This post is dedicated to all the losers out there. Those of us who listen to interior voices that whisper,
“not good enough”
by Jenn Hayhurst
August 11, 2022 was my #G2Great homecoming marking return after an extended absence from Twitter. Mary, who is extremely kind and wise, suggested that I write this blog post since our topic was: Affording Ourselves Professional Grace & Space In Challenging Times. Maybe it was fate, a topic that was heavy on my mind, as schools reopen across the country happened to be the one that would welcome my return to #G2Great. Seneca once said, “Fate leads the willing and drags along the unwilling.” If this is true, then call me a happy follower.
During my time away from social media, I learned three important lessons that I have to share with others who find themselves in need of both “grace” and “space” during these challenging times:
#1 Value Friendships
This may seem like an obvious one, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s easy to take even your closest friends for granted. Another thing to consider; sometimes, when we are stressed, we surround ourselves with “friends” who may not be the best choices. So take stock in your friendships by asking: “What support are my friends giving me? How are they helping?” And then, “Am I being a good friend in return?”
I put out a call inviting friends prior to the chat. I wanted to touch base with my friends who spread positivity and brilliance:
It is my happiness to share and promote all the good work these remarkable humans are contributing to the world right now:
@juliewright4444’s beautiful new @BenchmarkEdu book
#2 Be Present
When times get rough, it is so easy to start chasing worrisome thoughts. Then, inevitably, a myriad of distractions set in causing us to lose focus. Aimlessly scrolling online looking for solutions for what to teach tomorrow. When really, the answers we seek are being revealed to us every day by the children we teach.
Whatever, you are doing: teaching a lesson, serving in a committee, or joining a Twitter Chat, be present:
This one goes out to our newest teachers, if you are feeling “off balance” during instruction, leaning in means you are learning something. Keep going, reflect and focus on what is happening in the present:
#3 Take Action
So long as we live, there is always a choice. Our actions matter, and either contribute towards positivity or negativity. Sometimes it is a kind gesture:
Sometimes it working towards a vital cause:
During challenging times, do something to contribute towards the “good” because every action matters. Leave a generous invitation to everyone you work with that you are there to help, leave every door open:
In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how we decide to play this game of life. It’s not a spin of a dial, it’s the actions we take, once we consider our options. What example will you set? We are what we do, and what do we think. Really, there is only you and what you believe. What will you decide to let in this school year? This school year, I am opening the door to: being thoughtful about my friends; making a practice of being present by honing my ability to focus; and taking actions that lead towards positive solutions. Let’s get to work, and have a wonderful school year. Never forget you were always enough.
Words matter! Within this book you will see these words a lot: whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual. (Word count from preview copy: 37, 39, 141, 220, 326, 695) The authors deliver with their focus on: multilingual, translanguaging, strength, and bilingual when discussing the needs of students at the emergent stage of learning an additional language. It will be important for you, the reader, to deepen your understanding through Cecilia and Laura’s viewpoint.
A translanguaging vision of reading posits that reading starts with the person. In other words, the multilingual person does not read in one language or the other, but rather brings his or her whole linguistic repertoire and social repertoire to the text. Reading cuts across named languages, modalities, and experiences.
Rooted in Strength: Using Translanguaging to Grow Multilingual Readers and Writers ( p.68)
This is a book about teaching for teachers that will help put bilingual students at the center of instruction. “You don’t have bilingual students in your classroom?” you say. Well, it is highly possible that you will eventually have students who identify as bilingual sometime in the future. Start planning now for your response. Your response to the ideas in this book will help you grow and practice seeing the “whole” in the multilingual folks in your own community. This book is bigger than just a “teaching book”. It’s an invitation to continue growing and learning both professionally and personally.
We asked Laura and Cecilia to respond to some questions in order to ensure that we included the author’s view of this text. I feel compelled to begin with this one which is usually the third and last one.
What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep inmind?
