We don’t become educators for the pay – trust me, we don’t. We have a passion as we come into this field, ignited by a mission.
I was driven as the daughter of an immigrant mother to give other first generation daughters a chance to be successful in their education. As the years went on, I worked in different communities and my mission shifted in many ways. One thing is for sure – as educators, we all strive for a better world. And regardless of what anyone else says, it starts with us.
As a student of color in a mostly white community, I had educators in my life who empowered me to use my voice for change. Two of my ELA teachers in middle school are still in communication with me as well as my high school speech coach. They had a profound impact on who I am as an educator and person today because the learning went beyond skills and curriculum. I was impacted personally.
Many times we think about the nuts and the bolts of the EL Education curriculum, and they’re important. Yes, we need to learn how to unpack the learning targets and understand the science of reading behind the curriculum. But we also need to know that there is potential in this curriculum to expand on the topics in order to really inspire students to do as we say at EMSA, “be the force for a better world.”
Using the Curriculum As a Launch Pad
Topics in the curriculum can be compelling to students. In first grade, we learn about how birds help the planet. In third grade, we learn about the importance of water in our lives. When this is taught with enthusiasm, students become captivated by the messages of advocacy that are within the texts in the curriculum. This is where you can take it a step further.
Slow your pacing down, and have a conversation with your students about what they care about within the content. Those conversations already exist in discussions within protocols, but you can expand on them further and take the ideas to more of a local level. Do they see water pollution in their community? Are birds struggling for food and shelter within the region where the students live? Are people hurting trees' ability to help the environment? Talk about it.
Then, turn the issue into a question that your crew can research, discuss, and really begin to ideate to create real world solutions. Think about how these issues impact your students close to home. Then they can begin to make connections and brainstorm how to make their learning applicable to the world around them.
Implementing The Work
As educators we need to make community connections for better world learning. Once you collaborate with your students on a plan to bring their module learning into the community, ask students “who” in their community can help impact that change. Brainstorm a list with them. Ask guiding questions, but let them really try to formulate the ideation for this work.
As you come up with a plan with your class and gather people who can support that plan, move forward and start to advocate for the learning of your students by making those community contacts. Try to line up advocates in the community that work for the cause that your students care about. Ask them to zoom into your classroom so that students can learn more about being an advocate.
Then plan action accordingly with your administration, students and family members. You need to work together in order to get appropriate supplies, transportation, and anything else needed for the project. This way all stakeholders are on board with the community-based learning in your classroom.
Together in your classroom you can strive for a better world!
Sarah Said is the Director of Language and Equity Programs at an EL Education School in the Chicago Suburbs. In her role, she oversees support programs for Multilingual Learners, works with others to create a community that fosters success for students from the diverse communities her school serves, helps strengthen school to community outreach, and coordinates Title grants. Reach out to her and other Community Coaches on the EL Education K-8 community Facebook page and on Twitter.