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    #ILAchat: Making the Most of Networking Events

    By ILA Staff
     | Oct 01, 2019

    OctILAChat _GraphicsWith the ILA 2019 Conference quickly approaching, we’re reminded of the numerous opportunities to connect with our literacy education peers. From the Welcome to ILA 2019 Event to Literacy Night at Mardi Gras World, attendees will have ample opportunity to tell stories, discuss literacy topics, share ideas, and make lasting connections and friendships.

    To gear up for the conference, we will be discussing how to effectively network with colleagues and build your personal learning network (PLN) during our next #ILAchat on Thursday, October 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Making the Most of Networking Events. 

    Our special guests for this Thursday’s chat are three experts who will be at ILA 2019:

    • Danny Brassell, a professional speaker, author, and professor at California State University who has taught students ranging from preschoolers to rocket scientists. Using humor, music, and games in his highly acclaimed presentations, Brassell has motivated teachers around the world to create their own reading programs that nurture lifelong reading. Brassell is presenting at #ILA19 on instructional comprehension strategies and vocabulary strategies for all students.
    • Kia Brown-Dudley, an ILA Board member who serves as the director of Literacy and Development for The Education Partners, the global consultancy division of GEMS Education. Brown-Dudley partners with educators and leading organizations to create and deliver transformational curricula, rigorous instruction, and professional learning opportunities to improve student outcomes through deeper learning experiences.
    • Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. She has a deep love of literacy coaching and supporting teachers’ learning through technology. Affinito creates spaces for authentic teacher learning that build expertise, spark professional curiosity, and foster intentional reflection to reimagine teaching and learning for students. Affinito is presenting at #ILA19 on using Twitter in teacher education and boosting teachers’ reading and writing identities.

    Follow #ILAchat and @ILAToday at 8 p.m. ET this Thursday, October 3, to join the conversation with Brassell, Brown-Dudley, Affinito, and ILA as we discuss building your personal learning network, preparing for conference events, and the importance of in-person networking in the age of virtual PLNs.

    Visit our conference website for more information about ILA 2019.

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    The Transformative Trifecta: Driving Change Through Literacy, Equity, and Social-Emotional Learning

    By Alina O’Donnell
     | Sep 19, 2019

    Eckert_680wIn June 2019, the Ohio State Board of Education adopted a set of social-emotional learning (SEL) standards for K–12 students. This comes as part of the state’s new strategic plan for education, in which SEL is one of four “learning domains” outlined—a move that essentially says SEL is as important to a child’s education as literacy, numeracy, and technology.

    Ohio isn’t alone in these efforts. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of states with K–12 SEL standards jumped from 1 to 18. Outside of the U.S., the popularity of SEL has also grown significantly.

    This isn’t surprising, given today’s social climate. More and more schools around the globe are prioritizing SEL, which aims to develop interpersonal skills, self-regulation, and the ability to feel and demonstrate empathy. Educators are turning to SEL-embedded instruction to foster equitable learning environments.

    What is surprising is that despite this, and despite how SEL-informed literacy instruction paves a powerful pathway to equity, very little has been written about how the three intersect.

    This is the driving goal of the Equity in Education Program at the ILA 2019 Conference, October 10–13 in New Orleans, LA. The program, which has expanded across all four days of the conference, will draw clear connections between literacy, equity, and SEL.

    The intersection of literacy, equity, and social-emotional learning

    Over the past 15 years, the United States has increasingly emphasized assessments as an index of school performance. This emphasis on academic rigor has left many educators feeling pressured to choose between strengthening SEL skills and growing academic skills.

    Justina Schlund, one of this year’s Equity in Education Program speakers, is here to shatter that false dichotomy. Central to her work as director of field learning at The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is her steadfast belief that social-emotional competence is inextricably tied to academic achievement.

    “Foundational to how all learning happens is how students engage socially and emotionally with each other, with themselves, and with teachers in the classroom,” she says. “In order to achieve any other goals, we need to be focused on students as whole people.”

    A long body of research shows that inequities such as disabilities, poverty, and discrimination can pose barriers to children’s social and emotional development. Schools have an important role to play by helping students develop the skills, habits, and dispositions that equip them for success in school and beyond.

    Schlund sees social and emotional development as a lever not only for academic achievement but also for increasing educational equity.

    “I’m not saying SEL is the solution, but it contributes to how people understand each other, how we explore and examine our own biases, and how we make decisions that impact others,” she says.

    Supporting teachers’ social and emotional development

    Although Schlund stands by CASEL’s definition of SEL, she believes it’s often misinterpreted to apply exclusively to children. She views SEL as a lifelong process needed to navigate every context, from the classroom to friendships and first jobs.

