Lived experiences of bilingual and special education teachers of Spanish-speaking emergent bilinguals with disabilities: The impact of the students’ intersectionality on teachers’ practices

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Emergent bilinguals (EBs) with disabilities are in an intersectional gap; that means that on the one hand, they are learning a second language and on the other hand, they have learning challenges resulting from their disability. The implication is that the interaction between their disability and second language learning may impact how they learn and show what they know. Data have indicated special education teachers lack skills in socio-cultural and second language learning approaches (Gonzalez et al., 2021; Jozwik et al., 2020; Park et al., 2016). Bilingual education teachers are not sufficiently trained to provide special education interventions (Martínez-Álvarez, 2020). As a result, EBs with disabilities receive inadequate instruction leading to poor performance outcomes. Few studies have investigated teachers’ experiences in this space between special education and bilingual education with the purpose of improving instruction for EBs with disabilities. There are even fewer studies about teachers’ experiences working with Spanish-speaking EBs who are caught in this intersectional gap. The purpose of this study was to investigate how bilingual and special education teachers described how the intersectionality of Spanish-speaking EBs with disabilities impacted the teachers’ practices. The overarching research question was: How do bilingual and special education teachers of Spanish-speaking EBs with disabilities describe the impact of the students’ intersectionality on teachers’ practices? Clandinin and Connelly’s qualitative, narrative inquiry method (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) was used to collect and analyze data from the narratives of four teachers (two bilingual and two special education) of Spanish-speaking EBs with disabilities in elementary schools. Using the Zoom video platform, the researcher conducted two individual interviews with each of the four participants, using a structured, open-ended interview protocol. The researcher selected the four participants in the study through a purposeful, convenient sample design based on their role as certified teachers of EBs with disabilities from elementary schools. The researcher utilized member checking to enhance the trustworthiness of the data. The researcher then analyzed the data for emergent themes. The findings revealed seven emergent themes across all participants’ experiences, including that of the researcher, who by virtue of the narrative method, could not remove self from the participants’ narratives. The themes included: (1) teacher unpreparedness, (2) challenging and complicated practices, (3) good collaboration among teachers, (4) insufficient planning time, (5) language of instruction belief influenced preferred language for teaching, (6) confusion over unclear policies on language of instruction, (7) and inequitable instruction of EBs with disabilities. Overall, the findings suggested that participants may need more support and training within the space of disability and second language learning to adequately teach EBs with disabilities.

special education teachers’ experiences, bilingual education teachers’ experiences, teachers’ unpreparedness, English learners’ intersectionality, emergent bilinguals with disabilities, English learners with disabilities, inequitable instruction, inadequate resources, language of instruction, culturally Responsive education, teacher collaboration, educational policies, teachers’ planning time.