On SLIFE: Journal #1-Summer 2018

I was invited to join an online pilot course on Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE) through the Carey Institute of New York (https://learning.careyinstitute.org).

I decided to sign up, even as I am completing a rigorous program for my M.Ed. in Multicultural Education and ESL through Northern Arizona University. I figure it can only help me with my capstone course, my final before graduation. Also, I am always looking for new ways to support my most at-risk students. I am going to document my findings here in a journal format.

  • What resources are needed to support your work in identifying SLIFE within your context? Where might those resources be found?

The state English Language Learner Assessment is usually the first tool, but I definitely do not consider it to be the best: It is designed by corporate investors, curriculum developers, and politicians, and bears little resemblance to any measure given by actual ELD specialists. It was designed, after all, to find out what students don’t know, rather than what they do know.

If I was able to help develop a tool for identifying SLIFE ELs in my school or district, I would first solicit the assistance of Language Acquisition in scheduling translators and/or liaisons hired by the district to meet with students and families. I would also ask for help from Refugee organization reps and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy department.

Some kind of screener must be developed to determine students’ strengths and areas for intervention. I know it would need to have visual cues, places for students to show writing or reading skills, and a rubric for oral language skills. I would need administration and student success team members to help come up with the necessary language and format of a screening tool for these students and their families, hopefully with my input as an ELD specialist.  It could be administered with the assistance of a first language speaker, such as a language liaison, to guide them through the process without answering key items for them. They would be there for general support, clarification, and two-way interpretation between myself (as the screener) and the students, as well as their family member. The family member could be part of the screening, as questions about formal schooling and general experience with literacy in the family will be integrated into the screening tool.

I would then arrange screening meetings with the students, their parents or guardians, and a first language interpreter. We would use the tool to guide questioning while practicing transparency about why we are using it. Gaining the trust of new families and students is essential if we are going to be able to apply special interventions.  From there, it would be advisable to have lead teachers and paraprofessionals look over the results of the tool with the principal, the ELD  resource teacher (myself),  the classroom teacher who will support the student into the new school year.  Hopefully, this would help us to determine the best course of the intervention.

Some questions we can ask ourselves after the screening: Can the student use additional phonics support? If they need primary skills, they could benefit by attending a morning group within a primary class. They could go before the bell rings, then return to their regular class after the phonics session. Could the student spend more time in pull-out, so ELD Resource can have a one-on-one session during a planning period, or have them work with different ELLs in different groups to gain skills they need at their level of understanding? Also, what skills and funds of knowledge do they bring with them? Can we utilize these in their classroom, and in small group intervention, to empower them and build on existing knowledge? Can we make sure they are always considered for afterschool programs, and not only summer school? After school should not just focus on kids just below “core” in reading–there should be a SLIFE/ELL support class every semester.

These are just some ideas off the top. More to come.

girl in red short sleeve dress and flower headband holding pen and writing on paper on table

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Made our bed, now we must lie in it

This is from my other blog-site. I share it here for all of you educators and readers whose heads are still spinning in disbelief. If this is not you, please disregard.

You Don't Know Me, But You Will...

I rarely get more political on this blog than necessary. I have been pretty silent throughout this election, watching closely, doing my homework (literally and figuratively). Waiting. Waiting to see if it was all a bad dream. Waiting to see if this country and its people would come to their senses. Trying not to hold much stock in the polls, or what the media said. Then, when reality began to set in, I waited some more. I voted my conscience (mail-in ballot). I went to work, I did my graduate courses. I kept largely silent. I waited, and I hoped right and love would prevail. Then Wednesday morning dawned.


I was in shock. I was deeply saddened, disturbed, and perplexed. What are people thinking? Is this really our reality? Is this what we  have to look forward to–what about my child’s future, all our children’s futures? What have we done…


View original post 446 more words

An “Unaccompanied” Immigrant’s Story in Video

This video, from the Los Angeles Times and featured on Facebook, is a very touching example of what many immigrant/refugee and unaccompanied youth face….day after day, they work, try to get an education, and stay off the radar. It’s all about the American Dream for them…will they actually ever attain what is rapidly becoming almost unattainable: Respect, a decent living, an education, and a safe place to call home.

Watch and share your thoughts, if you would.

I apologize for the lack of a visual or subtitles (some Spanish dialogue)…the embed didn’t work like it was supposed to. I will repost later with any corrections I am able to make. In the meantime, still quite viewable, nonetheless.


Fear and Loathing in Professional Development

This is a bit of a rant, so I apologize in advance. However, it is not all negative. Let me start with this disclaimer: I actually enjoy (most) professional development  opportunities…hell, I sign up for some I am not even required to take! Summer is a great time to get this out of the way. We even get a stipend, on occasion. And I actually enjoy exchanging ideas and learning new things with like-minded colleagues.

The issue I am going to discuss is more about “professional relationships”.

I am a naturally private person. But, like most people, I want to be liked, or at least shown a little respect. It is difficult for me to put myself in social situations, and pretend to be anything other than myself. Despite the “norms” of a professional development gathering, when teachers get together  in one space for more than a few hours, hackles go up over the most trivial things. Now, multiply those few hours by four days, and you will totally understand the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”.

The human ego is a very fragile thing. I admit that my ego gets ruffled and takes quite a beating on a regular basis. Part of this is because I am a sensitive person, with a tendency to be critical of myself, and sometimes others. I have learned over the years to swallow my pride, and filter my feelings, especially when I think someone is full of shit.

Teachers are notorious for seeking approval and getting on a soapbox. Sometimes I think they are one step away from a career change to politics or acting (and some actually do go there). We all have something to say about something, and we all have years of experience and ideas we are eager to share. At least most of us.

