BAP030 – Keep Moving Forward Part 1

“Don’t give up. And even if you GAVE up…doesn’t mean you’re done. Just get back up.” – Emily Francis
Listen to “BAP030 Part I Keep Moving Forward (guest Emily Francis)” on Spreaker.

You can listen to the show at that link, or on your favorite podcast app.

This episode is Part 1 in a 3 part series about graduating newcomers.  We had so many new arrival students graduate this past weekend (see pics of our graduation party here)!  Yay!

But the reality is that that many of our new arrival students did not pass some of their state assessments needed for graduation.  Of course, we can only graduate the students who have enough credits and meet the state’s requirements which include several standardized assessments. And the nature of working with new arrival students is that they may not be able to master the content and language to graduate on time with their peers.  But it doesn’t mean that they can’t and it doesn’t mean that they won’t.  

So then how do we help students in academics and also support them with what they need to be successful in life?  How do we help them stick with it so that they can eventually reach their dreams? What if there isn’t enough time??

I get this question a lot so I’m going to tackle it in a 3 part series.

In this episode I want to show you some of what I do for the mindset of all of my students. I talk a lot about grit but I start by mentioning my friend Andrea Honigsfeld’s work. She helped me keep social justice concerns in mind when we teach with grit narratives.  We need to be very careful not to put the responsibility on the students.  As a profession, WE are the ones who need to change to support the English learners in ways that are equitable.

In the next two episodes we will talk more about what we do specifically to support academics but we will always come back to mindset.  Without the right mindset, nothing else works.

We have recently received our scores for the state exams and many of our newcomers did not pass classes needed for graduation.  It’s important to know that I have been prepared for this all year long. I’ve been talking with my students about people who were not successful on state exams but eventually did  find success academically.  I’m one of those former students so I know how critical it is to believe that you’ll eventually succeed.  Nothing worked for me when I didn’t.

As part of our end of year wrap up, we were reflecting on what we had learned and our goals.  We were setting goals with a goal sheet and ideas from #ELLTeachersToolbox by Larry Ferlazzo & Katie Hull-Sypnieski.  (Many of those ideas are actually available in this blog post by Larry.)   This activity led the students into a discussion about Emily Francis and how she reached her goals.

If you don’t know about Emily Francis, go follow her right now.  I have used her story as part of my curriculum for 2 years now and it is one of the most powerful tools I have in my toolbelt.

I’m super grateful that Emily is out in the world telling about her journey.  My students see that she is a Fab 5 Teaching Channel teacher, arguably at the top of her game and a model for other teachers of ELLs.  But in reading about her journey, they also see that she came to the US with very similar circumstances to theirs.  Emily arrived in the US as a non-English speaker and was starting high school with a 6th grade education from Guatemala.

This podcast includes the audio of that skype session and some of my reflections of the amazing experience.  If you consider that we have studied and referred to her journey throughout the year, you can imagine how powerful this google hangout was for my students.

They brainstormed questions first. Some of the questions she answered were:

Why did you give up in high school when you didn’t pass your US History exam.  (Best question and great answer for students who many not be able to pass state assessments when they first come to a new country)

  • How did you feel when you were on the Ellen Show?
  • Why did you move to North Carolina
  • What part of Guatemala are you from? (led a great response about what her life was like there)
  • How do you feel about US history now?
  • How did your grandmother find you in NYC.
  • What was  your biggest challenge/obstacle and how did you overcome it?  (Amazing response about mindset from Emily)

It is worth noting that my students recently completed a final end of year reflection on their final exams and more than one of them wrote about Emily and this chat with her. They mentioned that they didn’t want to forget the messages Emily gave to them.

At the end of the show we hear a few words from Kamal. This student is learning to read in English even though he does not read in his native language.  He had a difficult experience in Egypt but he is here now and he has a mindset that he can do it.  I’m blown away that he remembers this quote.  Two and a half years ago, it was the first thing in English that he could read or say.  Now Kamal has passed his Algebra EOC!  

In Part 2, Emily and I will connect to debrief this conversation with my students and in Part 3 I will connect with Talisa Harris from Sulpher Spring, Texas.  She is asking about specific ways we can support students with academics and we will talk about what is working at my school.

But we always need to start and end with mindset.  Ours and that of the students.

Have  a great week!


PS: Hope I get to see you this summer or fall!  Will you be at any of these??

June 4-5: ESC7 Summer Conerence.  Kilgore, Texas (Breakout sessions)

June 19: ESC11 Boosting Achievement Full Day Workshop

June 24-25: ISTE in Chicago, Ill. (Breakout Tech Sessions)

June 29: Keynote at ESC10 BIL/ESL Conference

Summer & Fall 2018: Carolina TESOL Workshops

Oct 4: Rapid Literacy Conference – 1 day workshop in Houston, Texas

Sept 28 – 29: MidTESOL in Kansas City (Breakout Sessions)

NCTE18 in Houston, Texas  Nov 2018. Presenting breakouts with Emily Francis & Katie DiGregorio

AbydosCon19, Literacy Conference

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