Recharging to be the Fabulous Educator of English Learners that You Are!
Sarah SaidChicago, ILJanuary 12, 2018
Post One: We Worry… We Worry…and We Worry…
The Reasons We Need Sunlight
It’s Christmas Eve morning and I am sitting in my kitchen on my computer sipping some comforting hazelnut flavored coffee and staring at the beauty of the snow falling outside my window. My adorable 1st grader is jumping up and down with her snow pants and boots ready to go and her pigtails bouncing in rhythm with her movement. The snow is light and hasn’t fallen to a point where my daughter really needs to wear boots. But, like any child her age, she is excited to go out and play and enjoy the weather. As she’s putting on her gloves, she talks to me about her plans. She tells me that she wants me to make hot cocoa with marshmallows for her so that she can drink it with snowflakes on her nose.
As a parent, I try to savor the memory, but my mind begins to wander. Did we get enough jackets for the kids in our district? Are they able to handle this cold to go outside and play? Are they afraid of the snow because it is new to them? I know that my mind should be focused on the moment with my child, but like an English Learning Specialist who is constantly hitting my Turbo button* -I worry.
I worry about the welfare of my students. I worry about how we’re going to implement certain teaching models. I worry about what will happen in January when our English Learners are placed in front of the computer to take ANOTHER test. I worry about whether or not we can complete our English Learner progress reports on time or if our English Learner student folders were properly done. How many years are we exit monitoring students for now? My mind just races. I worry… I worry… I worry…. Oh, and I worry. But, I also love what I do and wouldn’t want to do anything else. We care about our students and families because we want them to succeed. This is why we worry.
This is constant of not just specialized English Learning (EL) support educators specifically, but all types of educators across the country. We have the typical day to day items that teachers stereotypically have, but we also have other items that we add to our plates: ambassadorship, advocacy, and compliance. We become our students’ and families’ windows to the world that they are new to and discovering. It is not uncommon for a parent to come in and ask you how to fill out a job application or need to know where to go for citizenship class. We need to advocate for the well being of our students in our buildings. It is not uncommon to work to explain to people around us the importance of giving a child a chance who is just going through a silent period and will eventually talk in class when they feel comfortable. And with all of this, the one thing that we always have piling up on our desks is our state and federal compliance paperwork.
With all that you do, you wonder if the people you know understand what you do in your room on a daily basis, which in most cases is either a really small space or a room you share with two to three others. But, it is always important to understand that your peers respect you, they do need you and your role is key to the building you are working in. People outside of your school building also admire the work that you do. Always know that you are not on your own island, although you may feel that way. A lot of times, you need to speak up diplomatically and tell people why you are doing what you are doing. If it helps, your peers will understand why you didn’t pull students today if are up front about telling them you had to give 20 state mandated speaking tests. In fact, when they know more about the work you are doing they will become your partner and advocate with you because they understand the goals you are trying to achieve.
Now, this is not a blog series that will help you vent about being in this field and suddenly indulge you in a kumbaya moment. It’s a wonderful field to be in that just has challenges like any other field. Remember that you are not alone and there is honor and integrity in what you do for children and families who need you.
The important piece of this blog to understand is that that you have to step off your island at work (if you feel like you are on one), be more positive about how you view surroundings and then find another place outside of work to do what Mawi would call, “Finding your sunlight”. As much as we embrace our turbo buttons as teachers, we need to have lives outside of work. When you have a lot of passion, there is difficulty in turning it off for a time. What I will say is that when we don’t stop, we burn out. This can be harmful to ourselves, our families, and students. Our purpose then diminishes because our work isn’t the quality that it should be.
The next posts will help you find ways to get some sunlight and recharge during tough times in the school year. You will learn all about the following:
Reframing your thoughts: Turning the negative into the positive
Activities that can help you find your sunlight
The importance of recharging
Places where a teacher who specializes in English Learner support can find community
Enjoy and catch some rays!
*The Turbo Button is a concept that Mawi Asgedom uses to describe an internal mechanism that you “hit” to helps you put your power and energy forward to become an active agent in your own life and the lives of others. This supports putting a growth mindset into action.
To learn more about applying the concepts of Turbo to your life as an educator read Powerful Educator by Mawi Asgedom.