Hello friends! I feel like it has been SO long since our last blog post! Was the whole month of May like a whirlwind for you, too? I was barely keeping my head about water! Anyways, I really hope your summer has started already 🙂 And that you are enjoying some down time and quality time with friends and family.
I’ve been think a lot about my heritage classes at the end of the year. I’m lucky enough to teach a dual enrollment course to my heritage students, so they earn both high school and free college credit in my class, which is guaranteed to transfer to any in-state college in Colorado. It’s an awesome opportunity! (In addition, if they earn 12 credits through the dual-enrollment program while in high school, they qualify for the ASCENT program, which gives them a FREE year at the local community college! Isn’t that amazing??)
On the last day of all my classes, we take a class photo and I laminate it and put it on my photo wall. The motto of my school is “ubuntu” which means, “I am who I am because of who we are.” Basically, the idea is we are all in this together, and we are a family, and we support each other because that’s how we grow individually and as a team. Anyways, I have an “Ubuntu” wall in my room with pictures of all my classes for the last several years. Kids love to see their friends from years before, or to find their cousins or siblings. I also love that my regular Spanish classes get to see photos of all the heritage speakers in one class.
This year, I chose to take that picture on the Friday before the final exam for the community college. Since college programs typically end before high school is out for the summer, I have to give my exam on the last day of the college term, meaning it’s a few weeks before actual finals. And at my school the kids have their parents sign a waiver excusing them from all classes after the final exam. So, essentially, this was taken on the last day of class before the final.
Let me sidetrack for just a moment. In my teaching life, I feel like there are two days every year that are the most rewarding for me and make me remember why I do what I do. First is the day the representative comes from the local community college and helps my students complete the online application (ALL my students, regardless of immigration status) so they can get credit for my class, which is a class they will take even if they don’t sign up for credit (remember, I teach 9th and 10th graders). There’s something about helping them navigate an extremely confusing application (one question says, “Are you a displaced homemaker?”) and watch them get their acceptance and their student number that is so amazing. They get mailed a letter of acceptance after that, even though they were accepted on the spot in class, and they bring the letter in to show me with pride. The other day is the day I log in to the community college database to enter their grades and award many of them the first college credits of their lives. Most of them are first generation students (I know this because there is a question on the community college application that asks this specifically), so this is a VERY big deal. I usually cry tears of joy 🙂 It’s such an exciting moment, but I never get to celebrate that day with my students, because it’s after my kids have taken their final and I don’t have them in class anymore. And I usually don’t have them as juniors or seniors.
So, now let me return to this picture. You’ll notice…I’m in it. This picture is special because it is the first time ever, since I started taking these pictures, that a class (heritage or not) insisted I be in the picture. They insisted someone else take it and tracked down a passing student to do so. There are days when teaching is hard, but I will look back at this picture and not only remember what amazing kids they are, but also our very special relationship and connection.
If it’s not already evident from my blog posts and conversations on Facebook, I absolutely love teaching heritage students. It is probably the best part about my job. But, I’m just going to be completely honest: the way my year ended with this group of students was kind of challenging. First, there’s graduation. At our school, the seniors choose an “inspirational” teacher to hand them their diploma. And…I have never given out a diploma. Never. It bums me out. (And can I just say, it’s terrifying to share that with you all, but I’m all about transparency.) It makes me feel like our connection wasn’t deep enough or genuine enough to be honored in that way. I try to remind myself that honestly, I am lucky to work in a school environment where there are at least ten (not exaggerating) other people who work with ELLs and heritage students in incredibly genuine and positive ways. I try to remind myself that kids don’t always remember teachers from a few years ago, and that it makes sense that they choose teachers from their last year or two of high school. But, it’s always a challenging time for me. The other reason this year, in particular, was hard was because I found out that several students had used Google translate on their last big assignment. I realize this is not that uncommon in the World Language classroom, but honestly it’s the first time I’ve really ever had an issue with it. Most of my students hand-write rough drafts, then type them, so it really cuts down on this type of cheating, but in this case we were writing such a long piece (information books – another blog post on that sometime in the future, I hope) that it wasn’t really possible to hand write the whole thing beforehand. I use Google classroom, and I figured out that you can look at a student’s “version history” and I could see, minute by minute, as students were either writing in English and replacing it in Spanish, or writing large chunks of beautiful Spanish text in one minute. Confronting those students was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do; some of them handled it well, but some of them did not, and I fear those relationships may not recover. It was a very difficult way to end the school year, especially since I discovered it so close to the end of the course when grades were due.
This is where I am, friends. Since my heritage classes finished a few weeks early, I’ve had about a month to contemplate how the year ended, what relationships I’d like to try to repair in the fall if possible, and how I’d like to change things around for next year. One thing I’m really excited about for the fall is to try book clubs with my Personal narrative writing unit! My students will be reading great narratives from a big list I put together (En el pais que amamos, El odio que das, El libro de los americanos desconocidos, Yo no soy tu perfecta hija mexicana, El color de mis palabras, A toda velocidad, El plan de Zee, Las lecciones de August). I’m hoping not only will these books draw them in and get them excited about what they’re reading, but that they will also serve as mentor texts for what good narratives look like. And, I’ll be spending the rest of my summer reading them all! Look for a blog post in the fall about that 🙂
I’m also THRILLED that Mary Beth has gotten a new job as part time World Language Curriculum Facilitator in our district (yay and congrats to her!!!), but it means I will start teaching a new heritage class in the fall – the 11th grade one. As we all know, that means lots of new prep and getting my head around new curriculum. I’m thinking about doing the book clubs with the same books with this 11th grade class as well, since they didn’t have it last year (because they had ME and we didn’t do it). The other terrifying thing about this fact is… my heritage kids from this year will have me again in the fall and I hope they’re not sad!! I know that sounds terrible. I know they love me and we have a good relationship, but I also know they were TIRED at the end of the year because they really worked hard in my class. I hope they don’t run away screaming when they see me on their schedule again 🙂
I feel like all my insecurities are coming through in this post, friends, but I’m glad to have a minute to share my year and my thinking with you. I’d love to hear what you’re up to this summer, and what you’re thinking about adjusting or going after in the fall! Happy summer!