Ok, my name is Loretta Aragon-Lopez, and I’m a Vice-Principal at Clovis East High School for Clovis Unified School District.
Ok, well I originally, you know, went to college and wanted to be a business major and so actually ended up a business major and then never thought that I would want to be a teacher and ended up being encouraged by a college professor, ‘I think you’d make a great teacher, I think you should---you should try it.’ So because I have, you know, taken so many units in business I decided to be a business teacher. But I think that being a business teacher actually helped me become who I was eventually at the end as I, you know; my 12 years of teaching because a lot of the things that I did in the business classes related to the real world, had real-life applications. We did a lot with developing their communication skills, their literacy and so that I think in turn helped me, you know, for the very end. So I carried all of that with me. So after becoming a business teacher I decided that I want to get a Masters and Fresno Pacific came to an in-service that I was having at one of the schools and I was at in my, I think, my third year of teaching. And the program sounded wonderful, it sounded like something that I would absolutely enjoy and---and get a lot out of. So I decided to pursue a Masters, uh, in education, in language development, uh, at Fresno Pacific, uh, University. So, uh, from there, um, I started learning about working with second language learners. I was at a school that had a high population of second language learners and I started loo---you know, embedding both my business teacher knowledge with my literacy knowledge that I was gaining from the Masters program. And through that I was also able to, uh, work on or learn strategies to work with second language learners, specifically we talked a lot about that. But the literacy really dev---you know, con---in developing literacy was really it---it really encompasses all kids not just second language learners, it encompasses kids who come to you who are not as literate as the next kid sitting next to them. So that’s sort of how I---I came into it. Then I switched after about 7 years of teaching, uh, business, I switched into working specifically with second language kids at an intermediate school and, uh, that was with 7th and 8th graders and I pretty much designed ----the program did not exist, and I designed the E.L. program. We had a teaming concept where we had math and science and, um, academic block teachers who taught, uh, language arts and history in a, you know, integrated period of time, a blocked period of time. And together those core teachers worked together to deliver services to those kids and it was through, you know, that, that I learned how to be a more effective, uh, literacy teacher and throughout that I was still, you know, attending conferences, learning more about how to work with my kids. But the best, um, I think practice I had was the actual application in the classroom and collaborating with the other colleagues who were on the team, uh, in order to deliver services to these kids. So that’s sort of what, you know, my---my teaching years have---had been all about.
Uh, this---I taught actually for 12 years and actually taught 6 years in the graduate program for Fresno Pacific University. I was also a teacher for the Graduate as Adjunct Faculty Member.
Well, when---when I started off I---I really thought that a teacher was someone who had all the information, who had all the knowledge, who had all the right answers and that’s probably why I never---I didn’t go into teaching from the beginning because I wa---I was an athlete and I thought that I would like to coach, I mean that’s kind of what probably pushed me into being a teacher in addition to working, you know, with one of my professors at, uh, the university. But I think also that I---that I wanted to continue with, you know, the---love I had on the side which was being an athlete and helping other kids get and reach their potential as athletes. But I really was afraid because I thought that a teacher had to know, have all the right answers. And what I ca---what I’ve come to find out is that I---I don’t need to have all the answers, I’ve kind of learned that along the way, that what I need to do is show kids that I am part of this learning community and that together we’re going to discover and together we’re going to find things that are interesting to them and we’re gonna---we’re gonna learn together and create a community where, uh, there are, you know, multiple people in this classroom who contribute in different ways including myself. And so that---that’s really what I---I found out and I found out that learning also takes place in different ways. That I---that kids aren’t gonna learn best by me telling them everything that they need to know. That if I allow them to express who they are, to share with me what their interested in that, um, you know, that to me was---was one thing that was----uh---that I learned. And also that, um------that um----what was I thinking----I had it in my head, I’m sorry.
Ok, well good because I just lost the thought that I was going to say about learning. Um, also that a lot of the---the strategies that I used as---for myself as a learner, you know, coming from a home where a second language was spoken, not real literate in that primary language that my parents spoke because I was trying so hard, my parents were trying so hard to teach us the first lang---the---dominant language of English that all our ki---all the kids spoke in school. And what I found out is that a lot of the strategies that I just used naturally were things, you know, and they were really coping mechanisms for me, were really things that worked for kids. And so I think through my own experiences it’s a combination of experience, personal experiences, you know, education and practical application I think that it, you know, trying it, you know, practicing it and seeing if it works with kids and then changing and modifying as is needed in the classroom for those learners that I have.
Yeah what---uh---I th---you know what I’ve learned from my---from my experiences being, you know, a individual who comes from a family that, you know, spoke another language and who, you know, was, uh, you know a low pover---you know---low---didn’t have a lot of resources, uh, to access like other kids. Uh, didn’t have a lot of opportunities. The opportunities that were given to me were by---were by people who cared and who provided those extra things that---that my parents were unable to provide, not because they didn’t want to, it’s because they were unable to provide it because of their resources. And, um, what was the question again?