Teaching is an intellectual journey that pushes us to confront and renovate our understandings of students and their families. When we center instruction on emergent bilinguals as whole people, we do just that – we engage in the difficult, but rewarding work, of equity-based teaching. Every teacher can do this! It’s about having an open and curious heart and mind. Meaningful change in literacy instruction starts with the recognition that emergent bilinguals need to come to our classroom whole (with their languaging practices & socio-cultural histories). A translanguaging stance challenges us to embrace a radical departure from too long held deficit views about bilingualism. There is great power and potential for innovation and creativity when we build on the strengths of emergent bilingual students. This book is for all teachers who count emergent bilinguals as part of their classroom communities, those in general education, English as a new language, and bilingual education.
Many professional books are vying for your attention. Full disclosure, this is an infomercial. If you are seeking more because you have worked on individual skills or mentor texts, this book will give you ideas to consider, implement and reflect on their use as you encounter bigger views of instruction AND assessment for emergent multilingual students. You will be amazed how you can focus on and celebrate what students CAN do with an open and curious mind. The following quote is about writing, but it’s also true of reading. The deficit perspective has got to go!
A second author question that we use at #g2great …
What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?
This book emerges from our professional and personal experiences as educators of emergent bilinguals. First, we were frustrated that most of the professional literacy texts we read, always kept emergent bilinguals at the margins. We wanted to bring them to the center of all literacy instruction. We also wanted to bring a stance – translanguaging – which has become more known across educational circles – into active dialogue with teachers in a way that would be practical and inspiring.
We wrote this book knowing that for teachers, one of the greatest pleasures is to see their students deeply engaged in using reading and writing as tools for thinking, expressing, wondering and knowing. As new teachers we always looked for strategies to engage our emergent bilinguals – students who use two or more languages in their daily lives, in rich, thoughtful literacy practices. We also wrote this book with equity in mind – we know from experience that all pedagogy needs to be rooted in the fact that emergent bilinguals’ full participation as readers and writers is fundamental to any classroom where all students deeply engage in literacy.
Our hope with the book is that teachers see themselves as capable and excited to teach emergent bilinguals and that they understand how all students’ language practices are a key element to their success. We also want teachers to feel empowered through translanguaging pedagogy by understanding how they can shape literacy learning experiences through their deep knowledge of children.
Over 20 % of Americans are multilingual and are speaking more than one language at home according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Link) That compares with 56% of Europeans. Some experts propose that over half of the world’s population is multilingual. To be competitive in the world proficiency in another language or two may be required.
In the past many educators have been led to believe that teaching English as an additional language requires extensive training beyond a classroom teacher’s repertoire. Cecilia and Laura posit that it’s not about the specific skills of a teacher, but more about their own mindset, beliefs and actions.
The third and final question for Cecilia and Laura …
What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers willembrace in their teaching practices?
First and foremost, literacy instruction for emergent bilinguals must be focused on the whole child. If we are truly committed to literacy instruction that is transformative and equitable the identities and full capacities of emergent bilinguals need to be recognized, incorporated and built upon as essential to all literacy instruction. It matters that we take a stance of strength and that we normalize our students and their families languaging practices.
Additionally, literacy and literacy instruction are never neutral. As teachers we have the power to privilege certain identities, histories, and language practices, while silencing others as substandard.
The theories we hold regarding how emergent bilingual children develop as readers and writers impact and inform our instruction in powerful ways. We need to create opportunities to value and to build on each and all of our students bi/multilingual resources.
In Conclusion …
As a result of reviewing Cecilia and Laura’s answers and the post this far, you have had more opportunities to interact with these words: “whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual.” Maybe you are confident in your knowledge and are now at the curious stage. What might be some next steps? Being rooted in strength may be easy for educators with a growth mindset. But let’s shake the cobwebs off and dig, and dig, and dig. You might consider where and how to begin using this list as a guide.
