**This post appeared originally in literacyworldwide.org on Jan 31st, 2019.**
“One of our most important responsibilities in school is to protect and advocate for our students’ individuality and identity; it’s their greatest gift.”
Personal experiences are powerful. My journey as a first-generation immigrant and a former English learner is now central to what I do. My personal experiences, coupled with my responsibilities as an educator, have helped me to embrace the role of an advocate and to create and establish a sense of culture that values students’ greatest gifts: identity and individuality.
When ILA launched Children’s Rights to Read campaign last fall, I immediately saw connections to my teaching philosophy and the role I can play in advocating for those rights.
Children’s Rights to Read—10 fundamental rights ILA asserts every child deserves—is a campaign in which ILA aims to activate educators around the world to ensure every child, everywhere, receives access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read.
As a high school teacher of English as a second language (ESL), my job is to analyze my students’ needs and to develop their linguistic and communicative competence in English in all language domains.
However, my goal as an educator is to create meaningful learning experiences that serve as pathways for connection. I can create those experiences through the framework of Children’s Rights to Read
Enacting the rights
Right No. 4, borrowing language from scholar Rudine Sims Bishop, is the right of students to read texts that mirror their experiences and languages, provide windows into the lives of others, and open doors into our diverse world.
I do this by providing texts that validate and celebrate my students’ unique backgrounds. We make time to share our own personal stories and experiences to bring awareness to our cultural diversities. We create projects that take us beyond learning the rules of the English language. We don’t just extract information to learn from it; we transact with the text by taking what we read and finding ways to apply it to our lives or to change the world around us.
I find it imperative to establish a classroom culture where my students feel a sense of belonging and acceptance—where they celebrate both their similarities and differences.
Having a clear understanding of my students’ rights to read—specifically the “right to read text that mirrors their experiences and language” and “the right to read as a springboard for other forms of communication”—I use picture books and storytelling as tools to facilitate language acquisition and comprehension.
Picture book connections
When it comes to selecting picture books for my lessons, I intentionally select books that
Some examples of books I’ve used are:
Picture books are powerful tools for English learners, even at the high school level, to acquire and develop their English skills because the illustrations provide the support they need for meaning making. Picture books also serve as pathways to understanding our own experiences. My immigrant journey, as well as my students’ immigrant journeys, may be viewed by ourselves and others as something unworthy to share, read, or learn about.
However, diverse picture books with characters that highlight and celebrate journeys like ours can provide the sense of validation we need to embrace our experiences. Through the connections we make with the characters who not only share our experiences but also exemplify courage and belonging, we are empowered to create—and be the heroes in—our own stories.
Affirming existence through storytelling
Affirming students’ individuality and identity requires action. First, we must learn about our students. We can do this by providing opportunities for them to research and share information about their personal histories. This allows us to build upon students’ knowledge, culture, language, identity, and experiences to create a more culturally responsive curriculum.
In our class, reading diverse books that reflect students’ culture, language, and experiences empowers them to not just understand their experiences but to tell their own stories. Through this storytelling, we exercise Right No. 9: the right to read as a springboard for other forms of communication, such as writing, speaking, and visually representing.
Using the app WriteReader, my students and I share our immigrant stories. This platform serves as a long-anticipated opportunity to showcase our experiences, our culture, and our language. Their stories cultivate a culture of value, respect, and acceptance for our identity and individuality and encourage our students to share and consume stories that matter.
Following are some of our stories:
So, embrace the right our students have to read and to be inspired by diverse characters and experiences. Empower your students with continuous opportunities to share their story—opportunities that reaffirm their existence, identity, and individuality.
Thank you for reading!
Blog: a website containing a writer's own experiences, observations, opinions, etc.
If blogging would be as easy as it sounds...at least that's what I thought almost two years ago! The fear of what others might say about my written experiences and thoughts bounded me from blogging for a very long time.
However, encouraged and inspired by Tan Huynh, Valentina Gonzalez, Carol Salva, and Larry Ferlazzo, I began my personal and educational blog in April 2017.
So as we approach my second full year blogging, I'd like to share with you what it is that keeps me going.
Believe in YOU!
Just know that we all have a unique ability and potential that the world needs to read and learn about. Start by sharing with the world what inspires YOU.
What inspires you makes you who you are and YOU are enough!
Lead & Learn
When it comes to writing and sharing your experiences be a leader and create your own format. As you take risks creating what is unique to you, you'll learn new approaches to continue sharing your uniqueness.
As you begin to expand your tent (growing your audience) pay very close attention to their tips, advice, and guidance about your topics. It's not about pleasing the audience as much as it is honoring others' perspectives.
Good to Great
I Love this phrase because it implies that there's always room to grow! As you begin having the opportunity for "guest blogging" in others' blogs, you'll realize the need to improve your craft and always continue challenging
yourself just a little more!
That's it! Simple as that. Just BLOG!
"We have to be willing to take risks in order to discover and fulfill our purpose in education and in life." ~ Tara Martin #REALedu
"Blogging is an act that begins with an internal purpose and grows to an outcome of benefiting the greater education community." - Mike Gorman
Thank you for reading and Happy Blogging!
On May 16th, 2018, Peter Cameron and Derek Rhodenizer made available a platform where more than 100 educators from around the world shared their best practices and strategies. I spent all day going from video to video learning from so many inspiring educators.
The link for all the videos is available here is you're interest in learning more and access all MADPD presentations.
I did not present during the event, but I applied to participate on their #MADpd Spotlight Series. Every week a presenter gets the spotlight with chats about the topic.
I decided to share the work my students did during our 2017-2018 school year. Their work is so amazing that was featured on www.Achievethecore.com. Check it our here and here if you want to read more.
I hope you enjoy this video and let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading!