Recently, on a teams I serve on we were asked to take a 'Needs Inventory". The idea was, that the better we know ourselves, the better we can communicate our needs, the better we can know our teammates therefore the better we can work as a team and collaborate.
This particular "Needs Inventory" (there are different ones out there) you could have a need for power, love, fun, and freedom. I scored with having a strong need for freedom, followed closely by fun. Each team member actually had a different set of needs. The inventory was a catalyst for some important team learning but it got me thinking;
How has my need for freedom and fun served me as an educator?
I know that I always struggled with mandated, prescriptive curriculum. It never felt quite right, never quite fit for my students or me. I have always struggled working on teams that wanted everyone doing the same lessons and sequence. It always seemed to take the creativity out of the profession.
This compass, with a need for freedom, served as my due north when it came to differentiation and later project based learning. Years before I had the skills to do differentiation well, I was making attempts. Making (mostly) mistakes. Trying new strategies to ensure that the variety of needs in my classroom were being (or attempting to be) met.
I was ok with the messiness of different learning experiences happening in every corner of a classroom. I was ok with the not all kids doing the same thing. I was ok with the noise and the mess. Kids saw the efforts. Kids saw their needs being heard; even if the learning experience wasn't always quite right. I always wanted to do well, but my need for freedom allowed me to reject the "whispers" of perfectionism that so many teachers armor themselves with.
Differentiation wasn't an event...something I did once a semester to say I did. Differentiation was a stance, every lesson, every day. It was a stance of my classrooms and now a stance of the professional developments that I conduct.
Now of the original team members that I spoke of in the beginning of this post, our needs and ersponalities are all needed to ensure our team runs well. We need the person whose need is power in order to help us meet deadlines and finish projects. We need the person whose need is love to help us take pause and realize that we are in the business of humans not widgets. We need the person whose need is fun in order to make us laugh and not take ourselves too seriously even in the pressure cookers of schools. And we need those whose need is freedom to help us keep our eyes on the horizon of possibilities.
Back by popular demand! Join me this September for "The Co-teaching Adventure: Sharing the Vision for Educational Equity for Multilingual Students in the International Classroom" as part of the ASIJ Learning Series. This workshop will be a two day dive into the co-taught classroom. As requested, this workshop has been extended into a two day exploration. This workshop isn't just for EAL specialists, but co-teachers to explore together. Instructional coaches and administrators are also encouraged to join us. Looking forward to seeing you this September.
Happy New Year! I apologize for the lack of posting. I was in my last weeks of pregnancy when I began writing this blog post and I am now currently on maternity leave.
In September, I had the absolute pleasure of presenting a workshop to educators from around Japan at Nagoya International School. The title of my workshop was A Linguistic Pedagogy of Love: Translanguaging in the International Classroom.
Typically, when I am invited to conduct workshops or consult at schools I charged with the task of giving a very large overview of general EAL mindsets and strategies. This is an important task as many international schools are trying to properly address the instructional implications of the changing demographics of their clientele; a more linguistically diverse student body and/or host country nationals. I applaud schools diving into this work and deeply value their desire to facilitate professional learning for their teachers and meet the needs of their students.
Therefore, it is not often that I really get to dive deeply into translanguaging. It is a topic that I love, as it represents a real intersection of the facets of my field; language, reading, culture, equity. It is the pedagogical stance and decisions that captures the essence of my graduate work from University of Arizona's Teaching and Sociocultural Studies: Language, Reading, and Culture Department. For a quick overview of translanguaging may I suggest viewing:
With educators from around Japan, it was a pleasure to explore topics that included: multilingual brain research, socio/cultural/historical contexts of damaging "English Only" policies, translanguaging instructional and curricular strategies, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and case studies of different language learning contexts that utilize translanguaging classrooms. Educators dug deeply into their own learning, practice, and schools to better understand these concepts and apply them to their context; from early childhood educators to secondary content specialists. They wrestled with the material, exchanged ideas, asked questioned, and inspired each other. It really was beautiful to witness.
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect from my time at Nagoya is Mr. Matthew Parr's message in the Head of School's Weekly notes. I have copied and pasted some of his message for your viewing.
Do you remember the last time you stayed up late into the night because you couldn't put a book down? Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai was a book a colleague had put into my hands saying "I think you will like this", which is always an interesting challenge. It sat in a pile of books to be read near my night table for a few weeks. I picked up right before bed and ended up reading in one sitting into the late hours of the night. Late hours for a teacher, anyway.
Inside Out and Back Again is a book inspired by the author's experience of fleeing Vietnam after the war and resettling in Alabama. It is written in verse that is delicate and bold at the same time.
Hà is a young girl who loves Vietnam and is reluctant to leave. She is confused and angered by her new life and America. Young Hà describes her process of learning English with such disdain! When describing the rules of plurals and adding "s" to the end of a noun, Hà states "Whoever invented English must have loved snakes," (118). There are several poems that document Hà's linguistic and cultural transitions that may illuminate what some of our own students are wrestling with, particularly while they are experiencing their "silent period".
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a needed text for your culturally responsive library. Students needs to see themselves in the texts they read. Identity texts that reflect the diversity of our students' experiences, help facilitate a multilingual identity that is additive rather than subtractive.
Finally, Harper Collins offers a discussion guide on their website.
I am an EAL specialist and educational consultant that is dedicated to building a more transformative educational landscape that honors linguistic diversity and challenges societal paradigms.