During the summer of 2018, I received an email from SIOP® senior project manager at Pearson, Allyson Newton, with an invitation of a lifetime. The email was an invitation to serve as a featured keynote speaker at the 2019 SIOP® National Conference in Portland, OR.
Wow! I wish you would've seen my excitement. No words can explain how humbled and honored I felt to be considered. Not only was I going to personally meet THE SIOP® author, (incredible women I admire for their work and passion,) but I was also going to share a national stage with them. An opportunity I couldn't miss!
This post was originally posted on https://ncedleaders.blogspot.com/ on July 3rd , 2019
When I started my teaching career, (15 years ago), my mother gave me this hanging sign that says “3 Reasons for Teaching - June, July, August”. I hang on to it just because my mother gave it to me; However, you’ll never see this sign in my classroom because summer breaks are not my reasons for teaching.
Now, don’t take me wrong, I love summer breaks and I always take full advantage to recharge and refresh before the start of another school year. But as good as summer breaks might be, they’re NOT my reasons for teaching
The path to the teaching profession was not an ordinary path for me. I immigrated to the United States at the age of 15 years old. I started high school with the hopes and desire to graduate and go to college to be the teacher I’ve always wanted to be. From day one, I embraced school and education. Breaking all sorts of barriers, I was able to learn the English language and get all the required credits for graduation. But unfortunately, everything fell apart when I failed American History - Regents exam. With disappointment and a heart in a million pieces, I took the bus home and never went back. In 1997 I became part of the Latino High school dropout.
Failing at school made me question everything I believed I knew about myself. I started working as a cashier where every time I scanned an item the beep was a constant reminder of my failure. I didn’t believe I was capable to do anything else.
Years later I decided to rewrite my personal narrative by returning to school. I found a local community college and obtained my GED. I went on from there to find success in college getting y associate’s degree, my bachelor’s and then my Master’s degree. Today, I am where I need to be. Inspiring students every day to reach their highest potential. You see, I had potential within me all along. What I didn’t have was someone who believed in me. Someone in my corner encouraging me to find my passion and help me fulfill my human potential. I strive to be an educator who will be for my students what I didn’t always have: someone to believe in them.
So, if you ask me what my reason for teaching is, I would say it is INSPIRING MY STUDENTS TO KNOW THEIR POTENTIAL and PURPOSE.
So here I am...reflecting on my first semester in High School! As you may know, over the summer of 2018, I made the switch from an elementary school setting to a high school setting. The decision was not a difficult one in the sense that I knew with all my heart I was going where I needed to be. Besides, the passion within me to serve English learners is always seeking out new challenges for improvement. But, to be transparent about my feelings, I must share the FEAR I was facing while making my decision.
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of failure.
High school is a radically different world than elementary school. It's like black and white. The only knowledge I had about high school was what I knew from my son since he is a HS student.
So, I was afraid. I was afraid of schedules, services for students, accommodations for testing, enrollment, co-teaching, etc. I was afraid of how I was going to fit in with Concord High School' staff and students.
Would they like me?
Would I meet their expectations?
Would I be a good fit?
These questions led to begin thinking about failing. What if I fail.
What if I don't fit in?
What if I mess up?
So many questions that for a moment became reasons to avoid venturing the unknown journey.
However, unpredictable journeys can only be lived by being willing to take risks. If we want to maintain a burning passion & seek out new challenges, we must accept the probability that things might not go as planned or as we would've wanted them to; but that's how change happens...and change is good!!
One semester. One semester is just enough time for me to realize how much I love working with high school students at Concord High School!
Do I know everything? NO.
Have I had failures? YES.
You see, that's the beauty of unknown and unpredictable journeys; That no matter what the journey brings our way...we stand strong on the heartfelt decision and risks.
I have SO MUCH to learn. I have so many relationships to build. I have so many more things to do. Meanwhile, I sit here - looking at the bulletin board with all our ELs' pictures (picture above)...and I smile thinking on the many - many more wonderful memories in the years to come.
"Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable." - George S. Parron
Thank you for reading & Go Spiders!
