In this episode, Amanda and Trina interview two teachers who pushed back against using canned curriculum and discuss the sensitive nature of the stories shared by teachers and the importance of protecting their identities. They share stories from Teacher A, a veteran ELD (English Language Development) teacher, and Teacher B, a new teacher, who both experienced the limitations and ineffectiveness of canned ELD curriculum. The hosts emphasize the vital importance of valuing teachers’ expertise when developing curricula, especially for marginalized students.
Teachers are NOT the Problem, They are Part of the Solution
We are losing qualified teachers at a staggering rate. But, to be clear, teachers should never be blamed for the teacher turnover problems our country is facing. The shortage of teachers in America and the decrease in college students seeking a teaching career is a multifaceted and complex problem.
In this podcast series, we discuss exactly what got us to this crisis point in the U.S. education system. Click the links below to be directed to that part of the series. We recommend listening in order.
In this series, Trina, along with myself, and many other educators from diverse backgrounds will explain the many layers of what is really going on. The shortage of special education teachers and math teachers is impacting schools (especially in low-income urban areas) tremendously. But, it’s important for teachers to understand the extent of this crisis. We are losing teachers in all subject areas.
We want to give teachers an extensive look at this problem from teachers’ perspectives. This is so teachers listening can share this series with other teachers, school leadership, the media, and even the governor of their state. The need to examine the causes of the national teacher shortage has never been more important.
Amanda (00:00:00) – Welcome back to another episode about the teacher shortage crisis. Trina and I interviewed two teachers over the summer and we realized after interviewing them that we needed to protect their identities because of the things that they said on the episode. So in this episode, you’re going to notice that their voices are disguised and there are beeps when we say their names. This is serious stuff. Trina and I sort of feel like we’re investigative reporters uncovering some of the really horrible, terrible things that go on in schools. You’re going to hear their stories today. But first, Trina is going to explain some background knowledge that you’ll need, especially if you’re not a teacher in these environments, knowing these these acronyms. And so do you want to go ahead, Trina, and talk about some of the things. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, Thank.
Trina (00:01:12) – You for the wonderful introduction. I just want to say this is another episode about the oppressive nature of canned curriculums. You should listen to the introductory episode of Canned Curriculum to understand this conversation a little bit more.
Trina (00:01:25) – However, you know, I became aware of this scenario in a California public school through a large network of people that I communicate with through, um, really through having done a lot of graduate work in K-12 scholarship. So their story came to me and I found out about it and asked them to come on, and they were very gracious to do so. But the story is really about how one teacher stood up against the oppressive nature of curriculum and the intersection of how historically marginalized identities are oppressed further by canon curriculum. And when he refused to continue to teach it, it was given to a brand new teacher without tenure and he was forced to do it and had no idea what he was getting involved with and he wound up leaving the profession over it. So you wanted evidence and proof that curriculum is oppressing teachers and exacerbating the shortage crisis? There you go. Um, but these terms that Amanda mentioned, some of them are really specific to California, but they are very specific to teaching. And I just want to make sure that we unpack them right away so that you don’t feel lost.
Trina (00:02:43) – This is probably one of the most technical conversations you’re going to hear. Please stay with it. Because what is shared is from these two gentleman’s hearts. And just if you get stuck with the jargon, just stick with it, please. But I will say. Teacher, A who’s the veteran teacher who teaches who goes first. Um, refers to the Lpac. This is the LPC. This is the English language Proficiency Assessment for California. We started using this a number of years ago. Replace an old test. It assesses language acquisition levels for English language learners. We refer to these students in two ways either L or ELD, and we kind of conflate the terms, but L just stands for English language. Or sometimes you’ll hear L English language learner is sometimes the class that is taught English learning English language development, which is specifically for English language learners. So you’ll hear all these terms thrown around. You have something similar, if not identical, in another state. I’m sure if you’re teachers now, when you administer the Lpac, the English Language Proficiency Assessment, it gives it places students in a number of four different levels based on their reading, writing, listening and speaking abilities.