Yeah I, um, you know, from my experiences I---I think that when you put together, you know, if---if you’re going to, you know, teach kids, if you’re going to have a setting where kids are learning, you know, which is what our schools are all about, that you need to bring an educational team that has a variety of experiences. And I think as a teacher when I was part of that teaching team, that educational team, that the---my personal background is what helped other teachers understand some of the experiences that these kids were having. For example if an---and this is a common response, you know, a common comment that I always hear is that, well some parents really don’t want their kids to go to college. And I---and it’s really hard for me not to respond, how do you really know that? Because, what people don’t understand is that because you have the resources of course you---you know how to navigate the system, you know how to network thus you’ll be able to get your kids headed in the right path. For myself, being the first college graduate, I had to navigate the system for myself. I know that it’s not as much, uh, intelligence, you know, you’ve got to be pretty smart but what’s really important is that you’ve gotta have people that believe in you. You’ve gotta have teachers that care, that show they care and it----and demonstrate that faith that you as a learner are capable of doing anything that you want to do. I think that those are the things that I bring to a table because I had people like that in my life. I was lucky, everybody else has not---been that lucky. Kids who don’t have those resources have not always been as lucky as me, so if I’m one out of 20 that happen to be lucky that year, or one out 100 that’s not good enough. So it’s important to bring people who share dift---who have different experiences so that when I don’t understand why a kid isn’t doing well in my class I can turn to my colleague and ma----and say I’m really struggling with this child, this student in my classroom, what do you think? And if they’ve come from a different community, a different background, they’ve had different experiences then may---they may say, ‘well did you ever think that maybe you should try this?’ And so it’s really important for, uh, when we, you know, fill our schools with---with teachers and with administrators that they need to be people who have different life experiences, who have come up from different places and can share with you what works and what doesn’t. Um, and I think as an administrator that is another thing that has---that is helping me is that I come to a---I come to the ed---to our table bringing those experiences as, you know, as a learner when I was, you know, a student in a public education classro---in a---in a pub---in public education. I bring, um, it being a teacher, listening to those around me who may not get it, you know, who don’t understand why that kid is reluctant, what’s holding them back. And I---now I come as an administrator hopefully trying to make the next step. And---and a lot of people have asked me why would you want to move out of the classroom when you were, you know, you did a good job in the classroom why would you want to leave it? And it’s probably have been one of the hardest things that I’ve done is to walk away from the classroom (background noise) but I’ve also felt that my---in my passion and my drive for change can happen outside the classroom where I can affect more kids by helping teachers move in the right direction to develop their potentials at, you know, potential as teachers to help kids learn, uh, in a different capacity than---than if I were just in isolation by myself in my own classroom, so.
Well when I was in, you know, high school people would, you know, they would tell me because---one thing I did in high school and this is something that I---I truly believe in and, you know, I work for a school district Clovis, you know, Unified that is a pretty successful district, has a great, you know, reputation for delivering excellence in education and excellence in co-curricular activities. And I have to admit I was a product of that, um, district providing me with the support to be able to access some of that---those opportunities out there that really shape, you know---all our experiences shape who we are. And when I was going through high school, you know, I, um, there will be---there would be a lot of kids that would tell me, because I was an athlete and they would say, ‘well, you know, you’re not like those other kids over there because, you know, you’re not really, you know, you look different then them. You’re, you know, your---your parents are different.’ And I actually didn’t even know my parents were different until someone said to me, ‘you know your father speaks broken English.’ And I said---because she call---a friend called me and I said, ‘he does?’ And I mean I think I must have been like a sophomore or junior in high school. And I said, ‘he speaks broken English?’ And I said I---that’s the only---and I think about it later as I was learning about literacy and about language development and I think, wow, that was the role model I had for English and I thought he was great, I thought he was a good English speaker. And I thought my mother was a good English speaker and that’s the role model I had. And when I would go to school people would tell me that, you know, you’re---you’re not like them until they really came to my home and saw that I was really like those kids that they were saying I was not like. And then when I went to college I actually had a teacher tell me that I can look at the surnames, the last names, of my class and, uh, tell you who’s going to make it and who’s not. Well as I looked around I noticed that I was not, you know, I was one of the few minorities and that’s the only thing I could think that he was probably referring to and I was offended, I was young. Today, you know, with a lot of experience I would probably wouldn’t have put with that kind of comment. But back then when I was young and I wanted to make it through college and I was, you know, just trying to navigate the system on my own I---I took it, I took a comment like that. And then today as an educator, uh, I’ve had people tell me, you know, they don’t---I don’t think they really realize my ex---my experiences are like a lot of those kids that I work with. But I think they---after they get to know me they know that that’s what really drives me and what makes me relentless about making sure that all kids like me who people don’t notice because they’re not involved in co-curricular activities and they’re not athletes and they weren’t able to access the system, have those opportunities to access the system and to develop good literacy skills. I went to college not being the best literate person, I had to take what most people refer to, now I wouldn’t ever refer to it as that, but most people would have referred to as ‘bone-head English.’ And so---so I went to school thinking I was not---I went to college thinking, ok, this is really going to be a struggle because I’m not a really good writer. And I’m being told that because I have to take a class that’s not a really good re---you know, it’s not the top level class that I should be taking. But I was---I think my, you know, character, for whatever reason, said that no matter what I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna do this and then I---I think I was just surrounded by good people. I mean I had a lot---I had one or two individuals that made a impact on me so no matter what anybody else told me I knew in myself who I was and I knew that these people believed in my. And I had parents who supported me and I was just gonna---I was just gonna do it no matter what. And so---anyway---did I---did I answer your question?
Uh, I really think in, you know, in public edu---in K-12 education we’ve got it all wrong. I mean we might even be able to go fr---to K, you know, on up to university level. We have it wrong in a lot of places. What those schools should be about, they shouldn’t be about teaching and, the science and math teachers and social science teachers are probably going to kill me if they hear this, but it shouldn’t be about teaching science it should be about teaching literacy. I think that’s what it’s all about because it’s through that material that I teach kids how to be better readers, how to be better writers, how to be better communicators, how to think critically, those to me are by products of literacy development. But when our teachers go through the, you know, go through schooling they’re taught that they must know their subject well, which is important and---and what I think people have wrong is that you can embed the learning of information with the---the---with literacy development, it’s all---it all works together they are not two separate entities that are not integrated. So literacy, um----developing literacy is not for the English teachers because if you’d ask a traditional English teacher a traditional English teacher is going to say, ‘my role is to teach the great works, the classics that are out there and that’s what I’m going to teach.’ And they are not even---they’re not even convinced that they are literacy teachers and yet they should be holding the torch, they should be leading the way to say, ‘this is what, you know, they should be models of what literacy should look like in a classroom through the in---integration of great works of---of literature. It can work both ways. And so it needs to work in that manner for social science, I mean that is a great opportunity for teachers to enhance kid’s reading and writing abilities. Uh---the same thing with science and the same thing with math I think I see it work---I see it working in our elective program classes, I mean, the---it works in all of it, on all of those programs. But we really need, in education, to be focused in that direction. We need to tell our teachers who come out of the universities that this is what they do. And the university teachers need to teach kids in that fas---I mean to need to teach those college students in that fashion so it’s not a pr---it’s not a---situation that, you know, we can hand---we can do in just one small thing, we can start and we have started that at our school. To tackle that issue of literacy development across the curriculum but we really need the assistance of everyone and I think for us at Pacific, you know, through Learning Edge, with Bobby, does a great job of doing that and helping us get teachers to understand that their role is not disim---disseminators of information, it is teachers that develop kids who can read and write and think critically. Uh, that’s what we need.
------------In various content areas, right. All across the---and I---I really think it goes across everything not just the core. It goes across all of them.
I---I think that what Bobby di---what---what the---what Learning Edge does so well is that it tells---it gives teachers the how---I mean the why, excuse me, the why.
Ok, I think what---what, uh, Leaning Edge does so well is that it gives teachers the ‘Why’ versus the ‘How’ and if you look at that development across it’ll---if I---if I just were to take my own personal experience with self-development and I could show you my resume of how many self-development, uh, you know, things that I went to and I went to plenty of these I believe in and always learning, uh, a lot of them where---were, here are some strategies and I know they work, go and try them with your kids and I know they’ll work and you’ll get good results. So what we did is we went back, we tried these strategies, they didn’t work with everybody, they didn’t work as nicely as they said they would and, you know, we---it---it wasn’t---it’s not the right way. What I’ve learned as a teacher and through Learning Edge is that you’ve got to give the teachers the ‘why.’ They’ve gotta understand, ‘why would I want to do this in my classroom?’ ‘Why am I doing it in my classroom?’ And---and is it---and then say, ‘How do I go about, uh, affecting my implantation of the why?’ But you can’t---you can’t start with the how, we start with the, here’s a good strategy, here’s how you do it, versus why am I doing it. And I think that’s one thing that I learned in my 12 years as a teacher is that I transformed from the how to the why. You know, how---how was this, here’s a good strategy, here’s how you do it, not wh---why would I want to do that with these kids? Why would I want to use, um, a cooperative learning activity with second language learners? Why would I want---why would I want to use, you know, any strategy? You know because what we end up having is we end up having teachers that do a lot of these great strategies but it---there’s still no learning. There’s still no development of literacy. Kids still aren’t getting better as readers and writers because the focus is so much on the how and not on the why and Learning Edge gives teachers the philosophical foundation and if you---from which they can operate and once you have that foundation, once you have that philosophical understanding of why would I want to implement, you know, this in my classroom then when teachers encounter any situation, any learner, whether it’s a second language learner or a kid who comes in with low literacy skills, they are going to be able to address those issues because they have the why behind them versus the how.
Yeah I---I think that---that what I find is, you know, now as an administrator, what I find is that a lot of teachers are---are lacking a philosophical foundation. The---you know, the platform from which they operate, from which they make decisions. You have to have a, you know, people say, you know, a lot of districts ask for their philosophies. What’s you philosophy in education? Well I---I think that you need to break it down a little bit more. It’s not just your philosophy in education it’s your philosophal---philosophy on literacy. What do you think about literacy? What do you believe are things that are important about literacy? Do you think that---that kids should be given, you know, something as simple as could---should students be given choice when they---should students have a voice in their---and their writing should you---is that what you’re looking for? Are you giving kids, um, an opportunity to work with other students and develop their thoughts and---and have their opinions heard? You know some very basic things on---on---on learning. You know, what is your philosophy about learning? What do you know about how, you know, the brain works? What do you know about, uh, you know, how kids learn effectively? How do you know, uh, what is the best, you know, methodologies for our second language learners? What things work effectively with them and what things don’t? If you don’t have a solid philosophical foundation on those things, uh, then you are pulling from a toolbox of strategies and method that others have given you that really have no philosophical foundation. And I’ve worked with a lot of teachers, training teachers at the graduate level, you know, teachers who came back to take graduate courses and many teachers would tell me, ‘well I’m eclectic, I pick from whatever works.’ And what basically that tells me is that you don’t have a philosophical foundat---foundation from which you operate. And that you don’t really understand about learning and about, you know, literacy development, uh, because you’re eclectic, because you---you can’t be really eclec---if you really mean that then that means that you don’t have a philosophical foundation. And you need to have one because everyday you walk into that classroom, teachers walk into that classroom everyday and make instructional decisions that will impact their students for the rest of their lives. And one of the basic things that teachers have to have, what I look for in a teacher is, does a teacher have a heart not only for the kids in the classroom but do they hunger and have a heart for learning. Do they want to continue learning? Do they see that as a critical component to the success of their students? And that---that is what I look for. And a lot of people will tell me I’m looking for the heart in a teacher and I---and I absolutely agree you cannot---you’ve got to have a teacher that cares about people. But you’ve got to have a teacher that cares about learning, not only for themselves but---but more importantly for themselves because it’s through their learning and to their professional development that they will continue providing better services to the---to all the students that they serve, all their clientele, second language learners, kids from different cultural exp---backgrounds, everyone will benefit from that teacher’s hunger for learning.
Yes, I taught for them. (Interruption) Yeah, I taught for them for 6 years and then I became the administrator and could no longer tackle (both) yeah, it was really hard.
Yes I did with Bonnie and David.
Yes, they’re one of my inspirational people.
Oh yes, absolutely---------they’re one of them because---I mean I really, you know, I---I think that, um, Fresno Pacific-------demonstrated constantly how I should have ta---how I should be teaching in the classroom, they just didn’t tell me, they showed me. Always showing me. And a lot of people would say to me, ‘um, now, you know, wow a------you’re really outspoken, you’re not afraid to get up and talk in front of people. You’re, uh, you’re not shy and, you know, well---you know you express yourself well and what is so amazing is that I never thought that about myself. And I really don’t think that I had it, I might have had it in me but it was through the Masters Program here at Fresno Pacific that allowed me to come out, to be this person who could articulate themselves, who could, uh, was not afraid to express what I feel be---why? Because I was valued as a learner and in turn that’s what I did in my classroom. I did it with second language learners. And at one point in my classroom my kids were asked to present something that they did at a board meeting and these are second language learners that are 7th and 8th graders, you know, they---I mean, I would think as a 7th, 8th grader I couldn’t---I couldn’t have gotten up in front of my whole classroom. And they got up there and spoke in front of these---this big room of parents and community members and the board and it---I mean it almost brought a tear to my eye because I thought, wow, you know, and I’d looked back at what I was doing and it---and it helped develop those kids to get to that point. Because I did exactly what was done with me when I was a graduate student at Fresno Pacific. I did exactly the same thing. I’d nurtured and supported that development, like mine was, so that those kids could go and do those things. And now that I’ve left that---that teaching environment where I was working with those second language kids a lot of those kids have moved on and are leaders in their high school. And it, to me I hope it’s because of something that I did to encourage them to get out and share and value who they are and their opinions and---and it----it was just great, so.