Over the summer of 2018, I took the first step to a great journey...I made the decision to transfer to Concord High School (CHS) after working six years at Irvin Elementary school. The decision was based on a burning desired within me to support students who are facing the same struggles I faced as a high school newcomer student and language learner. Read more about my personal experience as a newcomer here!
I got our classroom ready with so much excitement! However, I was more excited to meet my new students. I had already met a few of them during our ESL summer enrichment program, so I was thrilled to meet the rest of my students.
Teaching is by far the most rewarding profession! What I love the most about our profession is the opportunity we have each and every day to make a difference in our students' lives.
However, the moment I experienced yesterday, taught me how much our students have to teach us...and their lessons are what ignite passion in our profession.
We are halfway through the school year and administrators are making their required observation rounds. So I was working with my 1st-grade pull-out class when our assistant principal, Mrs. Baker, walked in. I knew she was coming to see us sometime, so I was excited to show the awesome learning happening in our classroom.
However, as excited as I was to showcase our awesomeness; I was really nervous!
Anyway, I pulled out the book we had read during class the day before: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, and together we had a quick discussion about the characters and setting in the story.
I reminded students that just as important as naming the characters and the settings; it is also important to understand how the character is feeling throughout the story to be able to get the message the author wants for us.
Students had already started analyzing parts of the story and brainstorming what is happening as well as analyzing how the character is feeling based on illustrations and text.
I asked for volunteers to share their work with the class. I had several students who raised their hand and wanted to share their work.
I chose Jarett to share his part of the story because the day before he had done an excellent job and I knew he had the language to share his work.
What happened next, of course, took me by surprise...Jarett froze!
Jarett was holding his work and just looking around so confused and unable to say a word! So here am I thinking, "Come on, Jarett, you know the answer!"; "Just say what you told me yesterday!"; "How do I empower him to say something.?!"; "Do I give him more time, or should I call another student?!"
It was pretty awkward for a few minutes. All students, an assistant principal, and his teacher staring at him and expecting an answer. Now, I am a huge believer in wait-time! Please check out Valentina's illustration and post above; however, I also think that after a few minutes of waiting, students on the spotlight need some sort of empowerment to be successful with their response. And in that moment I really thought that this empowerment was supposed to come from me...his teacher!
The awesomeness I want to share is how the empowerment didn't actually come from me...but from whom I least expected it.
Carlos is struggling academically right now, so in my mind, answering a high order thinking question was not going to happen for him. Oh, boy, was I wrong!!!
When Carlos noticed that his partner was struggling to answer the questions, he began to side-whisper the answer they both had thought about the day before! When Jarett heard what Carlos had said, his face lit up and began telling us all about his work.
I had Carlos stand up and share along with Jerett, and between the two of them, we heard the best presentation ever!!
What a success and powerful moment for my students but more so for me! First of all, I learned a good lesson on NOT doubting my students' abilities. Just because they are below grade level does not mean I set up limitations to what they can do! Secondly, I learned that students have a powerful ability to empower and support each other. Empowerment does not always have to come from teachers...If we provide opportunities and a comfortable environment for students, they can help each other beyond our imagination!
Our API was able to snap a picture of our students smiling and sharing their work! She was very happy to see our students empowering each other and successfully share their learning!
Please do not underestimate what our English learners are capable of doing and knowing! Having the opportunities and the possibilities, our students, regardless of grade level, CAN and WILL learn and empower others to learn.
Thank you for reading!
Do you know the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme? I'm sure you do! But, just in case you don't, this is how it goes:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again.
Interestingly, 2,500 people were asked to name their favorite nursery rhyme, and at no surprise, Humpty Dumpty is among the top 10 all-time nursery rhymes.
However, this nursery rhyme only highlights Humpty's great fall and creates a sense of pettiness toward him because no one was able to fix him.
My perspective on Humpty changed forever after reading After The Fall by Dan Santat. If you haven't read this book, go get it right now! This fantastic picture book is Humpty's story AFTER the fall...because he GOT UP again. His story is by far the most inspirational story I've ever read in children's fictional books. I was very emotional after reading it and I learned so much from it.
