If you know me well, you'd know how much I advocate for family engagement and family support to ensure student success. Ever since I started working for our school system I've organized ESL family nights to provide educational interventions aimed at promoting student success.
One reason why I feel strongly about family engagement is that it is something I felt I didn't have when attending school in the US.
Another reason was and still is because of the vast demands our schools have of our students and family support to ensure student academic success.
Just last week I thought about starting a blog in Spanish to provide "adequate" support and strategies that Latinxs parents and readers can use to utilize to support students academic success.
Though my intentions are not bad - as a matter fact, I have great intentions to support families - I started thinking about the core of my intentions. You see, I began these family meeting with our ESL families because I questioned or perhaps devalued ESL families' competence to support their children at home. I know this sounds wrong - and it is! However, I need to be honest with myself and the families I serve; and understanding the reason why I do what I do is imperative.
"As teacher and school leaders we have a responsibility to shake out the notion of what traditional parent engagement looks like. We need to be creative and persistent". - Allison Rookman
There are two books I read recently that helped me see family engagement through a different lens.
Reading these two novels made me think of a book I read a few years ago while getting my graduate ESL degree. Con Respeto by Guadalupe Váldes is a study that brings to life the everyday worlds of 10 newly arrived immigrant Mexican families. The core of this book and the two novels I mentioned above is to showcase immigrants' family life as a great resource.
As an educator, I see my colleagues and school systems well-meaning intentions in creating and providing educational interventions aimed at promoting school success based on teacher knowledge and based on school context - but not based on parent knowledge.
A New Lens
You see, instead of looking at our families' childrearing styles as a deficit, we can start by changing the way we look at our ESL families' parental knowledge.
From now on I want to make sure my families are being honored for who they are. My teacher knowledge must increase in cultural understanding to be able to embrace and maintain a comfortable environment for my ESL families and my students.
The support and tools I will be presenting my ESL parents from now on, will NOT be with the idea of changing who they are or devaluing their family support.
My ideas and tools will now be to provide parents with the tools they need to navigate the standard and expectation our schools in the US hold.
My ultimate intention, as well as our ESL families' intention, is to support our students in becoming successful adults, who although they find themselves between two words, may they be empowered to be the best they can be to represent their two worlds.
I would love to know your thoughts on this topic! Please share your comments and lets continue learning together.
Thank you for reading!
I apologize in advance, for the content of this post is not about strategies or methods to support your English language learners. This post is to brag on two wonderful opportunities I had these past two months.
Those of you who read my blog posts know that I generally post about the wonderfulness happening in my classroom, and/or ways to support your students. This time, however, is all about two big events that happened in my life and want to share with my readers.
People: Human Interest
Amy Eskind, a reporter for People magazine was getting her hair done by my sister Gabriela Barahona who works at Vanity Salon in Houston, TX when the conversation about me began. My sister shared with Ms. Eskind my story and she was very curious to learn more. She contacted me and we had several conversations about my past, my educational experiences, and what I currently do at Irvin Elementary with students and families.
Ms. Eskind thought that my story could potentially be featured on People.com. I couldn't believe it when she emailed me to let me know that my story was accepted and featured in the Human Interest section. I was more surprised when they contacted me for a Skype interview to go along with the article.
The article is amazing! I love how Ms. Eskind focused on the struggles I faced to get to the USA and the huddles I went through to complete school. I also LOVE how she highlights all the wonderfulness happening at Irvin elementary with our students and families.
On the day the article was released, a producer from Top 30 contacted me wanting to also feature my story as well. This is the awesome video they created to feature the story.
Ellen Degeneres Show
YES, you read the title correctly! I made it to THE ELLEN DEGNERES SHOW! Yay!
I cannot find the words to describe what I felt when I received an email from Ellen Degeneres producers! At first, I thought maybe it wasn't real. I did a little research to see if the person contacted me was really who he said he was! It felt so real when we interview through Skype and we started the conversation on featuring my story on the show!
Right after our Skype conversation with the producers, everything was so fast. In a matter of a couple of days, I was traveling to California! I knew my story was going to be featured somehow, someday...NEVER thought I was going to be called on stage by THE Ellen Degeneres!!!!! Actually, let me rephrase that...she didn't call me on stage...I RAN when she started saying my name and talking about me! I feel so bad but I was SO excited when I heard her saying: "There's someone in the audience I want to meet. Emily Francis ..."
Not only was I super excited to be on stage and on national TV, but little did I know that my school, including students, parents, and staff were all gathered to surprise me!! My heart was raising so fast and I lost it!! My student David said a few kind words about me that made me cry!!
But...that's not all...Ellen calls on stage Hamdy Ulukaya - founder and CEO of Chobani.
What a pleasant surprise to learn that Mr. Ulukaya and I have so much in common! We immigrated to the USA the same year - and his story of perseverance and persistence is admirable! After he shared his story, I was surprised with the biggest check I have ever seen in my life - Mr. Ulukaya donated $100,000 to our school's backpack program! WOW!!
I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and unforgettable experience. What I learned through all of this is that no matter how small our story and success might seem, it is important to share it with the world. There might just be someone out there waiting to learn our story of courage and persistence!
I am also grateful to Irvin elementary school staff, students, parents, and admin for all their support. They showed me how much they care for me and for that I will always be grateful!
Press Appearances and Mentions:
Cabarrus Magazine: A Cabarrus County Schools' Teacher Recently Featured in National Magazine
Independent Tribune: CCS Teacher Featured in National Magazine
Independent Tribune: Concord ESL Teacher to be Featured on Ellen
Independent Tribune: Irvin Receives $100,000 Donation from Chobani
Fox 46 Charlotte; #GoodDayCharlotte: Charlotte Area Teacher Surprised with $100K from Chobani on Ellen
Thank you for reading!
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!
"All the reading she has done had given her a view of life they had never seen." ~ Roald Dahl, Matilda
During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Germany with Go Global NC. I had an unforgettable experience! The biggest impact I had during this experience was the cultural differences and similarities I experienced in 10 days. Culture shock is not new to me! I came to the USA at the age of 15 and experienced as much culture shock as you can imagine. However, the sad thing was that I felt like as a newcomer student, I was somehow forced to put aside my own culture, beliefs, and values, in order to acculturate to the USA. Once I started school I stop reading and learning in Spanish; and I never had the opportunity to share my values and my Guatemalan culture with teachers and peers. I had the thought that my culture was not worth talking or reading about.
While visiting Germany's schools, I noticed as much diversity as we see in USA schools today. What shocked me, however, was how comfortable diverse students were sharing own culture and speaking their home language. Students would have book talks and you can hear 3-4 different language spoken at one time. Wow! What an eye-opening moment for me! I loved how students embrace who they are and how they value knowing and speaking different languages!!
So I decided to take action. I want my English learners to not fall into the trap replacing culture while acculturating in the USA. Just because they are learning the language and living the USA doesn't mean they need to completely forget their roots and who they are. They need to know that their culture, language, and family beliefs are valued and matter.
So I wrote two grants and both were funded:
The following lessons can be for elementary grades K-5 and adjusted/extended as needed.
After reading the book out loud, students turned and shared with partners all the details the author mentions about similarities and differences. I had students create a T-chart with illustrations and labels as an anchor to share what we've learned. I could've created this chart myself, however, I believe in student empowerment...and having student created charts are just epic!
We used this chart as we introduced the next book. Connections are very important when introducing a new book or topic. This chart helped us predict and have discussions about the characters in our next book: Same, Same but Different.
These conversations that students were having was perfect since it prepared them to compare the two characters which are exactly what this book is about. The book is about Elliot who lives in America and Kailash who lives in India. They are pen pals who write to each other sharing their differences and similarities.
After reading the book out loud, students turned and shared with partners all the wonderful things that the two characters have in common as well as their differences. At this point, students had so much language that they could've to continue sharing all morning long. Students also created a T-chart comparing the two characters:
This book served as a window for my students to see, learn, appreciate, and discuss others' way of living.