I think first and foremost that the---the best way to get kids to learn and it’s not even ha---it hasn’t to do with pedagogy, it has to do with believing and having faith in them. I really think that that is the first and for---and foremost step that you can do is you---and when I say that you need to demonstrate faith in kids, you need to care about them, I’m not saying that you need, you know, to provide a hug every day. That you need to em---you know, physically show that faith. What you need to dem---how---the way you demonstrate faith is you demonstrate faith in the classroom by providing them with the experiences that will help them be better, literate people later in life. That’s how you do it. And one example is, if I value them as learners, if they are valuable, you know, members of this learning community then their voice matters. They’ve gotta have a little bit of choice of what goes on. I have to recognize that if I have kids from different backgrounds, if I have kids who are second language learners then the material and the---and the things that I do in my classroom, the things that I expect them to do, have to be tied in to what’s important to them. And if I don’t do that, if I just continue on what’s important to me then I’ve really missed the boat on what’s important for the---to get the learning to take place at the optimal level. Because once I was here at Fresno Pacific and they started asking me, ‘Loretta, what do you think about this?’ and I’m like, you really want me to write a paper about what I think about something? Nobody’s ever asked me that, what I think about this particular idea or concept. And so I try to do the same for my kids. What do you think about this? It wasn’t easy because kids are used to being told what they should think. And when I would ask kids to tell me what they think they really struggled with that. So I---I, you know, there are a lot of things that I---that I believe are important about learning that is---it---that gets kids to that level but you’ve got to demonstrate faith. And you’ve gotta demonstrate faith in the instructional things the---instructional decisions that you make on a daily basis. You’ve got to know the ‘why’ again. You’ve gotta know why I’m doing it. Why would I want my kids to read “Lubica Manana?” Why would I want them to read “The Clay Marble?” Well it’s because those kids will have a connection to those literate pieces---those literary pieces that have meaning to them so that when I’m trying to develop their literacy skills, when I’m trying to make them better writers and I say, ‘could you please respond to what you saw as a connection’ or, you know, in any manner that would connect them, then you’re gonna be able to voice your opinion. When I have---I think what happens in education is that teachers will say, ‘well these kids don’t write anything so how can I make them better writers?’ Well in turn I want to tell them, ‘did you get them---did you give them anything to write about that was worthy of their opinion?’ you know, did they have anything to say about the material? Can they make a connection? When I was in high school and in college I would be asked a lot about things that I had no background knowledge of. I didn’t understand what they were asking. Thus I could---I could not respond effectively so I didn’t look like I was as good as everybody else because I didn’t have an opinion about that. So even when I sat in, um, my undergraduate work in a business class and they were asking all of these questions that I guess they assumed people would know and have---and there were people in the room that were able to answer those questions and my only thought later---yeah---I didn’t realize it then was that as I learned about literacy development is that background knowledge is critical. And so I would try to provide those things that would help those kids have the background knowledge and connect their own personal infor---knowledge to some of that stuff so that I could develop the connections, and develop the literacy through those---to those kids. But once again I think that if I believe, if I demonstrate it by, of course, my caring attitude, if I demonstrate faith through my caring and I all but---but in addition to that is you’ve got to demonstrate your faith by the instructional decisions you make every single day in your classroom. You’ve got to value who they are as learners and they need to know that. And they will know it when you make the decisions that you make every day, on what they’re going to do to show you that they’ve learned something. And people would ask me, ‘what do you---what is your measurement of---how do you know your kids are learning?’ ‘Or what are your goals, like what are your lesson plan goals?’ ‘What’s your objective?’ And I would say, ‘well, part of what I wanted to do with second language learners, you know, in that particular setting is that I gave them opportunities to read, to write, to speak and to listen and that they knew a little bit more today than they knew yesterday.’ And that to me was important. Because we can get all, you know, um, focused on the standards and this is standard 3.2 but what was really most important to me is that they were---they had opportunities to read, to write, to speak and to listen and they knew more than they knew yesterday. I---and---and to me that is how you mo---you push these kids and in order for me to be able to do that I needed to know where they were at. I needed to know where these kids were at yesterday so that I could plan where they---where they were going to go next.
Absolutely. Absolutely I’d have to---yeah---yeah---you’d have to talk, you have to listen. I think, you know, I almost, uh, you know, cringe and, you know, the hair on my back---the back stand up and when teachers tell me, ‘oh, well I develop my lesson plans for the entire year and I’m done.’ And I’m like, oh my gosh. I hope that you’re not---I hope you were talking about your skeletal plan and not your less---daily lesson plans. Because those need to change because your learners aren’t the same. And they’re gonna evolve as you deliver that instruction, they’re gonna get either better or they’re not---going to get better and you need to figure out if they’re growing or not growing and how to fill that gap in between so that they can move. And so, you know, as a teacher I, you know, you---you’ve gotta have a---you’ve gotta know where you’re going but you gotta focus on the instruction that’s happening in the classroom. So we got off on a different---we kind of went off a little bit.
Yeah, well what’s---what’s interesting is being a, you know, uh---an administrator, you know, the in---in California the---they want administrators now to be instructional leaders. And so that means to me that if I’m an instructional leader that means I better be able to---know what I’m talking about in instruction. And so I---I really---I really think in the instructional, and since I have a---a---of---um---big background, you know, I taught for 12 years in a variety of settings, I taught not only, you know, um, 7-12. I taught very specific kids, second language learners, you know, a targeted population. I taught at---I taught teachers who were teaching those kids, um---I have a lot of experience. I’m not, I think, the regular administrator that walks in and I have personal life experiences that really drives me as an educator, that drives my passion for what I believe in and my relentlessness to see change happen in the classroom. And so as the administrator I not only, you know, struggle with---uh---you know, I have to come in with an approach for my teachers but I’m also finding that my team of administrators, I also have to find a different approach because those are some, you know, when we’re deciding how we’re gonna, you know, because I don’t operate solo I operate in a team, and a lot of the---a lot of the decisions that are made are made on a team basis not just on what Loretta thinks is the best thing to do. So yeah. So I have to go around really, you know, trying to finesse my way through how am I gonna make this happen. And I learned a long time ago when I was---and I take it because of my own experiences what I’m about to say. When I was applying for a mentorship in, uh, to be a mentor teacher, a district-at-large mentor teacher in the area of English language, um, for English learners, I was also a mentor for the district and I had to go through an application process. And I was observed in my classroom and I was interviewed and, uh, the two inter---the---those interviewing me to---to, um---a district, uh, level administrator said to me, ‘how are you going to get, you know, if you’re going to be the mentor for the district, how are you going to get teachers to bel---to do what you do in your classroom and to, you know, to have these practices? How are you gonna get that out there?’ And I said, well one thing that I’ve learned in working with teachers is that I can be the most passionate person in the world. I can be, you know, I could work 15 hours at trying to get---I could side-by-side next to you, telling you about all the great things that work in your classroom. Uh---but the problem is, is I’d be telling you and you still wouldn’t know what to do when I walked out that door. So my response to them is, how am I gonna get people to change? I said, by information, by knowledge. So I think that they have to know, they have to know why they do what they do so it goes back to the why. And ----um----I----I said that’s it. And so what I do in my current position with teachers is I try to work the why in there. So because of my experiences I’m able to pick and---and sort of encourage, you know, to attend specific things and Learning Edge happen to be one of them that I feel passionately about and I went as far as---I’ve been wanting to attend for quite a few years and I decided I’m attending with them. To show them that this is important to me.
