It’s been a crazy summer so far. I definitely do not feel like I’m really on “vacation.” I’ve taught some classes, been through a renovation, hosted out of town family and friends, and now I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get ready to be out of town for a week at IFLT in Cincinnati next week. The amount of preparation and planning it takes to leave behind my little family for a week is ridiculous. I have two little boys, 5 and 3, who I’ve gotten to spend a ton of time with this summer. I love to spend time with them, but I also like to have some actual downtime and I always have some help with childcare in the summer. That said, the idea of hiring a babysitter from 5AM-5PM for an entire week is totally bumming me out. My husband commutes to Denver daily for work (over an hour) and so I do a lot of the day to day grind at our house…and trying to figure out my “replacement” is well…hard.
I feel like it’s always this time, right before something big and exciting, when the preparation is the hardest, that I ask myself, “Why am I even going? Why am I even doing this?” When I was in college, we used to go snowboarding every weekend (I know…it was rough! Ha.), and the hardest part was waking up at 5AM and thinking, “Do I even want to go?” Of course, the hardest part was always getting there, and it was always so fun and so worth it!! If you’ve ever traveled with children, you know that the packing and the craziness right before the fun stuff is enough to make even the most calm person give up and stay home. But it usually ends up being a great family memory. A few weeks ago, I sat in our abandoned school office with my colleague, Mary Beth Johnson, looking over our presentations for IFLT. After two hours of fairly minor tweaks and discussion, I said something about how glad I was that we’d already done all the hard work on the presentations for CCFLT in Colorado last February. I was so glad we only had to spend two hours in school during the beautiful Colorado summer, because those presentations took much longer to actually put together the first time around. We quickly touched base on how we wanted to tweak our lunchtime talk and realized we needed to revisit that soon…and again, I found myself thinking, “This is so much work!! Why am I doing this?!”
As I sit here, on a beautiful patio in the Colorado sun, I’m thinking about that question again, “Why am I bending over backwards to get to IFLT? Why are we working our butts off to go across the country, leave our homes behind, and present on heritage speakers?” Of course, I love PD as much as the next teacher, and attending the IFLT conference last summer in Denver was one of the most enlightening and affirming experiences of my career. But truth be told, I feel pretty well supported in my district, and if I was unable to attend the conference this summer, I feel like I would get plenty of PD this school year to support our implementation of CI. So again, in the midst of all the crazy, I ask myself: why am I working so hard to get to Cincinnati?
And I realize that there are two answers. The first answer is that I am passionate about teaching and reaching Spanish heritage speakers! This is what gets me excited, this is what I’m good at, and what I’m excited to get better at! Reaching kids who don’t have all the opportunities and are often overlooked is a passion of mine. And helping other teachers reach them is important to me!! Reaching out to teachers who have heritage learners in their classes matters to me. And helping teachers who are assigned to teach Spanish heritage speakers know they’re not alone is important to me. Sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned so far with those teachers is important to me.
The second answer is…our profession is in dire need of increased support and resources for reaching Spanish heritage speakers. I believe this is probably one of the most underserved groups in our profession, and I feel like it’s my job (and our collective responsibility) to bring as much attention as possible to this issue. Not only has teaching heritage students for the last six years been one of the biggest challenges (and biggest highlights) of my professional career, it has been the most humbling part of it for sure. Last year when I attended IFLT in Denver I was hoping to see at least one or two sessions on heritage teaching; there weren’t any. I made some connections with other heritage teachers attending that had the same concerns. It didn’t make sense that there wouldn’t be any sessions on that topic…until I realized, maybe there wasn’t anyone willing to present on that topic. And that’s when I realized…those of us teaching heritage kids, who have been doing it for a little while, it’s us!! It’s us that need to stand up and be willing to present on what’s working for us, and what’s been hard and how we are meeting those challenges. It’s up to US!! We are the ones who understand, better than anyone, how real the possibility of teacher burnout is, because we have experienced firsthand the overwhelming feelings of being underprepared and unsupported in this part of our teaching assignment. Our experience is important! This area of teaching is important! This matters! And it matters because…the kids matter. The kids MATTER. And that is why sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned with other teachers in a similar boat matters…because by reaching the teachers, maybe I can have an impact on more kids’ lives. And if this is true for you too…then please join us!! Help be part of the solution! Reflect on what’s working for you in your heritage classes, reach out, write essays, become active on social media, and work your butt off to get to local and national conferences and share your successes
And so…as I make easy dinner plans for an entire week of pizza, frozen meals, and crockpot concoctions that even a 17 year old babysitter can handle, I am trying to remember…I am doing this because this is my passion and what I care most about, and because this how little old me can contribute to my profession…and indirectly impact the lives of students I’ve never even met.
If you’ll be at IFLT, please consider joining me and Mary Beth Johnson for two sessions on Friday morning, “Reaching Spanish Heritage Speakers” and “Designing a Secondary Spanish Heritage Speaker Curriculum.” You can also find us Tuesday afternoon answering questions at the “Speed Dating with the Gurus” event (also known as Forums), or Wednesday during Lunchtime talks. We’d love to meet you, connect with you, and hear what’s working (or not) for you in your classroom. And if you won’t be there this year, we look forward to connecting with you sometime soon either in person, here on this blog, or on social media, and the rich discussion that follows!