Reflections on our Heritage Teacher Workshop and upcoming Heritage Teacher Summit

Hello dear friends and colleagues!! I hope you are finding ways to relax and rejuvenate this summer, it has been quite a year and this down time is so important for us teachers. If you’re like me, it’s been hard to relax knowing there is so much unknown about the fall semester; it’s an odd feeling knowing that I have so much work to do, but working right now might not be that helpful because I don’t know what fall will look like, so all that’s left to do is actually…relax. Or try to, anyway 🙂

I wanted to take a few minutes and share some takeaways and reflections from our Heritage Teacher Workshop that took place in mid-June. It was such a great experience for me, and it always helps me to do some reflecting in writing, so I hope these reflections are helpful for you, too. Plus, don’t miss our exciting announcement at the end of this blog post!

Speaking of exciting announcements…Mary Beth welcomed her baby girl, Luna, in early June! Luna arrived earlier than we both anticipated, but she is doing AWESOME 🙂 Mary Beth is doing an amazing job at being a mom these days, and I’m sure she’ll ease back into blogging and/or presenting soon, and whatever she wants that to look like, we’ll be here to support her in that.

Since Mary Beth is super busy being a new mom these days, I had to both prepare for and do the workshop myself. It was quite daunting, to be honest, and really humbling. I think this year more than any other year, I’ve learned that I can do hard things. And that the only way to the other side is…through the hard thing! I was relieved we’d already put together a lot of materials for our workshop, but I was shocked at how much tweaking and changing of materials I had to do to prepare for this year’s workshop. It’s really amazing how much we grow and change in even just a year! 

Another hurdle was adapting to the virtual model. I know this may be old news for a lot of you, but adapting to the online model was quite a challenge for me (shocking, I know). Based on participant feedback from our workshop last year, we’d decided to tweak a few things, most notably, including more work time and processing time for participants, and strategically grouping participants to enhance discussions and collaboration opportunities. I wanted to share a few details of how I decided to run the workshop virtually (mostly synchronously), in case it is helpful for you as you approach PD opportunities or planning for your own fall classes. 

Essentially, our workshop consists of six modules or lessons, so over three days, there was about a half day for each session. In the mornings, we started a little early and did some icebreaker questions for chatting while people were getting logged in and set up, and every afternoon, we spent about 15 minutes debriefing the day at the end of the day. During each half day session, I did a presentation first, with several “turn and talk” questions, during which we paired participants randomly with other participants to discuss (I used Zoom breakout rooms). I was able to pop in and listen in to each group, or stay and discuss in just one group; the hardest thing for me about this was to figure out how long to give people to discuss. It wasn’t like a classroom where I could hear how engaged they were in discussions, so that part was always challenging. But, those turn and talk opportunities were crucial to engage participants in the content and to give them a break from hearing me talk at them; they were crucial. Usually we took a break after the content portion, and then there was a strategic small group discussion and/or collaboration time for the next 30 minutes. Participants were able to request with whom they wanted to collaborate during that time (if they came with a team, if they wanted to work with more experienced teachers, if they wanted other teachers teaching the same grade level, etc.), and I set up the collaboration groups ahead of the conference. These small groups remained the same the whole workshop, and during those 30 minutes, I was able to pop into most or all of the small groups. Finally, there was about 45-60 minutes of additional time to continue processing in small groups, to collaborate, explore resources, work on something related to their own context, or just reflect on their own practices. During that time, I was available for drop in questions or to chat with participants. My goal was for participants to leave feeling comfortable with the information and not feeling overwhelmed by everything.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how the workshop went. I’m glad we kept it small, because it was much more manageable, especially since I was on my own this year. However, using the synchronous model was really challenging because it requires that we all be seated at a computer for several hours at a time. I do think adding the additional day, allowing more down time to process and explore the materials, and combining both random paired discussions and strategic small group discussions were all really positive changes this year, and changes I foresee becoming a permanent part of our process for next year.