At the most recent PD symposium I attended this past week, which was specifically for ELD and Bilingual educators, we were called “experts” in our field, but we were also expected to listen and learn. Teachers are sometimes not the best of students. They can be found sitting in little cliques, often only associating with those of their preferred social group: Same school, same race, same language. Often, they will be seen chatting and basically ignoring presenters, or worse, they will interrupt with a personal anecdote that is only marginally related to the discussion.

This is to be expected, I suppose. I have found myself wanting to share my personal thoughts on a method or issue of education, and my hand will shoot up, just like it used to when I was in public school. I am not one for attention seeking, as a rule, but when I have a burning question or think I have the answer, I am on it.

This tendency I have is met with mixed reactions. Mostly I get to say my piece, and I am encouraged and acknowledged. Sometimes, I am rebuffed or even ignored. I can take it with some dignity. Now, sit me at a table of individuals with whom I have only a passing acquaintance, and things begin to get uncomfortable. Especially when they start judging you. And you them.

I will cut you Uni

At first, they appear welcoming. They save you a seat at the table. They ask questions about your work, and tell you a bit about themselves. It’s all very cordial and amicable. They invite you to sit with them at lunch break. They ask you what you think about a topic. Everything seems smooth.

Then, as the hours and days drag on, they start to show another side. Personal agendas, attitudes and pet peeves work their way into the conversations. They say things like this:

“I thought you were mad at me when you made that comment” (when maybe you are just hot, tired, or distracted, and give terse responses), or “You really like to jabber don’t you?” (when you deign to volunteer to answer questions for the group), or “You seem competitive!” (when you are supposed to be working on something together). Soon, you begin to doubt yourself, feel self-conscious, and slowly  withdraw.

You look for any excuse to get away from them. Take a restroom break. Get up to stretch at the back of the room. When on break, you seek out other people who seem open and friendly, or alternately sit alone outside under a tree.

Sound familiar? It’s just a typical summer PD that has gone on for too many hours and days, and everyone’s wheels start spinning. Until it is almost out of control, and no one remembers why they even signed up.

Suddenly, it ends. You pack your crap up, say rushed goodbyes, and if cornered, make somewhat insincere attempts at heartfelt farewells and reconciliation. Meanwhile, you are screaming “Get me the hell outta here!” in your brain.

Looking back at the experience, you might believe you would have been just as well informed if they had actually handed you the binder of reading and instructional materials, so you could peruse them at your leisure at home, instead.

After all, you still have about a month left of vacation. Sheesh!

Go to Hell




Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Why We Should Honor the Dream, Not Just the Day


The national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. was hard-won in the state of Arizona. In the late 80s, we had an ultra-conservative governor, and a complacent  legislature (as sadly, we do again), who refused to join the majority of the country, and honor this great American figure for freedom. Despite the public outcry, and the eventual impeachment of then-governor Evan Mecham, it took about 5 years for the holiday to become law in this state. A short timeline:

1983, Congress passes, President Reagan signs, legislation creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

1986, Federal MLK holiday goes into effect

In 1987, Arizona governor Evan Mecham rescinds MLK Day as his first act in office, setting off a boycott of the state. 

In 1992, Arizona citizens vote to enact MLK Day.

1993, For the first time, MLK Day is held in some form—sometimes under a different name, and not always as a paid state holiday—in all fifty states.

So today, I am off of work from school. It is a day of reflection for me, and hopefully for many other citizens in this state, as it should be in states across the nation. I started the day watching a special on PBS World, on the filming of Eyes on the Prize, a massive documentary released in 1987. (click on photo below for more information)

Eyes on the Prize

It has also been a day to reflect on how far we’ve come, as well as how far we’ve stepped back—and how what was once a fight for equality and social justice, now encompasses much more. Poverty, economic inequality, and continued violence continues nearly unabated in our country. It continues to be perpetuated against those of color, those of other national origins, different religions, and sexual orientations. Our only weapon against it spiraling completely out of control is the power of social media, and a new breed of activists who are not afraid to stand up.



So today, I am grateful for MLK’s legacy, and for his message of The Dream. It is a day for reflection and service to others. For some others, this time may be more about having an extra day off to go buy discounted products, and binge-watch their favorite TV shows. I think it is profoundly sad when our society uses a holiday such as this one, a day that should be about giving back and standing up for what is right, to sell products and cash in on it.

Although it is admirable to grow our economy at the grassroots level, and to encourage people to work and earn a living, using this day as an impetus to get out and buy stuff is a bit insulting, especially as there are still so many in this society that cannot partake in our economic freedom, because poverty and inequality is still so prevalent, especially among non-white races.

Martin Luther King Day Sales: All The Best Deals From Target, Walmart ...

Refugees, immigrants, and disadvantaged citizens of this country will not benefit from any “deals” on this day. More likely, they will be on the other end: Working long hours, making little money to show for it, and having no real voice in our society–and thus, no real rights. What kind of “deal” is that?

MLK Day Parade


So, if one is inclined to go out and buy things in the name of MLK Day, remember that our freedom, which was (and is still) so costly, is the reason that we can do so today.  That we can have a day off from work and service, that we can shop anywhere we wish, that we can eat in any restaurant, that we can ride on public transportation, and most importantly: That we can stand up publicly and speak out against what is wrong in our government and society–these are the reasons for a holiday. We still have a long way to go in gaining the full impact of MLK’s dream, but there is still hope that we will, if people of all ages, orientations, religions and races, here and  in the world over, keep their eyes on the prize.