As students were creating this chart, I asked to begin thinking about themselves and to come up with some things they had in common with one or both of the characters.
They were also asked to appreciate differences they had with one of the characters and share that as well.
If there is a book you must have as part of your classroom library, it should be I'm New Here. This book highlights exactly what students go through as newcomers in USA classrooms. In this book, you'll learn the struggles, the confusions, and the feelings that our language learners experience as they begin to acculturate in USA schools. However, what I love the most about this book, is the fact that it teaches us to highlight students' strengths and create a comfortable environment where students show their abilities. Maria, Jin, and Fatimah teach us a valuable lesson for all to learn...not just students...but educators as well.
Before we started reading I'm New Here, we discussed what it would be like to leave the USA and moved to India where Kailash lives and why? This image shows my first graders' responses using illustrations. This chart ignited a great discussion as we have already learned all about Kailash and his way of living. This was a great activity to activate background knowledge and make text to text connection. It was a great way to introduce our new book and begin predicting how the characters in our new story might feel because they had to leave their home countries to come to the USA.
Another great activity we did before we started our book was learning where our characters were from. We pulled out our world map and circled the three countries our characters were from. This is a great opportunity for students to learn a little more about different cultures. An extension to this map activity would be to learn all about: Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia.
It is always a great idea to read the book aloud the first time without any interruptions. This is a strategy that teaches students to carefully pay attention to the story from beginning to end.
After hearing the story, students turn and share with a partner all and everything they want to share the text. From character information to details - no specifics - just TALK about the text!
For the second reading, students were told to pay very close attention to character change at feelings. They are told to observe how characters feel in the beginning of the story, in the middle, and how they feel once the story ends. Though this book is excellent to teach story sequencing, my focus was on understanding the character using the details found in the text.
Students also had a written response assignment. They chose one of the characters and explained how he/she felt in the beginning of the story and compared to their feeling at the end of the story.
I was amazed how empathetic my students felt about each character. They were able to explain why students felt the way they felt and what made them change the way they each felt.
As students were sharing their individual written response, we created a classroom chart with all the details we learned about each character.
I divided our chart paper into three parts to help students visualize the information need for each character.
While we were creating our chart I can tell some students were more into one character than others. I believe it was because they identified with the character's abilities or perhaps they felt a connection with the character's background and language.
This led us to begin analyzing the character of our choice. We cut our chart along the lines and made 3 groups. Students grouped according to their favorite character. The objective was to discuss all the details learned about their character and write a personal story about him/her using transitioning words - First, Next, Then, Last and to include details from the text as to how the character's feelings changed throughout the story and why.
It was amazing how students engaged in this assignment and how enthusiastic they were to write all about the character of their choice.
If you want to read our students' books, follow this link and search the character of your choice: Maria/Jin/Fatimah. You won't be disappointed with their fantastic work!
The fascinating thing about this book is the ability to serve as a mirror for our students since they can identify with what the kids are doing; but also, as a window to expose our students the way of life in other parts of the world.
We read the book the first time just to enjoy the rich text and the illustrations. But the second time, I had my students to think as they were listening, how they could make personal connections with the text. We also discussed analyzing the text structure - (sequencing of the story).
After reading the book students turned and shared with a partner the connections they made with the actions that students perform in other parts of the world. Students also discussed the differences they observed comparing to their personal daily life.
As a written response students were asked to illustrate or write what they do every day in the morning - at school - after school - and in the evening. This prompt follows the sequence students heard from the text.
Students shared with one another and grouped themselves according to similarities in what they do every day. So this gave me the idea to have them publish another book about what they do in a day!
If you want to read our students' books, follow this link and search One World One Day.
You won't be disappointed with their fantastic work!
I have shared our students' stories using my class twitter and facebook account and it is amazing the response we are getting. My students are so excited to learn more and write more! These are just some of the feedback we are getting and has empowered my students in so many ways:
Stay tuned for our next book... The Last Stop in Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Thank you for reading!