Most of the feedback was super positive, and reading the in-depth reflections of each session that were submitted for graduate credit was probably the highlight of the workshop for me. It was such a humbling and amazing experience to work so closely with so many teachers who are desperately trying to be their best self and do right by their students. It was quite overwhelming and humbling to read some of their reflections this past week. Below are some of the responses from the end of workshop survey about what they really took away from this experience:

  • In previously feeling very alone in my pursuit of how to cater and celebrate spanish speaking identity in academics, it was so helpful to find other educators willing to collaborate and share resources to help reach our goal. With heritage speaking being a fairly new realm in the education world, Adrienne´s conference was fantastic. Despite having to switch and utilize an online format, I still found the content to be very insightful. I am leaving with a lot of activities and resources to continue to explore.
  • My team felt this workshop was very helpful. They felt relieved and confident as we transition into another school year. This workshop provided many ways to make learning fun and engaging for our heritage students. Claudette Murtha, Global Education, District 11
  • I’ve been teaching Heritage for a while by the seat of my pants. This workshop gave me a place to stand and a grounding for my courses. Thank you! (TL)
  • I would absolutely recommend this workshop! I am walking away with a variety of strategies for teaching reading and writing to my heritage speakers. I can’t wait to roll out free reading and change attitudes toward reading in general! BC
  • In my district, I know that we use the TC Units of Study. I would recommend this workshop to my district because it dovetails the English literacy instruction and can be extremely informative for helping develop curriculum that builds on student and district strengths rather than reinvents it. KV
  • The workshop provided a great way to learn how to include literacy in teaching Heritage classes. During the workshop we also got a great opportunity to collaborate with other colleges. I personally enjoyed the reading and writing workshops and got great ideas as to how to get started and get student and families buy in. I also like all the extra resources provided to get more into the teaching of Spanish as a language arts class.
  • Adrienne and MaryBeth are an incredible resource for Spanish Heritage/Spanish Language Arts teachers. They have years of experience and deliver tangible, ready to use resources in a fun, engaging way. All teachers of Spanish Heritage/Spanish Language Arts classes should attend Adrienne and MaryBeth’s Workshop! -M.O.
  • “If you are a teacher with a passion to provide heritage students access to lifeworthy skills, this workshop is for you. ” A.M. Pedrie
  • I loved this workshop! It was very thorough, informative and enriching. It had a great structure and it was great to have the chance to collaborate with different educators that were as eager to learn as I was. There were so many resources that it was overwhelming in a positive way. Adrienne was just fantastic! Karina S.M.
  • Many, many heritage teachers find themselves in the position of being the only person in their building or even their district that is teaching heritage Spanish and it is like you are finding gold when you get to talk to others who are teaching it as well!
  • I was profoundly lost when it came to teaching my Heritage classes before this workshop. These three days gave me countless, invaluable resources and concrete ideas, but more importantly it gave me a road map to follow as I move forward. Yes, I have a lot more learning to do, but at least now I know where to focus my energy and efforts. –Carmen Vecchitto
  • This workshop provided a road map for building transferable literacy skills that empower students to experience academic success and ultimately, to become independent, lifelong learners.
  • I highly recommend the Adventures in Heritage Teaching Workshop. It gave me direction and focus, a place to start. I can now start planning my classes with more structure and relevant content. I now have resources to guide me and a network of colleagues with whom to collaborate and get input. Lena Rivera

There will always be things we can improve on, though, and tweak for next year, and I was thankful that I included a question asking, “What can we do to improve this workshop next year?” on the end of workshop survey. Like many teachers I know, it’s always encouraging to read all the great feedback, but it’s hard not to perseverate on the few things that we could have done better. I am still reflecting on some of the constructive feedback I received and how it will impact my choices next year, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to think, reflect, and grow. And it will always be a challenge to meet the diverse needs of heritage teachers, because they vary so widely in their school/programmatic contexts, experience teaching heritage, and personal and linguistic backgrounds. This range is exacerbated by the fact that there are so few heritage teachers (in comparison to L2 teachers) and also so few PD offerings just for us, so meeting us exactly where we need to be will continue to be a challenge. 

We are committed to using our energy to share what has worked for us and also to help support professional development and growth for all heritage teachers, especially in light of how few of us there are, how unique our situations are, and how little PD there is just for us. And…we are excited to share a big announcement! We have been working the past several months (since before COVID19 hit, if you can believe it), to organize a virtual professional development opportunity just for heritage teachers!! We’re excited to announce the first ever Heritage Teacher Summit, with tickets going on sale August 1st, 2020, on our website. The goal is to provide high quality PD for heritage teachers from actual classroom teachers, from diverse perspectives, on a variety of timely topics, for an extremely affordable price and that can be accessed and watched at your own pace. We are so excited about this! We hope you are, too! Keep your eyes peeled for more information. If you are not yet a member of our mailing list and want to be kept in the loop about things like this, you can join our mailing list here.

Happy trying to relax, friends.

Adrienne

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