    “We do not talk about SEL exclusively for kids, even though that is often the focus of SEL in schools,” says Schlund. “I think it’s important to remember that everyone is engaged in this process of learning and answering questions like, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I relate to the world?’ and ‘How do I make decisions that benefit the community and the world at large?’”

    Just as a history teacher needs to learn history to be effective, educators wishing to teach and model SEL must first build their own competencies in self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

    “In order to do this work, you need to take care of yourself and you need to take care of your own social-emotional needs,” says Katherine Theodore, senior technical assistance consultant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), also a speaker during the upcoming Equity in Education Program.

    The Equity in Education Program session on Friday, Oct. 11, “The Intersection of Literacy, Equity, and Social-Emotional Learning,” will focus on preparing teachers to develop their own social-emotional skills through self-reflection on practice, curriculum, personal biases, and growth opportunities.

    After a short opening keynote, five literacy leaders will share how they build capacity and prepare educators to accomplish goals around SEL in their schools and communities. Along with Schlund and Theodore, attendees will hear from Pedro A. Noguera, distinguished professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA and founder of the university’s Center for the Transformation of Schools; Jovanni Ramos, principal of Foundation Preparatory Charter School in New Orleans, LA; and Stephanie K. Siddens, senior executive director of the Ohio Department of Education’s Center for Student Supports.

    Following these TED-style presentations, Noguera will facilitate an audience-driven Q&A, allowing time for attendees to respond, exchange ideas, and ask questions.

    Identifying key challenges and outlining next steps

    Led by a panel of classroom practitioners, the Equity in Education Program session on Saturday, Oct. 12, “Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in the Literacy Classroom,” will shift the focus onto classroom implementation.

    Following the same format as Friday, presenters will demonstrate what evidence-based SEL looks like in literacy education, highlight potential pitfalls, and offer recommendations for educators seeking to implement SEL.

    Attendees will hear from Kimberly Eckert, 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, high school English teacher, and reading specialist at Brusly High School; Shawna Coppola, middle school language arts teacher and literacy specialist/coach; Gerald Dessus, middle school cultural studies teacher at The Philadelphia School in Pennsylvania and an ILA 30 Under 30 honoree for 2019; Tiana Silvas, fifth-grade teacher at PS 59 in Manhattan and former Heinemann Fellow; and Tamera Slaughter, manager of educational partnerships with Center for the Collaborative Classroom.

    Eckert will deliver the opening keynote, during which she’ll share her own SEL journey and discuss the main challenges to implementation—one being recruitment.

    “Too often, teachers enter the profession because they still follow the antiquated ideal of ‘you love English, so you teach English’ instead of ‘you love humanity, so you teach,’” she says. “We need to recruit and attract people who are seriously engaged in changing the world and who have a 4.0 in people, not necessarily a 4.0 in physics.”

    In addition to the Friday and Saturday sessions, this year’s Equity in Education Program is also bookended by events on Thursday, Oct. 11, and Sunday, Oct. 13—Institute Day and Children’s Literature Day, respectively.

    These all-day events require separate registration and are not included in Core Conference.

    On Thursday, educators Kathy Collins, Shawna Coppola, Matthew Kay, and Aeriale N. Johnson will lead the Equity in Education Program institute—“Equity in Education: Roles, Tools, and Approaches for Engaging in Bias-Free Practices.” During Children’s Literature Day on Sunday, a morning session, “Equity Through Empathy,” will be led by educators, authors, and activists including Chad Everett and Tricia Ebarvia, who will examine the role children’s literature plays in social-emotional learning. Finally, an afternoon workshop, “Empathy and Identity,” led by Everett, Ebarvia, and San Diego State University’s Virginia Loh-Hagan, will unpack the latest research about representation in the classroom.

    Takeaways

    When asked about what they hope attendees will take from this year’s program, presenters said they hope attendees will start to see SEL as an indelible landmark in today’s educational landscape rather than a fleeting fad.

    “It needs to be tightly embedded within the curriculum. You can have an SEL program, but when you are designing your lessons and your curriculum, you need to have that SEL language in there,” says Theodore. “It cannot be taught in isolation of the curriculum.”

    “SEL is the underbelly of everything that we’re doing,” adds Schlund. “If we care about our kids and we care about the world at large, we have to care about SEL.”

    Alina O’Donnell is the former editor of Literacy Daily and communications strategist for ILA.

    This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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    Roads Old and New

    By Charles Moore
     | Sep 16, 2019

    roads-old-and-new_w680Driving back from Austin, TX, last July felt like flying. The road back to Houston is pretty enough: rusting barbed wire fences, rolling hills covered in bluebonnets rising and falling like waves on the ocean. I left the International Literacy Association (ILA) 2018 Conference ready to conquer the world, feeling euphoria course through my nerve endings, yearning to write about my experience, seeking more of those who share this passion for literacy.