Yeah, um---you know I---I feel---I feel that, uh, if you’re gonna ----that the way you influence, you know, teachers or learners is to---to give them the---is to help them get to the same point that you’re at. That if I just tell them that all these things are really effective, are good, they have no philosophical foundation from which to base, to---to really reflect on is that really good or not good. Is it going to work in my classroom or is it not going to work in my classroom. So what---so the way I stand on this issue of how do you, you know, influence teachers to move and to change and to rethink their delivery and instruction, is to get them to know the information that needs to get them there. Let them see the modeling take place because even themselves as learners will see that, wow this is effective. This is infect---effective u---delivery. This is good information. So while they’re learning information, through Learning Edge, they’re also seeing effective instruction. As a matter of fact, you know, one of my---English teacher is sitting there and she has like a ‘aha’ and says, ‘what a great strategy this is to work with kids in our classroom.’ And later on we had a conversation and I said, you know, look at what everything that she does, she models everything, Dr. Mason models everything that is good instruction. And you’re going to be able to take all of this stuff, that’s what’s so good about it is that as you’re learning-----this you’re also getting good modeling of instruction. And so I think that’s how you---that’s how you move people to---in that direction is that you---you---you start giving them, you start em---embedding this---this philosophical belief in them, you start building their foundation because they don’t know that they don’t have it. And so you start building this foundation by giving them access to these types of things, encouraging them by even attending with them so that you can have the same conversations with them so that together you can reflect on what was said and so you’re a community of learners yourself and pointing out every now and then these little things that would also, you know, work with their kids. To see if they can---they need to do some self-discovery. You can’t---it can’t just be me telling you, you know, me telling teachers what’s so important. I went as far as trying---as, you know, encouraging two other administrators to attend so that my---I guess my, uh, power of influence was not just, you know, the---the basin I was trying to build the, you know, troops, as I called them, you know, these are my troops these are my---these are---these are---the group of us that are gonna go out and spread, you know, the good word about instruction. Is that it’s not just gonna be me saying that, ‘look how wonderful this is.’ It’s gonna be teachers actually taking them back and applying all this good stuff. But what the teachers don’t understand is what they got out of Learning Edge was a philosophical base from which now they’re gonna be able to make many decisions about instruction because of the way that Learning Edge is designed.
Well what, um, you know I---I see them sort of as, um, would process be the right word? Not process but like messengers, you know, of good information. I really see them and I’ve told them individually, you know, I’m counting on you. So behind the scenes I’m sort of telling them, I’m counting on you to go and ha---and---and share with your colleagues how effective this----uh---program was for you. How it changed your thinking of how instruction and how literacy should be developed. Because we had A.P. teachers that attended. And I asked one of my A.P. teachers what, um, you know, what---what do you think now, how will you approach you’re A.P. instruction and she told me, ‘different then I’ve ever approached it before.’ And some and---and there was another one of my teachers that I’ve been working with a little bit longer, uh, and she said to me, and I have seen her change. And she has not changed because I have been sitting next to her telling her all these good strategies that work with second language learners and kids who have low literacy skills. She’s changed because I’ve---I’ve helped gain access to information. I’ve encouraged her to attend things that I think are gonna make a difference in who she is as a learner. You know Learning Edge is one of those things. She now sees instruction, she now sees her students, she now sees learning and she sees assessment completely different than what she has saw---what she saw before. And she sees it different for her A.P. kids and she sees it different for---her---um, you know, kids who really struggle and might be in what, you know, traditionally might be called a remediation type of English class. And when we have conversations about, Ok what are you gonna do different now she says, it’s un---it’s unbelievable, you know, that all this stuff is applicable. Learning Edge and---and learning is applicable to all kids. But what I think she’s really unaware that she’s saying is, now I know why I’m gonna do what I do in my classroom. Why it’s important to do those things. Because I know all this and now I can make better curricular decisions. And what our inten---what our plan is, is to continue the conversation with, uh, teachers working with each other. I’ve had, you now, teachers who are---who---who have more experience, who are gonna help those who are less experienced, who are hoping to continue, you know, the conversation. We want to develop, uh---uh, sort of a model classroom, some classrooms where teachers can see this instruction take place so that they can see that it works. So we’re trying to, you know, spread it and hopefully we’re gonna send more teachers so that we can all have these same conversations. So it’s something that I, you know, that I’ve been working on as an administrator for a few years to get teachers to attend and it finally happened and, uh, I’m not---I’m not giving up. I’m gonna continue to tea---to encourage people to be continuous learners and I’m---I’m gonna support the heck out of them to do that.
