Last year at this time I was the English Language Acquisition Coordinator for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, in Annapolis, Maryland, supervising the educators who served the needs of a growing community of immigrant and bilingual students. Stressed and a bit weary after 6 years of navigating our political climate, I took a leap, and returned to the school setting as a mentor teacher. I needed to step away from trying to manage the whole situation until I could be reminded of the WHY and how all the parts fit together.
Part of my reasoning behind changing positions was to give myself a sort of sabbatical, a venue for visiting classrooms in a variety of content areas, spending more time with teachers, catching up on new classroom technology ideas, and learning from everyone and everything around me. This week I was inspired by a dance class where small groups choreographed the ending of a dance and performed. It was amazing. Everyone danced. Everyone smiled. There are five students in this class who are part of the “functional life skills” program, meaning they manage significant challenges and need extra support. After this group performed, I had the best conversation with one of the dancers. She said, “I can’t move as fast as they do. I can’t roll on the floor and get back up. I missed a few steps, but I got back in. It was like my own solo.” I told her how much I love her attitude and I wanted to bottle whatever it is this teacher is doing to make every student in the class embrace their solo. This first-year teacher has truly grasped the value of relationships. I am re-energized by the parts I see come together each day in working with new teachers as they learn to create their whole. Taking these parts that I come across and sharing them with other educators, THAT is what makes me whole.
I recently had the privilege of spending a week in Madison, Wisconsin, for the WIDA Licensed Trainer Institute. It was 4.5 days of intensive training on 9 different WIDA workshop and training plans. I spent that 4.5 days with dedicated WIDA facilitators, as well as with 8 other participants from around the country. Talk about impressive! I learned so much each day from this group. Each person brought such a wealth of varied experiences to the room. The program as a whole will be very strong, because each of the parts are individually amazing. Although I am still recovering from eating fried cheese curds more times that week than I’d like to admit, I am excited that I will have the opportunity to meet even more new people through the work with WIDA and WCEPS in the future.
After a weekend of recovery from brain and cheese curd overload, I was off for a quick spin at the WIDA Conference in Tampa. Meghan Gregoire-Smith, Lindsay O’Keefe, and I presented “From Whole to Part – Early Literacy Instruction for English Learners” to a full room of participants. I fully enjoyed presenting with Meghan and Lindsay again (as we had a number of time before I left my position at the central office). The 75 minute session flew by, as our participants were fully engaged, asking questions, sharing insights…everything a presenter could wish for at a conference (including no technology glitches!).
I am particularly proud of this presentation, because it embodies the essence of the culture of our English Language Acquisition Office in Anne Arundel County, MD, over the past 6 years. From the document correlating WIDA Performance Descriptors with Fountas and Pinnell reading levels, to the impromptu sketches explaining our approach to instruction to an assistant principal, to the professional development we designed which aligns our “whole to part” process across schools and now to the conference, our presentation represents who I am as a professional, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Collaboration. Team. Outreach. This one presentation represents almost two years of collaboration between the English Language Acquisition Office, the Elementary Reading Office, the Early Childhood Office, administrators, and teachers to share best practices for early literacy instruction for English learners. While I am no longer in that office, I carry the best practices with me wherever I go and I find great reward each time I see a teacher tweet about their latest “Whole to Part” lesson.
The conference participants gave such positive feedback and encouraged us to take the “Whole to Part” messages into an online course to share with even more people. So, WE ARE!! Lots of great work ahead and I couldn’t be more excited!
I hope you have a wonderful end to your weekend, recharged where you can notice all the parts that make your whole worthwhile.
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