    I knew, as I left ILA 2018, that I was rushing back to a new school, a new team, and that newness would be both a challenge and a blessing. What I later learned was that I would find myself welcomed with open arms.

    The energy of those I met in person at ILA 2018, or revered from afar, filled me with confidence and reminded me that traveling familiar roads can lead me back to people and places that provide comfort and much-needed reassurance as I face what is certainly the greatest work I’ll ever do.

    Soon, I’ll follow a new road that will lead me east, through the crawfish farms on the Louisiana border, to Lafayette, and on to the Big Easy: New Orleans and ILA 2019. This time, though, I won’t be at ILA as an attendee. By some stroke of luck, my badge will read: Presenter. Nor will I be traveling that road alone; I’ll ride in the company of two teachers who are passionate about literacy in ways that I can describe only as inspirational.

    Finding familiarity in the passion for literacy that my coworkers embody empowers me to continue down that new and unfamiliar road. Megan Thompson and Helen Becker, two incredible educators, feel the pull of that road too. That subconscious force that compels them to advocate for students and teachers in our school and across our country. As culture creators, they throw their hearts and souls into their work.

    Teaching feels a lot like traveling down a road. Sometimes I feel too robotic, like my GPS took control, and other times I feel lost in time and space with a sense of panic spreading over my consciousness like spilled ink. But when I lean on our culture, our literacy ethos, the panic and fear vanish, and suddenly those post-conference emotions emerge from the work we hurl ourselves into every morning.

    Creating a Culture of Literacy, this year’s conference theme, implores us to bring our best ideas together. Roads far and wide converge on New Orleans in October and, at this point of convergence, literacy culture will reflect on itself and radiate back across our world, empowering teachers and students to explore their place in it.

    Please join us at ILA 2019. We’ll be the trio with matching outfits and nervous—but determined—expressions on our faces.

    Charles Moore, an ILA member since 2017, teaches sophomores and juniors at Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas. He blogs monthly for threeteacherstalk.com.

    This article originally appeared in the open access July/August issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

    The trio of Charles Moore, Megan Thompson, and Helen Becker will present “Not Averse to Verse: Using Novels in Verse to Engage English Language Learners” on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM. For more information, visit ilaconference.org/iplanner.

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    International Literacy Association Declares High-Quality Literacy Instruction a Human Right

    By ILA Staff
     | Sep 09, 2019

    CREL_680wThe International Literacy Association (ILA) released a new position statement today declaring that access to excellent literacy instruction is the right of every child, everywhere.

    The new statement, Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction, is released in honor of International Literacy Day (ILD), which UNESCO founded in 1966 to highlight the importance of literacy in creating prosperous societies. The statement marks the next phase in ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read initiative, which launched one year ago, also on ILD.

    “We know that literacy is the foundation of all learning, and yet much work remains to ensure it is given the attention it deserves,” says Marcie Craig Post, ILA executive director. “This next phase of our Children’s Rights campaign draws the connection between literacy and equitable, high-quality instruction—we cannot have one without the other.”

    The new position statement was crafted by a global team of educators, researchers, and advocates. The statement focuses on four tenets: the right to knowledgeable and qualified literacy educators, the right to integrated support systems, the right to supportive learning environments and high-quality resources, and the right to policies that ensure equitable literacy instruction.

    In addition to the statement, ILA will release four new research briefs, with each expanding upon the critical tenets. The first, which focuses on the preparation and professional development of literacy educators, publishes later this month.

    “We know that the most critical component of equitable instruction is the teacher,” says Diane Kern, one of the statement’s principal authors. “For high-quality, excellent literacy instruction to become a reality, we need to ensure our educators are getting the preparation both they and their future students deserve.

    “Once they are in the field, that support must continue through both ongoing, high-quality professional development and collaboration among other knowledgeable, highly qualified literacy partners including administrative leaders, reading/literacy specialists, literacy coaches, and literacy coordinators,” continues Kern, who also served as cochair of ILA’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 Revision Committee.

    ILA’s Children’s Rights to Read campaign has already garnered the support of thousands of individuals from more than a dozen countries. Sign the pledge in support of both the original 10 rights and the newly released Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction.

    Download the Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction position statement here.

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    Disrupting Your Texts: Why Simply Including Diverse Voices Is Not Enough

    By Tricia Ebarvia
     | Sep 05, 2019

    disrupting-your-texts_680In May 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its Hate at School report. Using information gathered from teacher questionnaires and news media reports, the SPLC found an alarming uptick in the number of incidents of hate and bias occurring in U.S. schools. Teachers reported that the most common driver of these incidents was racial or ethnic bias, with anti-LGBTQ bias a close second.

    Furthermore, a majority of these incidents occurred in spaces where adults were present: 32% in classrooms and 37% in shared spaces such as hallways, bathrooms, or other parts of the building.

    Think about what that means. The majority of incidents of hate and bias occur in the presence of adults.

    As teachers, we do our best to make sure that all of our students are safe and seen in our schools. But the truth is that even the most well-intentioned teachers will miss things—harmful things— sometimes in our own classrooms. What might be the microaggressions, for example, against Indigenous students, students of color, and LGBTQ students occurring in our classrooms that teachers—who are overwhelmingly white in the United States—may not notice? What unexamined biases do we as educators bring into our classrooms that could have a potentially harmful impact on our kids?

    As literacy teachers, we have one of the most powerful resources available to fight against hate and bias: We have stories. The stories—and, more important, the counter-stories, the counternarratives—that we choose to share with students are instrumental in helping all our students be seen and heard, appreciated and understood. This is especially critical for students from communities whose stories are too often oversimplified, misrepresented, or rendered invisible in the dominant culture and mainstream media. Thus, centering and amplifying minoritized perspectives can help to foster community and the type of solidarity that counteracts and perhaps even prevents incidents of hate and bias in our schools.

    Steps to take

    I am heartened by the inclusion of more diverse voices in the curriculum, but the truth is that it’s not enough. Although schools may bring more “diverse” texts into the curriculum, these “contributions” and “ethnic additive” approaches, in the words of researcher James A. Banks, do little to actually change the system of power that marginalized those voices in the first place. After all, efforts to “diversify” the curriculum have been going on for decades, yet we know that inequities persist. Furthermore, “diverse” curricula can often mask systemic problems, including the fact that black, Latinx, and Indigenous students continue to be underrepresented in higher level academic courses while also disproportionately disciplined.

    To be clear, including more diverse voices in our curriculum is an important, necessary step. Our students deserve windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors, to borrow language from scholar Rudine Sims Bishop, that represent the richness of their own lives and the lives of others. But our efforts cannot end there. We must interrogate not just what we teach but how and why.

    Some suggestions to think about:

    • Begin with the premise that public schools never intended to educate all children equally and look for the ways in which this holds true today. Likewise, the curriculum has never been neutral, but always ideological. In making decisions about what texts to include, look for the voices that are marginalized or missing and bring those voices into your text sets.
    • Consider the role that race and whiteness have played in your own socialization, particularly around your beliefs about schooling. How does your own racial socialization inform not only the types of texts you may value, but also the types of instructional choices you make?
    • Center the counternarratives. Although pairings of traditional canonical texts with voices of color offer rich possibilities for comparison, diverse texts can also stand on their own.
    • Include a diversity of voices within marginalized groups. To what extent are you perpetuating or challenging stereotypes based on your patterns of text selection?
    • Be mindful of the positionality of texts and the message this positionality sends. Are diverse voices centered in the curriculum as core and mentor texts, or are they optional? Does the entire class read The Great Gatsby while the books by authors of color are offered as summer reading, book clubs, or literature circles?
    • Know your purpose for adding or removing a text. Creating a more inclusive curriculum is not simply about replacing texts written by “dead, white males.” It is about addressing the racism, sexism, homophobia, and other problematic issues reflected in these texts—and choosing better.
    • Keep the issues facing people of color current. Racism is not a problem of the past, solved by the Civil Rights era, but a continuing problem today. Create text sets that show the complexities of these issues in both historical and contemporary contexts.
    • Resist colorblind readings of texts. If a text includes any form of bigotry, be sure to address and unpack this with students. Otherwise, students might see silence as tacit acceptance of these attitudes.
    • Understand that not all oppression is the same. Anti-black racism manifests itself differently than sexism, and drawing a false equivalence among them can cause more harm.
    • Learn and relearn the history of Indigenous people, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Because we often use literature to better understand people and time periods—and because our own understanding of history is often incomplete, if not inaccurate—bringing a more accurate understanding of history when we study a text is critical. Reading books like An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon Press) can be critical in this work.

    Disrupt the system

    It’s no doubt that equity work can feel overwhelming, especially as many of the problems in education are systemic. But as #DisruptTexts cofounder Kim Parker recently reminded me, people make up systems. And if we are people committed to equity, then we must understand our role in these systems and how we might disrupt them. So diversify the curriculum, yes— but let’s not stop there.

    Tricia Ebarvia is a high school English teacher, a Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project codirector, Heinemann Fellow, and #DisruptTexts cofounder—but above all, she is an advocate for literacy instruction rooted in equity and liberation.

    This article originally appeared in the open access July/August issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

    Tricia Ebarvia will present a featured speaker session on Saturday, Oct. 12, 9:00 AM–10:00 AM. For more information, visit ilaconference.org.

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