Be reflective. Take time to pause, to consider, to reflect, to review your status quo. Begin with your own knowledge of these words individually: “whole, grow, multilingual, translanguaging, strength and bilingual”.
Consider the impact of your increased knowledge for students in your classroom, building, district, and community.
Place one student at the center and consider the whole of your knowledge about what that child can do.
Study translanguaging principles (Chapter 1). Collect some translanguaging models with a range of formats. How will translanguaging solidify the strengths of the student from #3 above?
Study the possibilities for a multilingual learning environment (Chapter 2). How will the student from #3 thrive in this environment?
Deepen your understanding of reading and writing assessments that are always double jeopardy for language learners (Chapters 6 and 10). What new information would be available about the student in #3?
Study reading and writing (Chapters 3-5 and 7-9). How is your new learning increasing the effectiveness of the student you are planning for from #3?
Grab a friend as a thought partner and get started! Your students will benefit!
How do we tap into teacher empowerment? This is a question that I have thought about for a long time. It has been my experience that empowered teachers draw on knowing the curriculum, having an understanding for child development, and a knack for setting attainable goals with students that help their students recognize their own inner stores of power, but I wondered what other teachers had to say on the matter. On September 16, 2021 #G2Great began a conversation about tapping into teacher empowerment, and after reading through the Wakelet it became clear to me that GROWING A CULTURE around empowerment is really the next frontier.
What if we actively created a culture that was built around teacher empowerment in school? I imagine that it might be like this, teachers come to school believing that their thoughts and decisions will make a positive impact on the collective good. Every faculty member would know that their expertise would be held in the highest esteem. From where I stand, teaching is already the best career there is and if it were possible to work in a culture that tapped into teacher empowerment, it would be life changing for our profession and our students. That is something worth fighting for, and here are some ways we can begin to make a shift towards tapping into (a culture) of teacher empowerment.
Listen to Teachers
Building a school wide belief system stems from an ongoing conversation about how students learn best. Once we have that vision, we can begin to align our beliefs and we can promote a shared voice in the materials that we put into the classroom. One way to promote ownership is to let teachers decide what kinds of materials reflect the shared vision. Teacher autonomy would stem from having a voice and choice about classroom libraries, based on the needs of their classrooms.
Promote Intellectual Curiosity
It is a goal of many to take a student centered approach to teaching and learning. It is also important to extend that same stance for professional learning for teachers. Having choice in the kind of professional learning that is received is very empowering. We need to follow the teacher lead when it comes to learning because each teacher has a different need. Peer facilitated coaching is another way to promote empowerment because having the freedom to visit a colleague and learn collectively is the kind of on the job training that promotes professional growth while tapping into teacher expertise.
Take Action Through Agency
The culture of school does not always jive with the concept of agency. There are so many tasks teachers are asked to complete at school that suck up time and effort. Our focus becomes a checklist of “have to’s” rather than time spent cultivating the craft of teaching. It is hard to feel inspired to take action when obligatory duties take over. We can strive to make this better. Everyone has to submit lesson plans, but rather than submitting lesson plans prior to the lesson, submit them after with teacher reflections written in the margins. This encourages deeper reflection while giving administration a better view of what is happening in the classroom. What went well? What failed? What did you learn? Innovative solutions are out there, let’s devote time and energy to making it happen.
Begin Good Conversations
One tenant of #G2Great is that we believe we move from “good work” to “great work” in the classroom (Howard 2012) when we continue to read and act on professional learning. A school culture that embraces a teacher’s desire to learn and try something new is one that is made to tap into teacher empowerment. Every week, I learn so much from the teachers I work with and the teachers I know through social media. Risk would be a badge of honor, a marker of courageous learners who are trying to outgrow themselves. This would be a culture that would be worthy of the students we teach everyday.
Never Lose Sight of What is Possible
The culture we live in school is in some part a reflection of ourselves. What if? Two common words that have an uncommon ability to power real change. If you find yourself wanting more, and dream of tapping into your own sense of empowerment; don’t wait, you can make the difference.
