Reflections on Heritage Teacher Workshop ‘19

Hello friends! I hope this post finds you well! I have about two more weeks until I have to go back to work, and I’m somewhere between really getting comfortable with this lazy summer routine, and getting excited to see what the new school year brings. Also, my head is exploding with all the blog posts I was hoping to write this summer! 

This summer, Mary Beth and I had the distinct privilege of hosting our very first workshop! Truth be told, it was probably about a year in the making; a year ago, we were preparing to travel to present at our first national conference (IFLT) and launching our blog. Six months ago, we were finishing up our five (!!) Comprehensible Online presentations and preparing to speak at our state conference (CCFLT), and we had this wacky, hair-brained idea to offer a multiple day workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado, for teachers of heritage classes. We scrambled to find a venue and book a date before that conference. Would anyone come, we asked? It felt like jumping into the deep end. And we waited…

And you know what? People came! As the signups steadily came in, we went from “Ok I guess we can run this workshop” to “We might even get 20 people” to “Oh no, what is our maximum for that room?” to “Oh my goodness, maybe we can secure some more space!” Besides many teachers from Colorado, teachers joined us from all over the country: Georgia, Oregon, Arizona, North Dakota, Illinois, Florida, and Connecticut. We were blown away!!

Even though we are pretty sure the participants had lots of great takeaways from the workshop, I wanted to share some of my own takeaways from our first time doing this workshop. I thought writing this post would help me process them, but also perhaps encourage you to attend, present, or offer your own workshop in the future!

Takeaway #1: Don’t let the unknown hold you back. Doing this workshop was sca-ry. But if we hadn’t tried to offer it and put it out there, it never would have happened. And even if that was the only workshop we ever get to do, we were so lucky to have worked with the nearly 40 teachers that came. And we are better for having done it. Putting yourself out there doesn’t mean you have all the answers or you want the attention or “fame” of being an expert; it just means sharing what you know now, where you are, with those who are on the same journey as you. Every time I think, “Is this worth sharing?” I think, “Is this something I wish someone would have shared with me years ago?” And the answer is usually yes. Listen, friends. There are so few of us doing this (compared to teachers teaching in regular language acquisition classrooms), especially grades 6-12. e need each other. Please, share your expertise in any way that makes sense for you...posting on social media, blogging, presenting at conferences, submitting articles…whatever it is!! Your experience and your insight is so valuable.

Takeaway #2 is, it will always be awkward doing this work as a white woman, and for good reason. The more work I do as I dig into being a better advocate for social justice, especially self-reflection work, the more I realize that it is really uncomfortable to stand in front of a group of people as a white woman and share my thoughts on working with heritage speakers. I’ve learned a ton about this social justice work from Mary Beth; she’s written about this a few times, in this blog post about impostor syndrome and this one about her resolutions. I don’t have all the answers.

But I do know that I want to continually evaluate my role, my impact, the space I’m taking up, and the voices I am (not?) amplifying, and what that means about my choices in the future.

Perhaps there are ways we could partner with teachers of color (TOCs) to put on our workshop, or at least intentionally amplify voices of TOCs in our workshop (this includes participants and materials/research that we refer to). Maybe at some point there will be enough PD on this topic, put on by TOCs, that there won’t be a need for us to do this work at all, at least not in this particular way. I realize that this will be an ongoing focus for us as we go forward. (If you’re interested in hearing more about this, I hope to finish a blog post soon on some of the social justice reading I’ve been trying to do this summer.)

Takeaway #3. Processing time is key. We really wanted to make sure that it was not just a sit-and-get conference, but a workshop. We built in extra time for every session for participants to reflect, investigate, and take their next steps. But…isn’t it funny, when things get busy or time is crammed, that the first thing we cut is the down time or the reflection time? (I think this happens in lots of places, at least in my life.) We had set aside time for this purpose during the workshop, but sometimes it got cut short, and sometimes we just needed more. More think time. More processing time. More time to connect with other participants, both those in the same boat as us and those who are a few steps ahead on the journey. More time to google. More time to collect our thoughts on paper. I think more processing time, both structured and unstructured, is a necessary change for the next time around (and really…for most things in life, in general). We feel especially strong that participants come feeling excited and empowered for the coming school year; the last thing we want to do is overwhelm teachers who are already worried about teaching this class or these learners. I think the key for that to happen is processing time.

And that brings me to the “next time around.” If you are at all interested in joining us, we’d love to have you! We are considering a one day workshop in January, and also another Heritage Teacher Workshop next summer, tentatively scheduled at the end of June. We will take time to reflect on the challenges and successes of this year’s workshop before we solidify our plans. We’d love for your to join our mailing list so you’ll be kept in the loop as we make announcements for these events, and also share great resources and info on teaching heritage speakers!  

Thanks for giving me some time to share my thoughts. Now for the participants’ reflections! I know that the teachers who came had a lot of great takeaways, because I saw them on Twitter! You can check out #heritageteacherworkshop19 and see all the cool stuff they were talking about. 

Below are some of the takeaways that teachers mentioned at the end of the workshop survey in response to the question, “What are some of your biggest takeaways?”

Happy teaching, my friends. We look forward to connecting with you (join the mailing list or join our Facebook group for heritage teachers), and we can’t wait to hear your thoughts, ideas, and incredible insights this year!

Adrienne

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