It’s not---it hasn’t been that easy, the road, but it sounds a little pleasant here, but it’s been an uphill with like, you know, some of the co---some of the other administrators that I work with. It---it hasn’t always been easy because, uh, you know, phil---if you speak from a strong philosophical belief that---that’s, you know, and your philosophical, uh, beliefs on instruction, on learning and assessment really come from, um, inform---come from knowledge. And a little bit of who you---of heart too, I mean I---I think so but a lot of it comes from what you know. You’re gonna do like with second language learners they are gonna be some very common misconceptions that are---I mean people have some, you know, well this is how they learn if I speak louder and slower and I repeat it a hundred times then you’re gonna get it. If I give them a hundred vocabulary words a week then by the end of the month they will have known, you know, 400 or 500 words versus a different approach. And you’re not gonna change people’s minds unless they know. And so, um, -----anyway.
Well when I---when I became a teacher, you know, I thought that, you know, I---well I better know this stuff. And that’s important, you better know the stuff you’re teaching. Ok? But is it as important for me to know my content in all its complexity, I mean, every detail, because I went to school when knowing details was what I was asked to know. That was a demonstration of my learning is if I knew all the de---the details. Or I knew all the teacher’s answers that they were looking for.
And so if you get---if you---a lot of teachers will teach the way they’ve been taught. So, you know, it’s real important that we provide teachers with good experiences that sh---you know, and put them in an environment where they’re learning, that they’re actually experiencing the learning, you know, the styles, the---you know, the approaches that are being used with them, the strategies so they can see, wow this works with me too and I’m a college graduate, you know, I can learn the---if they, you know, if---if I---if this is effective for me the---this has gotta be effective for some of those kids in my classroom too, especially some of the kids that might be struggling. I’m---I’m learning this stuff myself. Um---so you---if you go from, uh, a position of where you’re being told all of this information, you gotta know all this stuff, the focus is on the wrong place. Because it’s not important that I know everything if I’m a social science teacher, it’s not important that I know everything about the Civil War. That I know all the dates and I know what had happened with all these specific events in history. Those things are important and I---and all those teachers know those things if they’re in---that’s their love. If that major is their love they know that stuff because that’s what they love to know. But it’s not so important that they know all that. What’s important is that they’re practicing their---that they---that they look at what they do in their classroom to make their kids better at---not---not in knowing the details, in knowing how to articulate their thought, how to read the information, how to navigate the text, to---how to be better writers, how to translate that into writing and how to be better, you know, thinkers. And you can’t do that by just giving them the details. You have to do that by having teachers see themselves as practitioners. They need to see themselves as someone who goes into a class---who is going into a classroom with a group fill of---full of learners and they’ve got to just---to look at themselves and saying, ‘I’m practicing my craft in this classroom.’ And then you’ve gotta ask yourself, ‘Is it working?’ You’ve gotta analyze it. Is it working? Is this---is what I’m doing working to make them better, literate students? Am I getting there? And if you’re not asking yourself that question, if you’re so focused on content, if you’re so focused on giving them the details, giving them the information, you know, telling them in ‘The Great Gatsby’ what---what’s im---what you think is important then they’re never going to really get the meat of what needs to happen in your classroom. They need---yea---they need to get to the point that, you know, that efficient, you know, kids who are very literate have maybe gotten there by themselves. So we need to look at, if I have to, you know, kids in my classroom and they’re not getting to where I need them to get to, I need to look at myself. I find that teachers will, and even us as administrators, will look at external factors like, you know, why do we go and change the whole math program for the kids who don’t get it. So it’s almost the same as second language learners, we’ll just stretch it out, you know, we’ll give them---we’ll water it down, we will give them an easier book to read that might be below their level, uh-----you know, instead of going, ‘what is it that I’m doing in my classroom that’s not working?’ Why is it always the kids that’s not---that it’s not working for? Why is it not working for me as a practitioner? If I’m practicing what I’m doing I need to look at myself in that light. And that is a----is a---um---is a shift in thinking. And teachers don’t see themselves as that and so we’ve got to move them in that direction. And you move them in that direction by embedding things that they do, with you, so that they can get themselves to think about why they do what they do in their classroom. And that’s not easy because you’re undoing a lot of---of learning that is hab---habits that have been formed about learning, how learning has taken place, you know, because they---they teach how they’ve been taught, so.