On June 27, 2019 #G2Great hosted the chat, Learning Celebrations Showcasing Reflection on Process and Product. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations, and I think there is more to this topic than meets the eye. I mean on the surface, a celebration is a good time and that is certainly a motivator. Dig a little deeper, examine what is being celebrated, and we get a sense of collective identity, what is believed, what is valued within a community.
What if schools cultivated a day-to-day celebratory spirit when it comes to learning? That would mean, celebrations that were not just reserved for special occasions, but were present in students’ learning every day.
Imagine how joyful it would be to embrace a celebratory culture! A whole faculty dedicated to finding the “good” and putting their collective energy towards student growth and learning in a very public and meaningful way. As I read through #G2Great PLN members’ comments, I could get a sense of what that would be:
These tweets were so revealing, and I found myself feeling completely inspired. These teachers are all celebrating their students in profound ways. Each tweet honors and celebrates students’ efforts by elevating their participation, their work, and their process. Each time students are celebrated, their identity as learners becomes a little more formed. With each acknowledgment, the message is sent, “Yes, you belong here. You are worthy of attention and praise.”
Once students believe that they are valued, that they are seen and understood; then, they can begin to learn with a sense of agency. Part of this work is to teach children the language of reflection so they may set meaningful goals. When students are setting their own goals, and are motivated to achieve them, learning in and of itself becomes the main event:
If celebrations reveal beliefs, I have to wonder, how do my beliefs promote a celebratory culture? I believe in kids. Not just some kids, or those kids, but all kids. I vow to celebrate that belief in the upcoming school year. I will celebrate each student’s brilliance, and this will be my number one priority. Every day I am with my students I will be a celebration – of them.
Teachers are getting ready to close our classrooms for summer, and begin to open our minds for deep reflection, and planning for future goals. On June 2, 2016 #G2Great asked teachers everywhere to ponder their practices more closely: Looking Back on 2015 2016:Reflecting on the Past to Enhance Our Future. As I consider my personal impact during the school year, some nagging questions begin to cycle through my thoughts: Did I do enough? What could I have done differently?If only I had a little more time, maybe I could get to that next thing – whatever that thing may be. Can you relate? If you can, I feel as though a good story might help put our hearts and minds at ease.
Dottie Hayhurst is a petite efficient woman who has a knack for making things grow. Each year she works with diligence to plant her tulip bulbs in the fall. With deft determination she nimbly digs deep holes and places each bulb with great care. She considers many things: Will the colors compliment each other? How far apart should the bulbs be? Where will they get the best light? How should they be arranged so that they enhance the flagpole, the driveway, the walkway? Then she tucks them soundly into the ground, she tends to the soil, and finally she lets time do its job. By the spring her garden is just lovely. Joyful growth colors the world to celebrate spring. Dottie’s garden offers up tulips to the world as a beautiful tribute to her dedication over time. She makes the world better one tulip at a time.
A garden needs time and constant care. This is also true for teaching. Honing our craft is a slow and steady process of reflection and goal setting. There are days when students’ learning seems invisible to us. Having a vision paired with professional experience helps us understand that growth is happening below the surface. No matter how committed we are to student growth, for many children that growth happens on its own clock.
Our impact can have an opposite effect too. We can set children back, not even realizing what we’ve done if we’re not reflective. We must reconcile the challenges of our own practice and the time and development of children. Our response to that truth is to be fully present and mindful, to find ways to measure growth.
Let’s celebrate the idea that students are always becoming. Especially when they do not have the self-awareness to know this for themselves yet. Make a promise to show them all the great work they have done and will do based on all the great work they’re doing now. When we have an unwavering belief in students we are giving them what they really the most.
So as each of you look back on the 2015 -2016 school year, reflect on these questions:
How did I make my students feel about themselves?
What evidence do I have that shows I made a positive impact on their lives?
What do I know about this child as a learner?