Trina (00:04:14) – Those four domains, um, levels one and two are considered barely emerging skills and levels three and four are higher, and four is where you’re almost ready to be what’s called reclassified. So you’re going to hear this terminology. Two As teachers, we know this. We see reclassified on a roster. We know it means at one time they were an ell, right? They were still learning English language. Um, so what another thing you’re going to hear too is the complicated dynamic of teaching kids who have higher levels in something like reading and writing and then lower levels and speaking and listening and how complicated that dynamic is. So you’re going to hear that explained, too. So think we’ve covered it. Amanda Write l l l. L d. And then we also mentioned the clad in here. You mention it, Amanda I think both teacher and teacher be discuss it. The cloud is the cross cultural language and academic development certification. And if you got your teaching credential anywhere within the last 15 years, this came with your teaching credential.
Trina (00:05:33) – And they mention cloud and both Teacher B and you and I will confess. Me too. I barely remember what the heck that was in my credential. It was like it was like a tiny blip on the radar. And then they say to you at some point years down the line, Oh, you have glad you can teach English language learners as if we all don’t also realize that we, none of us remember what this was. And that’s that’s why you got a book because you didn’t remember your cloud certification.
Amanda (00:06:04) – Yeah, well, and I kind of remember it wasn’t. It was like one. Our feel like it was like that’s why it was just a blip on a screen. It wasn’t even a class. It was just maybe an hour or three hours or something, I don’t know. Or like a day. Um, so. Yeah. Okay.
Trina (00:06:27) – Oh, one last thing. SDAIE strategies that’s mentioned. This is specially designed academic instruction in English. SDAIE. This is not a curriculum. This is actually a very enlightened framework which gives us tips and guidance and ideas around how to make content more comprehensible for students who are learning English.
Trina (00:06:52) – This is, instead of giving them an. Amanda refers to this in the episode to a dumbed down curriculum, which they’re not. You know, they don’t have a they don’t need something of a lower level. They just need different and better access to get into the content. So you will hear teacher refer to these SDAIE strategies. And then Teacher B is the younger teacher who was given this, not knowing what the heck it was. And these are both males. Their voices are disguised. They sound super deep. Amanda, you did an excellent job applying your emerging skills of voice modification.
Amanda (00:07:35) – Thank you so much. Yeah. And the book, I refer to a book called Long Term Success for Experienced Multilinguals. That is an excellent book about strategies you can use. And it’s not a canned curriculum, but this new teacher teacher Be Right was given a canned curriculum, not the SDAIE strategies, right? No. Okay. Well, let’s get to the episode. Welcome to the Empower Students Now podcast, a podcast about equity, neurodiversity, mindfulness and student engagement.
Amanda (00:08:11) – There’s a lot that needs to change in our education system. The good news is teachers have the power to make these changes now. I am so excited to be back again today with actually three other teachers, including myself. So four of us are here today to talk about canned curriculum again and how it is part of why the teacher shortage crisis is occurring right now and how it relates to that and just what the teacher experience is with can curriculum. So can curriculum is curriculum that was written by publishing companies and they write curriculum to help teachers teach and to have kind of a manual for to guide them through different units. But often everything is thrown into it and it can be really overwhelming for teachers. So I just want to define canned curriculum first. It’s it’s formulaic. There’s a lot in it. There’s assessments, there’s lessons, there’s videos, there’s a lot online now. Like there’s online versions of the curriculum, There’s student tools, just so many things thrown into it. And districts spend millions of dollars on canned curriculum.
Amanda (00:09:53) – So who’s here today? I have Trina English, of course. She’s the co-host. And she’s she’s going to be here for all of these episodes about the teacher shortage. We also have he’s a teacher who has decided to leave the profession, unfortunately, because he’s incredible, amazing, has a huge heart, loves his students, but had to leave. And we also have. So can you tell us a little bit about your background as a teacher?
Teacher A (00:10:27) – Hi, I’m glad to be here. So my teacher journey began in 2001. I’m about to enter into year 23, three different sites throughout my career, and my current one is the one that I’ve been at for the longest. I’ve taught language arts for my entire career with a focus on teaching English as a second language eld, English language development. And so for about 20 years I always had some classes peppered in with other literature classes, writing, etcetera. So I’ve run the gamut. I’ve taught everything from grades nine through 12 to adults and night school, continuation school.
