I try to go to the gym each school day. There are moments when I wake up in the freezing Chicago cold and make it to the 5:00 AM workout—and others when I exhaustedly run into the sweaty gym to hit the treadmill and weights. On those days that feel like too much, I ask myself why. I don’t feel any immediate benefit. I run and run and run on the treadmill and feel like I’m going nowhere. Then in weeks, I see the impact. I have more energy later in the day. I feel healthier and more relaxed. It takes time, but I won't give up.
I apply this frame of mind when it comes to the impact that I make in schools as an educator. My school is using EL Education K-5 ELA Curriculum, and I’m both an administrator and educator providing classrooms of Multilingual Learners equitable access to this content. As an administrator, coach, and teacher I have worked with this resource in every capacity from grades K-4. So, I can say with confidence I have seen and felt the ups and downs of implementation. I’ve had questions, which have been answered quickly, and I still have wonderings to explore. This is not the way I’ve always done things as a leader and teacher, and yes it’s challenging, but my team and I grapple until we work through it.
"The Multilingual Learners I serve are building their skills, learning how to understand and analyze complex text, and becoming empathic advocates for their community."
It’s Rough When You Don’t Understand the Change You are Making
Using this, or any, resource to support students in achieving reading and writing success is going to come with a learning curve. Trying something new means you have to learn it—which may not come easy. Yes, the books look different and there are a few of them per Module, but in the big picture, this is minor. I know that many hours are put in to making anchor charts, manipulatives and powerpoints. But I encourage you now to take a step back, a challenge with all of the copying and cutting you’re doing, and see the beauty of this curriculum.
You, dear teacher, are a Change Maker in your school. You are putting in hours to educate students to become strong readers and writers and ethical people. You are providing inclusive opportunities in your classroom for real-world learning experiences. You may feel like you’re running on a treadmill and going nowhere, but take it from someone who’s been there—you are! Listen to your students engage when talking about making their community better. Remember this when you are thinking about performance tasks. See how your students create scientific drawings that connect them with the natural world. Look at the writing and ideas that your students are coming up with on their own. You supported them in doing that. Celebrate their learning!
Change isn’t going to happen overnight. If it did, It would not be sustainable. I’ve had days and nights where I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I’ve written about it, vented, and cried (a lot). Eventually, I saw the outcomes. Yes, in test scores and in the types of people my students were and are becoming. The Multilingual Learners I serve are building their skills, learning how to understand and analyze complex text, and becoming empathic advocates for their community.
Making the Change Worthwhile For Your Classroom
You are making a stronger impact than you realize. Forget the books and binders and layouts. In the end, the time that you put in will be worth it. You became an educator because you wanted to impact students, this is the time to do just that. These resources are giving you the platform to go for it.
How can you make this more worth your students’ while?
- Extend on the ideas of the curriculum into your school’s community. This year, the EMSA (Elgin Math and Science Academy in Elgin, Illinois) Kindergarten team (Angie Anderson, Sarah Miller, Jeannie Tunzi and Mavy Van Acker) expanded their second module on weather by having a winter gear drive to collect winter clothing for residents in need. What a great way to learn reading and writing while integrating science, and even a little math, and advocating for a better world!
- Producing High Quality Work! When looking at EL Education’s Three Dimensions of Student Achievement, the idea of high-quality work really stands out. Remember, we are not just going through the modules, we are assuring that students understand and master knowledge and skills within the curriculum with the goal of producing high-quality work. This instills a sense of pride in students and builds their confidence. This life skill cannot be underestimated.
- Celebrate Student Learning! This can be done by allowing students to share within your own classroom, within classrooms in their grade level, with another grade level or with parents. When work is shared, there is a stronger sense of importance in the work. It’s not just classwork, it is a performance task that a student accomplished.
- Create beautiful spaces to display student work. This gives students the feeling of accomplishment and self-worth. It also helps your whole class understand the transformation you are all making together in that space. Creating beautiful spaces is part of EL Education’s Core Practices.
You are doing more than you realize in your classroom. Step away from the laminator, wipe your tears, and know that you are doing so much for the students you serve. Much like my days at the gym, your time will add up and you will soon be able to see the positive impact. It will get easier as you are more adjusted to the transformation. In the meantime, focus on the big picture of what you are accomplishing. Go out there and be a Change Maker! You can do it.
About Open Up Resources:
Open Up Resources is a 501c3 that exists to increase equity in education by making the highest quality curriculum freely accessible to educators and providing implementation supports to the broadest number of teachers, empowering them to effectively and sustainably improve student outcomes in pre-K-12 English Language Arts and Mathematics. To learn more about Open Up Resources' mission and work, click here.