Every child should know they are unique and are worthy of all our attention and high expectations. It’s as simple as saying, I believe in you. They need to hear this whether they are in elementary school, middle school, or high school. We are not here to “fix” children but to learn alongside them. We cannot be the teacher we hope to be in the coming school year if we are not open to learning. Learning about students is the only way to them grow. In the 2016-2017 school year, let’s make the world better…
How can we use read-aloud as a springboard to reading, writing and thinking? This was the question that sparked the first of a #G2Great four part series: Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. Our chat on April 21, 2016 has come and gone but I am left feeling refreshed and renewed as I begin this post. Even though educators came to this conversation from different points in their careers, everyone learns from each other. What does this plurality of thinking offer us? Clarity. It is that clarity and our ability to respond to our own questions about read-aloud that help us to maximize our professional potential.
Q1 How can we more intentionally frame read-aloud to increase student engagement in ways that maximize our instructional POWER POTENTIAL?
Takeaways: Real engagement is not show and tell, it is experience and learn:
Read-aloud energizes engagement through student interests
We elevate our students’ status and create relevant experiences
We move away from compliance towards ownership
We create readers who love to read
Q2 What do you look for when using read-aloud as a flexible instructional springboard?
Takeaways: Stories and ideas flood students thinking through read aloud:
This creates an intellectual and social context for learners
Reading aloud opens pathways for communication, to promote deeper understanding
Making room for students to talk, draw, or write is a scaffold to express abstract thinking in tangible ways
Q3 Read-aloud is a powerful framework to build language & vocabulary. What can we do to intentionally enhance those goals?
Takeaways: It is our own questions that help us to grow:
Begin by starting with texts that you love, then find out what your students love. How do we use this fertile ground to grow relationships?
Instructional planning is organized around meaning making. How do my students learn best so they can access this text?
Whenever we stop the flow of the story be mindful of the enjoyment factor. How do I use the structure of different genres to select my stopping points and demystify the author’s craft?
Build vocabulary lessons from context to allow students to practice and transfer. How can I use the classroom environment to promote transfer for all students?
Q4 Peer collaboration and sharing is a crucial aspect of read-aloud. What is your favorite approach to bring readers and books together?
Takeaways: Read-aloud is an experience that we can use to structure meaningful collaboration:
See students for who they are and let their interests drive them
Plan in options for collaborative learning
Use kidwatching to gather formative data
Q5 How can we integrate writing so the writing will elevate the academic AND emotional experience of the read-aloud?
Takeaways: When I put these tweets together it’s pure instructional magic:
Reading multiple versions of a story reveals the author’s craft so students can attempt to transfer learning to their own writing
Considering what a student decides to write about reveals their perspective to us while promoting engagement
Q6 Varied flexible reflection options after read-aloud allow us to create a more personalized experience. What options do you offer?
Takeaways: Read-aloud and reflection work hand-in-hand:
Give students options to make a choice for how to reflect: written, partners, groups
Don’t let this dynamic learning end in elementary school. Middle schoolers need instructional techniques like turn and talk to engage their reflections too
Q7 Based on #G2Great chat tonight, what is one instructional shift you will make so that your read-aloud is more intentional?
Takeaways: Teachers are willing to modify their practices based on their own learning. Professional collaboration allows us to fine tune our practices:
As I reflect on our #G2Great chat on read-aloud I am reminded how important it is to collect students’ thinking through: anecdotal note taking, reader’s notebooks, post-its, and exit slips. I use each of these things to look for patterns in their thinking. This is live data that can help me to differentiate and drive comprehension instruction with even greater intention. My collaboration with Jill DeRosa a third grade teacher in my building, elevates my thinking around keeping the child at the center of all we do, by asking the question: “Where is the child in all of this?” We responded to this questions in two recent posts, Unlocking Each Other’s Potential and You Can’t Do This Work By Yourself
Each Thursday night #G2Great teachers from all over the world come together to do the work that we need to do to become more skilled at our craft. To think about ways that will help our students thrive and grow. Thank you for helping me to think deeper and longer so that I can continue to grow my practice. As each of us grow together, it is our students who reap the benefits of our collective learning.