Six Lessons I Learned from Humpty Dumpty...After the Fall
1. Embrace Failure
The first lesson we can learn from Humpty is to embrace failure. He understands that everyone knows about him because of his "great fall". However, he doesn't define himself based on our perspective of him, but on what he believes of himself. He sees "the great fall" as an accident...and as an opportunity that changed his life. Can you say growth mindset?!?
"There were some parts that couldn't be healed with bandages and glue."
FEAR - the feeling Humpty had to embrace after the fall - and he embraced it like a hero. He began taking small steps in order to face his biggest obstacle...heights!
2. Know Your Purpose
Humpty had a very clear picture of what his purpose was and who he was meant to be. He made sure he was always surrounded by what he was passionate about. His room décor shows what was in his heart and mind. And even though he knew that height was his weakness, he also understood that it was the very thing that was keeping him away from what he loved most - being where he belonged!
Humpty walked by the wall every day! It was a daily reminder of his failure. But he wanted to be as close as possible to where he knew he was supposed to be. And every day he would think about climbing...perhaps planning his next steps...perhaps, thinking about what he would do once he gets back up where he belongs.
3. Enjoy the Moment
He never gave up. Not even while all he had was walking by the wall and watching the birds fly up high.
He settled on what he was able to do at the moment. He enjoyed the moment and made the best out of it. He actually thought, "it was better than nothing." As a matter fact, thinking about his future ignited in him an idea to get closer to his goal.
You see, Humpty had his eyes fixed on his passion and goal. For him, it was fine to just do what he was capable of doing based on his abilities. Meanwhile, he was learning. Meanwhile, he was active. So this got me thinking, are my eyes fixed on my goals? Am I being active developing my skills to be who I am meant to be? Am I enjoying the moment and am I being faithful in the little bit I am asked to do right now?
4. Set Small Goals
Humpty thought of a way of getting just a little closer to his goal. He started making paper airplanes so at least that part of him would make it to the top of the wall. As small as this small step might seem, he had to work day after day - try after try - until he was happy with this project.
You see, having the motivation isn't enough to reach our goals. If we learn anything from Humpty, is the determination to complete small goals. He knew that what he was working on will one day pay off in his favor.
Humpty didn't let cuts and scratches impede with daily work. He was determined to take it one step at a time.
Applying this to our lives...what are we allowing to discourage us from achieving our small goals? What excuses do we have to stop developing the skills needed to function where we belong?
Don't forget that goals without actions become just a wish!
5. Celebrate Small Accomplishments
Accomplishing a small goal made Humpty happy. In fact, it gave him back the happiness he hadn't felt for a long time. Why? Simply because he understood the power of small goals. He celebrated the fact that he believed in himself. He knew what he was capable of. He knew it was close enough to his ultimate goal.
It is so important for us to realize that it is OK to feel scared when drafting small goals. In fact, this is a good kind of fear! A fear of the unknown. However, it is exciting to know that reaching our goals will without a doubt give us a sense of accomplishment and a level of self-confidence that only we can give ourselves!
Make sure to share your accomplishments with your loved ones. Use social media to share your accomplishments. Let your friends and family celebrate with you when you reach a goal. It's not about bragging...it's about the opportunity to inspire those who might need a little encouragement.
All progress is found outside your comfort zone. If you aren't uncomfortable, you are not growing. - Dave Burgess
Once again - Humpty is face-to-face with FEAR! The opportunity came for him to finally climb the wall and be where he belonged. He knew he had to climb that wall but he wasn't just afraid, he was TERRIFIED! At this very moment he has two choices: Walk away or step into an uncomfortable situation to finally be who he was meant to be.
Humpty stepped forward!
What made him stay and encouraged him, you might ask? Well, he started thinking about how hard he had worked to accomplish his small goals. He made a choice because he was empowered by his small goals and the sense of accomplishment he celebrated before.
"I didn't look up.
He didn't have to see the whole staircase - All he had to do was to take the first step! Halfway up he realized he was no longer afraid!
What a powerful lesson we learn from Humpty; Progress is found outside our comfort zone, and it is through our uncomfortableness that we grow and develop the skills we need to be efficient where we belong.
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. - Henry David Thoreau
Making it to the top - where he always belonged, is where he became what he was meant to be!
