What SIFE are Teaching Us and Book Study Week One

Look at what these scholars can do!  They helped about 600 educators understand the journey of a newcomer and helped us all raise our expectations for students with interrupted or limited education.

(BTW: This week we kick off another round of the book study so the questions for week one are at the bottom of this post. I know some of you are not here for the book study so I appreciate your grace for the next 5 weeks.  We might reference the book study a lot but I will make sure the beginning of each post has new content for you.)

So for this post, I want to highlight something my students taught us this week:

We need to give them more voice.

Several of my 2nd year newcomers offered a panel discussion at TxTESOL2017.   A few of my 3rd year students came as well because they were from the original class of students in our middle school group and wanted to share about being in high school when you have not had formal education for several years.  These are some photos from the event and if you’re reading Boosting Achievement or if you’ve seen any of my videos, you may recognize these scholars. 

The audience was riveted by their comments.  I am processing video from the event and it will be shared here as soon as possible.  My reflection on this was how profound the event was for the participants AND the students.  It convinced me that we need to do this more.  Because several of the students had interruptions in education or were limited in formal education, their testimony was a big win for English learners and the teachers who teach them. They show that every child can achieve success with support and the right mindset.

One interesting thing is that one of the students told me that maybe he should not participate because he is failing some classes.  This is a young person who only became literate 2 years ago.  I asked him if he was trying his very best.  He said yes.  I asked him if he could read better than last year.  He said yes.  Then I asked him if he was learning in those classes.  Yes. We had a talk about how some people don’t think a person can learn to read in the 2nd language if he can’t read in his native language.  He laughed at that.  That is when I told him that he had a chance to tell teachers that anything is possible… if you believe and don’t give up.  He was energized to go and you should have seen him get all his courage to talk in front of a few hundred people.  The bravery of these scholars brought me to tears. They brought many of the participants to tears and they received a standing ovation.

You see… we don’t expect him to pass all of his classes.  Not yet. But he CAN and he WILL if he doesn’t give up.  Our system is designed to help all students who want to achieve.  It doesn’t feel that way but we can show him how to take advantage of the support.  He just needs to want it.

The voices of these young people were more powerful than anything that any of us could have said at a conference.  They are clear about what helps them.  They are clear about being able to learn quickly.  They are clear about wanting to be challenged but supported.

So, Yes! #TxTESOL2017 was rather amazing.  I’m producing a podcast with some reflections and you’ll see the link for that coming out in just a day or two.  Hat’s off to Karen Lewis and the TexTESOL4 board.

Stay tuned for other events where you can meet these students and others that might want to participate.  Kids CAN teach us!

***************WEEK ONE of the Boosting Achievement Book Study*****************************


Yes, we are starting the book study!  If you are just cracking the book open this week – you’re still in great shape! The first week of the book study is the Forward by Tan Huynh and the Introduction.  This is a quick read but they are very important parts of the book.  Please take time to read these pages so you can comment with the hashtag #BoostingAchievement on Twitter.

For the next 5 weeks, I will do my best to share a weekly post by Sunday evening.   You may choose to answer some of the questions below or just comment on your reading. Please use the #BoostingAchievement hashtag.  You can use the 1A2 format (Week 1/Answer #2) or just use the hashtag and write in complete sentences so people understand your comment.

WEEK ONE: Where we Are, Forward and Introduction

Feel free to use the Flipgrid for responding as well. Here is the Week 1 grid: https://flipgrid.com/ba0b63

1Q1) Roll call: introduce yourself, name, role, grade levels, country/state etc. Anything you want to say about why you’re participating.  (Welcome!)

1Q2) What makes you interested in this book/topic?

1Q3) How is your school addressing the needs of SIFE (students with interrupted formal education)?

What are your desires for systemic solutions. What are your concerns? What are some things that you are proud of in terms of supporting SIFE?

1Q4) Please reflect on the forward by Tan Huynh (@TanELLclassroom). Tan is a leader in ESL education. What are your reactions to his story? His thoughts on the book? How does his story inform what we do as teachers?

1Q5) Carol writes a reflection about her first experience with a large group of refugees. She has several years of experience as a specialist with a background in ELA, Bilingual Education, ESL and Special Education. She was still worried that she would fail these learners. How can teachers overcome self-doubt?

1Q6) Without romanticizing the situations of SIFE, every circumstance has something that can be used in a productive way. One example is brain research showing that there are possible cognitive advantages when a person is not immersed in technology for years. What are your take-aways from the work of Nicholas Carr & Jane Healy (found on p. 11)?

1Q7) As you flip through the Table of Contents, what section are you most looking forward to discussing? Why?

You may also be interested in supplemental materials for WEEK ONE.    At that link you will find the first post I did on part of the book. That post includes videos and the story of a very impressive English learner, Emily Francis.  She was once a SIFE learner herself and has risen above so much challenge to help us see what is possible.  Follow Emily here!

Hope to see you on the Flipgrid, the Twitterverse or both!

Carol Salva


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