Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's time to make language mainstream!

I just reviewed a new feature from ColorinColorado - it's a great new blog supported by the AFT, Common Core and ELLs that focuses on implementation of the Common Core and ELD standards.  My thought was, "Hooray!" our day has come and this is the perfect opportunity for us to integrate language into what everyone is doing.  I'm currently working with local ELL experts to develop an ELD standards implementation plan - and of course - we're recommending that the ELD standards be developed as part of the Common Core standards work.  It's still in draft stage, but I hope to share more as it is developed further.  I'd be interested to know what others have done to implement ELD standards and if they've been able to use them effectively with mainstream teachers.  It's time that educators recognize that anything labeled ELL does not belong exclusively to bilingual and ELL teachers - they are students who deserve access to a high quality education and that will only happen if we all work together.  Consequently, all students will do better with the support of a comprehensive educational team and in the words of the late MN senator Paul Wellstone (10 year anniversary of his death 10/25/12) -  "We all do better when we all do better."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I'm worried about the teaching profession...

In my capacity as a professional development specialist, I have talked to many teachers from different districts and schools.  I have observed many classrooms and heard many stories about the day-to-day reality for teachers.  I'm worried.  Many teachers are tired.  Downtrodden.  Overwhelmed.  Frustrated.  Overworked.  Under-appreciated.  Feeling helpless.  Stressed out!  I know teaching has never been easy - honestly - how many professionals (or anyone) would like to babysit 25 children, much less be with them all day and also be responsible for their learning.  Teachers don't have a problem with that - they can do it.  In fact, they are "called" to do it.  Most of them feel very passionate about meeting the needs of their diverse learners  - they went into teaching to make a difference - and they DO!  However, the kind of difference they make is not necessarily measured on a standardized test.  Sure, some students will improve academically and the goal is for ALL students to improve academically, but kids need more than that in order to be successful.  Many students, from all socio-economic levels, need adults who care about them, who listen, who are kind and "get them."  I recently had an opportunity to drive some 6th grade boys to a Scouting campout.  I took the opportunity to quiz them about their schooling - What classes did they like?  Which teachers were the best?  Which were the worst?  Why?  No surprise - they liked the classes they were good at and they liked the teachers who inspired them.  One boy said he liked his teacher because, "He jumped on a table once."  They all had stories about having "fun" in the class, but that it wasn't too rowdy.  Basically they all described teachers who liked them and worked creatively to help them learn.  Isn't that the bottom line?  Don't we all learn better when teachers are happy and relaxed?  We never want to take our eye off the ball and lose sight of the fact that all students need to achieve high academic standards, but it's a no brainer that everyone, both students and teachers, learn better in an environment that is free of pressure, negativity and unrealistic expectations.  I want ELLs to succeed and in order for that to happen, teachers have to have the time and support to address diverse linguistic needs within each content lesson.  Will that be possible in the current learning environment?  What will make things better?   These are questions I'm thinking about quite deeply and I'd be very interested in any insights you might like to share.  I'm very worried about the teaching profession.....

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Danger of a Single Story

I'm taking a class on authenticity in multi-cultural childrens literature and came across this fascinating video clip on the Ted Talks website.  The TED website is so cool you can waste hours browsing talks by fascinating, famous people with new ideas to expand your mind.  In this case, a Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie gives a talk on, "The Danger of a Single Story."  She describes in personal ways how other's beliefs about her culture were fostered by a narrow knowledge of Nigeria and therefore, her.  She also describes her own learning about how we all need to develop the desire and ability to learn more stories about others.  She quotes the Palestinian poet Mourid Batghouti, "If you want to dispossess a people start with "secondly".   Start the story with arrows of the Native Americans,  and not with the arrival of the British and you have an entirely different story."  She underscores the power inherint in storytelling and influencing beliefs about other cultures.   "Stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.  Stories  can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity."  So - take a moment to check out this thought provoking piece and think about the stories you've read about other cultures.  What did they tell you?  What more do you need to know?