Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Unsplash
By Monica Brancheau
Getting pulled out of my kindergarten class to go into another room is one of my first memories. This happened once a week; it was just me, another kid, and a teacher. I remember the other kid being different. Another early memory of mine is being teased by my cousins because they couldn’t understand me.
Both of these experiences, and probably others I don’t remember, caused me to stop speaking Spanish. You see, Spanish was my first language. When I was born, my mom only spoke Spanish, so that’s how she communicated with me. As I was exposed to more English over time, I began to speak English as well. There were times when I’d mix the two languages together in a sentence—maybe I’d say a couple words in Spanish and a couple in English. In effect, I spoke “Spanglish.”
This was why I was put in a special education class in kindergarten. Back in 1979, my school didn’t have ESL classes. I don’t think the school knew what to do with me. Being bilingual was not valued the way it is today; the diversity of language and experience was not encouraged. Unfortunately, there are many places where that’s still the case. I sometimes think that if my school or others in my community had valued my bilingualism, maybe I’d still be bilingual today.
When we as a community can celebrate our differences and lift up and learn from one another, we become richer as people. No two individuals are alike, whether their differences can be seen or not. We don’t have to remove a person’s unique threads in order to make a good communal tapestry; in fact, the tapestry is more beautiful when all of our multicolored threads are intact.
Monica Brancheau is a mom of four who has had multiple careers. She’s a Michigan native and graduate of the University of Michigan who then never left Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience working with children’s issues, from education to non-profit work in teaching in urban settings and non-profit management, marketing, and fundraising. All of this work has led her to becoming the Director of Strategic Partnerships of the ChadTough Foundation. When not working, you can find her gardening, reading, writing, listening to music, and spending time with her treasured family.