He made it so you and I can have a different perspective on him. He made it so that he can inspire us to reach our goals and celebrate where we belong. He made it so we can change our expectations of failures and those who fail.
Humpty's grit and determinations are admirable! Let him be a hero to you and your students.
Here is a great article I highly recommend:
The Fear of Taking Risks Never Goes Away (Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway)
For teaching lessons and ideas click here
Thank you for reading!
As 2017 comes to an end, I sit here reflecting on this year and I can't help but smile. Joy fills my heart!
Personal goal - I celebrate my growth as a reader. This year I became a passionate reader! I read several books for fun, new books for students' lessons, and professional books. This might not be a big deal for some but it is for me. I was a casual reader...reading because I had to, not because I wanted to.
Professional goal: Presented at TX Tesol 2017 convention and traveled to Germany with Go Global NC representing Cabarrus County.
However, as wonderful as this year was, I am looking forward to a New Year. I anticipate 2018 to be a year full of excitement. A year of new beginnings. A year of greatness. A year of growth and impact.
After reading Tara Martin's post on Fear Disguised as Humility (Humility is not pretending you are something you're not. Humility is not denying your God-given talents. Humility is being REAL), I decided to go big next year. I am shooting for the stars.
In Any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. ~ Abraham Maslow
I choose to step forward! I want to be GREAT! I am not being egocentric...I am being REAL!
After reading Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and (@burgess_Shelley) and Beth Houf (@Bethhouf), I am confident and passionate about leading in my field.
So, because I know I want to be great, and because I want to make a difference in the ESL field...I can't help but think about and discover what my REAL purpose is. I know my purpose is to be an educator. No doubt about this. But there has to be more...and next year is all about finding it out.
My word for 2018 is Purpose because I want to be GREAT, I must fully understand what my purpose is. Just like the quote above...I know I'm a ship...but I must leave my comfort zone to be able to fulfill my intended purpose.
Perhaps I come back to this blog post next year and add to this post since right now it is not as clear as I would like it to be.
But as of now...PURPOSE is my #OneWord2018
If you want to share your #OneWord with me, share in the comments!
Happy 2018 and thank you for reading!
I love this picture! I know is not the best picture you've seen but is the moment captured in the image what I love the most.
This is me in this picture. It was a January day in 1994. I was 15 years old. My two younger sisters and I were on one of many buses in our journey from Guatemala to Mexico.
Three undocumented and unaccompanied minors with so much fear that words cannot describe; but also with so much faith for a better future.
I can tell you exactly what I was thinking at that moment...
The school enrollment process was very quick and in no time I was attending school. I was enrolled at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village, NY. I wish I had a picture of my first day of school because I'm pretty sure I had the biggest smile you can imagine. I was fascinated with the building and with all the goodies I was offered upon enrollment. I was beyond excited to begin attending school. Finally an opportunity to be a kid and begin learning to one day reach the success I had always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, 3 years later, I walked out of the school in shame, disappointment, and heartbroken. I became part of the Latino High school dropout. I was told I couldn't graduate or obtain my high school diploma because of an end-of-grade test I had been unable to pass. I couldn't continue attending school because I had already completed all the required credits.
However, today, I realize that it was more than just a test what hindered my education.
You see, a test score doesn't determine success. A grade doesn't say students' dreams. A pop-quiz doesn't demonstrate potential, much less my passion.
This is why I wish my teachers knew...
I share this because the need for educators to know how our newcomers and ESL students are feeling in the classroom is critical. I can't tell you how many times my students express the sense of failure they have because they are language learners. The need for culturally responsive teaching is greater today that it has ever been.
If you have a newcomer or an English language learner, I beg you, take the time to get to know your student. STOP your focus on data, testing, and curriculum alone! Gain their hearts. Learn their story. Help them reach their potential. Let them feel that they MATTER! I promise the language and academic development will follow these priorities.
It is never too late to change your focus. Reach out for support and provide opportunities for our students to grow to be successful citizens.
Here is a post I wrote about ways to support newcomers in your classroom.
and here is a great post by Tan Huynh about essential collaboration to support English Learners.
Thank you for reading!