What are those carnival games? Childhood toys with tipping points…as soon as you tip one way to compensate to stop the ball from rolling off the left edge, it’s already hurtling toward the opposite edge?
Writing memoirs with my teacher friends about what we’ve learned about teaching writing with EL students has dragged up many mistakes, confession, and raised questions about “school writing” in general. Trying not to slide off the negative end and fall down where the big turtle who holds up the whole experience will gobble me up, I made a mind map the other night.
I want to put my thought energy on what I know does work in process writing, not only for my process, but what I’ve seen work with EL students in particular.
And then today, the finale in staff meeting was a letter from the district from the state telling all teachers they will lift the level of EL learning with designated and integrated instruction. After the meeting and union announcements, I found myself going to one of most notoriously negative, but outspoken, teachers asking her to consider ways to gain some agency with the district. “Why don’t we create our own study group, or task force, to figure out what we really do for ELD as a school — and make a plan for how we, as the professionals, believe we can raise the performance levels for our EL students?” She was listening when…
Another notoriously negative, but likeable teacher went into a historical tirade, comparing her own kindergarten experience as an EL with the directives from the district.
I do get the dissatisfaction with the designated rotation time. So, after I talked with the elementary teacher (what was I thinking?) I found the primary teacher who had exploded in our midst. I told her how I felt being jumped on with the old stuff. “I am too overworked, too old, and too sleepy to give any more attention to what hasn’t worked,” I confessed. She softened and listened to my idea to do a proposal and gain some agency. We talked about side issues and possible places to start. I don’t have answers, but I think my question is a good one. Hold the platter in the middle for a few seconds and let the colored gumballs slow down.
I don’t think anyone at my school really knows what we “do” for ELD. I sit in SST’s and ask what the ELD focus is for a student at risk and I’m told by the classroom teacher that he/she is in a rotation with a different grade level. In other words, no one really knows.
I do have some ideas for starting strategies, since all 30 of the students in K-5 I see daily for intervention have language development and literacy issues, but I think we first need to be able to start talking to each other. We have to look at what works.
Now that the tuna casserole is in the oven and I’ve been seated long enough to un-numb my tired little bod and mind, I’m a bit shocked at what I did. I went straight to the most (seemingly) resistant teachers, and I started them thinking about a study group. Now it seems a bit crazy to me.
What was I thinking? Oh, I wasn’t thinking.
Tonight, instead, I could have written the story about how my overloaded first grade reading group had a meltdown. The three crazier kids in the group acting out their suffering from lack of sleep, since we haven’t gotten back on early bedtime, early morning schedules. Not fun, but they’ll be better tomorrow.
This wading right into it — into the staff issue and the teacher leadership so uncomfortable with the edict from the DO about EL instruction, well, where did that come from?
It’s like the mind mapping about writing instruction. We won’t get anything done, really, ever, unless we can start looking at what works. What we’re doing that works and what we are willing to try out to see if it improves the game.
How wise of our young principal to not ask for open debate after handing out the missive from the assistant superintendent. I posted my sticky note along with others. I said, “sentence fluency and reading fluency – EL success.” I guess I do see things in the teaching of reading and writing that promote literacy, that benefit our least experienced English speakers and young children in general. And surely there is more expertise in our teaching staff?
So, perhaps my next map will be on effective EL literacy instruction. Maps. Check the routes from the point of view of what works. Make the next turns in the direction of what’s good for kids.