Spanish!!
Good luck! This is awesome. I read your post about her somewhat rebellion to Spanish during your Cancun trip, and I think that’s pretty common during this age. I think this is where dual immersion schools become so important, because they reinforce the language and make it part of their every day life. They truly become bilingual and biliterate. My niece is also in a dual immersion program in Ontario, CA and we saw the same in her – meaning, when she was 5 she started to rebel against Spanish, but as soon as she entered her dual immersion program, her Spanish has just flourished. It’s been great to see the progress. My husband and I already entered my son (he’s 3) into a lottery for a dual immersion school that’s located near our home and I hope that he too learns to appreciate the language. Good luck with this new chapter!
My son started kindergarten at San Rafael’s Spanish immersion program during its inaugural year. He cried everyday for the first several weeks. In hindsight, I don’t think he was emotionally and socially ready for kindergarten–in English or Spanish. He eventually stopped crying and seemed to adjust but still struggled academically. By mid-term first grade it was apparent to us that he needed more time to develop as a reader. We retained him and he repeated first grade in the program. Time was all he needed. He has blossomed. He speaks Spanish to family members, his classmates, he has high reading fluency in english and Spanish. Even though he was upset about being retained, he is fine with it now. He confidently tells me that now he has more friends and enjoys school. I am so happy to hear him speaking Spanish. Yesterday, at his birthday party, where many of the party guests were his classmates, the kids spontaneously sang a round of Feliz Cumpleanos as soon as they finished the song in English. Felicidades on your journey!
Mi hijo de 3 años esta ahorita en su primer día de primaria en una clase de inmersión en Español del estilo de educación Montessori. El es suficiente pequeño que él no está rebelando contra el idioma, pero tengo el preocupación que el va a empezar muy pronto. Él ya ha empezado a decirme cada persona en su vida y cuales son los idiomas que hablan. Él también acabo de aprender que yo, su querida mamita, no es un hispanohablante nativo como él y yo creo que esta era un choque un poco difícil para él, pero estoy esperando que las dos maestras con más que 25 años de experiencia juntas puedan asegurar que él está cómodo con los nuevos amigos quien están tratando de aprender su lengua materna y apoyen a su autoestima en los dos idiomas. Ojalá que nuestra preocupación colectiva será suficiente para apoyar nuestros hijos y crear una cultura nueva en los EEUU que da más prestigio a Español (y otros idiomas extranjeros también) y los niños bilingües de todas clases y grupos sociales.
The first day (and first week) is always the hardest, don’t forget Ana that even if she wasn’t going to an Immersion school….it’s still Kindergarten and she’s your first… that is HUGE. I ran into friend of mine in the Italian program whose son has been there 3 years, she was still tearing over her daughter (her baby) starting Kindergarten…again it’s huge. My older daughter was nervous/excited on her first day, by the time I picked her up she was in tears from all the little mishaps, a week later she was doing so much better. My 2nd daughter (now in Spanish 4th!) had a tougher time because she did Kinder in English and moved to spanish in 1st grade, the year they started Spanish. Even though she liked her Teacher and knew most of her classmates she was actually mad at me and so frustrated her first day because she felt so behind in spanish (she was reading, writing and very advanced in English at the end of Kinder) Eventually she and her classmates flourished and did so well within months, it was amazing! Remember that even in an immersion school, our kids live in America and are exposed to more English (recess, lunch, PE, home, TV, after-school classes etc…) they will have a preference for English no matter what…BUT they will be bilingual and will be fluent in reading, writing and even speaking spanish (my daughter is living proof!) Hang in there Ana, I look forward to running into you again soon!
Thanks for sharing this story. I look forward to hearing more about Camila’s experience this first year as we are trying to decide if Spanish immersion school would be challenging enough for an already bilingual child as your daughter and my son.
My son began dual immersion Spanish kindergarten a few days ago and now his english is suffering.
Instead of walked he now will say walked-ed. There are more examples of the same nature. Has anyone else had this issue?
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