Well the, you know, there’s---there’s a big debate on, you know, in---in the secondary level when I was working with second language learners on, you know, why---when I had a sort of a teaming approach. And there’s a lot of people that do and they’re dis---disciplinary teams and this---this inner disciplinary team happened to be focused with second language learners. And, um---uh---I---I have found that if you don’t---if---it---that without that, that you sort of have these kids, you know, really thinking out there without a supportive team. And if you have kids that come in that are schooled in their primary language then those---those are the kids that people are gonna look at and say, ‘they made it, how come these other kids aren’t making it?’ And why is it that they do it and they don’t? Well if you don’t know that, you know, you’re concepts are just transferred, you know, if I know how to, uh, do an, you know---m---mathematical, you know, concept so if I understand how the cell works and---and I learned in another language it’s very easy for me to transfer that concept. If I know how to read and write it’s very easy for me to transfer that concept to another language. All I have to do is learn that language. But when you have ski---kids who come in with very limited----um---um---academic backgrounds, ----you know---not a lot of schooling in their primary language, all I see it for my---what I saw for myself was just, you know, was a---it was a bigger opportunity for me to do something with these kids. But it wasn’t gonna happen just with me. I had to involve other teachers. I had to, you know, make sure that we were all aware of where these kids were at. We---I needed to make sure that they were providing them with an environment, initially, that, uh, was---inviting to them, you know, that he---that allowed them to participate at a variety of levels. So I had to make sure that what I asked them to do, you know, the---if the kids who had---who lacked, you know, schooling---it---who come with different issues to the ta---to the educational table, to the learning table is----you know I have to provide them different opportunities to get where they needed to get. They can still get there but you’re not going to be able to do it by yourself. You’re going to have to pull together a team of people so that they perceive the sp---support along the way. And there was criticism on why would you want to separate, you know, and put these kids in an interdisciplinary team? Is that pulling them away from others and is that---and I saw it as, no this is really providing them an environment from which they can learn because I had---the environment from I learn is important. It has to be---it has to be inviting. It---I have to be valued. And if I’m---if I’m in an environment where I feel threatened, where I feel intimidated then I’m really gonna---I’m gonna shut all the learning off. So I have to provide---I---you know---you---you have to provide them with opportunities at their level with a lot of encouragement, with a lot of support, to get them there. I---I absolutely think that could happen. I see it as a---as a---um---as something that we---that we need to work a lot at improving to get those kids there. Because there are a lot of kids that give---there are a lot of people that would give up on---on kids that come in. They will say, ‘these kids, it’s too late. Let’s just kind of weed them through the system and, you know, tell them that they’re not going to graduate and I’m only willing to tell them that they’re gonna not graduate.’ It’s our responsibility as---as---um---you know, educators to get those kids where we could---get---where they need to be. A lot of us know how to do that but are we willing to put in the time and create the teams and get the right people on board. And that was a---that was another important part is you---we had---you have to put---you have to get those kids with people that know---what they’re doing with these kids. You have to get---that’s why, you know, if you look at California with 25% of our st---of our population, our second language learners, then you bet most of our teachers better know. They better know that they need to do this with those kids, you know, wi---with these types of kids. That’s why it’s important for teachers to learn about lots of different, um, types of learners so that they can provide good instruction to them. I didn’t know if you wanted me to get real specific about strategies and all that? Yeah, from teachers.
Um---my message you---to teachers working with second language learners would be to value who they are as learners. Let them know that----that what they bring to your learning community is equal as---equally as important as what you br---what you are bringing. And to me that---that is something that I didn’t experience when I was going through school. That----I avoided sharing what was---what was unique about me and my family because it was so different from everybody else. And, you know, you need to celebrate that what they bring to the learning table is---to the---is valued. That’s what---that’s what you need to do. That’s what I would tell---that’s what I would---I would do for anyone but especially for second language learners.
I---I---I think I would have liked teachers to ask me what I thought was important. I would have liked teachers to ask me about issues that were---that affected me. I---I would have liked them to value me as a person that brings a different, uh, perspective to the table. And it really wasn’t until I got to Fresno Pacific that that was valued. And that is really what I hid; I tried to be like everybody else. I tried to pretend that I wasn’t who I was. And it wasn’t until I started going to graduate school that I decided, you know what, I’m not gonna do that. This is who I am and this is what I believe and I’m---I’m---I’m gonna---I’m gonna share that. And they provided a platform for me to do that. So I really hid, you know, what were things that---that really, you know, meant a lot to me. What was---what was important? And if they would have done that for me, you know, if they would have helped me with that. If what they would have showed that---that those things---that they valued that, that---then I---I---you know, uh---I’m not sure what would have happened but it would have been nice, you now, to---to have had that happen to me. So a lot of kids want to melt and be like everybody else. I---by putting kids in very specific, um----you know, programs to target their needs like, let’s say you put them in an environment for E.L. kid---for English learners. And you sort of separate them maybe for part of the day, um---you know, people may see that as w---you know----the kids themselves would see that as----and---and I had kids see that as, you know, I don’t wanna be known as a kid who’s in that program. And that would really hurt my heart because that told me that they didn’t value who they were. And---and everybody needs to be valued, no matter what. Everybody does.
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