How do teachers get to the most meaningful work in their classrooms every day? When we answer this question, all students thrive in an environment that is engaging and that promotes responsibility within all members of the learning community.
On January 21, 2016 #G2Great chat focused on creating nurturing learning environments. In Chapter 4 of Good to Great, Mary Howard reflects on what highly effective teachers do. She echoes Ellin Keene, who notes that these teachers are extremely focused in “acknowledging that excellence in classrooms is a never ending process of professional learning”. Mary elaborates on how highly effective teachers learn from research by synthesizing ideas into practices that meet the needs and experiences of their current students. When teachers integrate what they know about their students with what they have learned about best practices and the research they have examined, it comes together to create organic and authentic spaces for all students to flourish and to get to the work that really matters.
On a recent visit to a second grade classroom’s literacy block, I noticed a behavior system being utilized that I have seen in many other rooms. Each time the students transitioned into a new activity, the teacher gave out little green stickers to each child, which were then taken by students to a wall chart where they waited in a line to place their sticker next to their name. Each transition took six minutes!
When debriefing afterward, the teacher made a point of saying how well behaved her class is this year. In fact, we discussed how the only time there were even the slightest bit of behavior problems was when the stickers were being handed out and children were awaiting the completion of this process. She wondered aloud that perhaps the reason they behaved so wonderfully was because of the stickers. We reflected together on it again. We decided that perhaps these students don’t need this kind of monitoring. The only time they were disengaged, seemed bored or started interacting negatively with one another was when the stickers were being distributed. After some discussion, the teacher realized her students didn’t really need this system. However, they were required to have a behavior modification system in place in every classroom.
When initiatives are mandated without allowing teachers time to deconstruct the purposes for putting them in place, systems are created that don’t always make sense for the setting. When teachers are searching for ways to find more time for interactive read aloud, independent reading and writing, they do not need to be spending six minutes each time they transition to hand out tokens.
How do teachers find effective ways for students to feel engaged with their learning without compromising the ideals about what it means to be an integral part of a community? Rather than teaching students about what material objects they will get for behaving, we must model, discuss and promote what we each bring to our classroom environment. We do this by preserving the precious limited time we have by focusing on the work that really matters.
Erica Pecorale is a literacy educator, coach and consultant to school districts on Long Island. She is the Director of Teacher Education and is an Assistant Professor at Long Island University at Riverhead.
My hope is that more educators will make the choice to become connected in 2016. Whenever I bring up Twitter to my colleagues who are not connected they inevitably say, “I just can’t get the hang of it.” or “I tried it but it I don’t know what I’m doing.” and the favorite “How will it help me as a teacher?” I get it. Twitter moves quickly and it can be hard to figure out what it is, and what it really offers us. However, Twitter’s impact on me has been profound, it has shaped 2015 into a year of daily reflection.
I’m far from perfect. Many times I try to do something new and I fail, and then I fail again. But failure doesn’t define me because I am a learner. Now that I have Twitter in my life I can share my experiences and learn from others who embrace failure for the sake of learning. They understand that through failure we explore a better future for the students. If we stray from students we are going in the wrong direction. This has to be my take away reflection of 2015.
It’s been a year since we began the #G2Great chat and now more than ever I am feeling the impact of having a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Twitter allows me to share my thinking in the company of others and for others to share theirs with me. Thinking through this plurality sharpens my lens as to the kind of teacher I have been, and the kind of teacher I aspire to become. The teachers who join in the chat each week bring perspectives that are shaped by experiences and shared values. They are what connected educators call my “dream faculty.” These are people who I admire. I wonder what would it be like to actually work in such a district, although now that I have taken Twitter to a new level it feels as though they are always with me. Their advice and passion lingers long after the chat ends.