Teacher A (00:11:16) – I am a Swiss Army knife of a teacher. I have I have done it all and I’ve seen a lot over the past couple of decades in education. And, you know, like I said, I taught for 20 years of my career, which might lead you to ask, well, what about the past two years, the beginning of the end For of my time as a teacher of English language learners started with the adoption of a can curriculum in my district, which, you know, I was critical of for a number of reasons that we’ll get into probably with this episode and through that criticism and through my advocacy of of our very vulnerable populace, rather than listen and work with me and try to come up with a solution that fits everyone’s needs. Um, they phased me and one of my other colleagues out of teaching these classes and tapped, um, one of our other and another teacher to, to teach these classes. So I don’t have any English learners anymore other than the ones that are peppered into our regular classes because that that’s one of the most significant changes at our site, is we went from a sheltered model and pullout model to a full mainstream integration model with a support class based on a can curriculum.
Teacher A (00:12:49) – So that in a nutshell, is is me, and I look forward to digging in.
Trina (00:12:54) – I invited both. To be a part of this episode because they both experienced opposite ends of a very unique and deeply oppressive situation involving canned content. And before they talk because they’re going to share their experiences, I just want to say that like K through eight, the world from which Amanda and I originate, and now you’re moving into high school, so you’ll see this. Okay. Um, K through eight uses more canned content and that really gets back to structural sexism because there’s a lot more females in K through eight and no one’s like deliberately thinking, Oh, women can’t think, so let’s give them canned content. It no, it’s deeply ingrained and structural that K through eight teachers are given more canned content. We talked about already that certain subjects need more canned content over others. But um, we, we have a lot more experience dealing with this stuff. But in 9 to 12 marginalized populations of students, um, in order to like come up with fast, quick, you know, cures for their ills, these teachers who are sort of governing and holding the spaces around largely marginalized identities, are being given this canned content, too.
Trina (00:14:08) – And the story you’re about to hear starts with a space beginning with this idea of teacher professionalism, teacher knowledge, Veteran teachers who were going to train, train, train for years are going to help us create something that can really help our marginalized students who are learning English, learn best, and then they decide to pull it out of their hands and turn it into canned content. And so I just want to let. First and let him start talking about how that all began in his district and to really frame the students through a lens of a marginalized group of students. And then. Experience the other end?
Teacher A (00:14:54) – Well, like I said, I’ve been in education for over two decades, and the way that canned curriculum has traditionally been presented to us is every few years, you know, the standards may change, the standards may be altered, the standards may grow. And there was always somebody coming along with a solution, right? We have the standards based curriculum, the standards based textbook. And it you know, it almost feels like that episode of The Simpsons, Marge versus the Monorail, the classic episode where, you know, some huckster comes from out of town and he comes in and he’s like, you know, there’s nothing on earth like a bona fide electrified six car monorail.
Teacher A (00:15:40) – And Marge is like the voice of reason who’s like, Hey, we should think about this first. But of course, you know, sorry, Marge. The mob is spoken and often feels like that Sometimes in education, when we are presented with these snake oils, we are presented with these these corrals that really do nothing other than give a district leadership an opportunity to point and check a box when they’re asked about how they’re servicing their kids. And so often these these plans, these curriculum are touted in the name of, you know, equity and servicing our kids. And it all sounds very nice and very neat because that’s what, you know, district leadership is looking for neat, clear and easy signposts for them to point out. When the state comes in and says, hey, what are you doing to service this populace? English learners, in our case so often, as is the case with these these curriculum, when they’re presented to us, it’s almost like they’re giving us a tool chest, right? It’s always been treated like that.
Teacher A (00:16:43) – Like here is this this textbook for American literature with all of these these different resources more than anyone could use in in a single year. And it’s just boxes and handouts and now it’s all, you know, technology is involved in all of it. But it’s always there’s always been a matter of choice, right? We’ve been presented with this curriculum by our department head or by, you know, school leadership. And we have said, use this, it’ll help. And we’re kind of like, you know, Rumpelstiltskin, right, spinning that straw into gold. That’s how I’ve always looked at it. But now these days, rather than saying, here’s this curriculum, spin this straw into gold, make something out of it, you know, our kids, you know our populace, you form the relationship. So use these tools to help enhance what you’re already doing in your classroom. But now we’re being given a pile of straw and said, Here, do something with this straw. Now we don’t need gold.
Teacher A (00:17:45) – Just here’s this straw and and make something of it, right? And so what’s become, you know, what was once a choice has now become this oppressive system where if you are playing along, you’ll use this curriculum with full fidelity, whatever that means. And if you don’t, then they will retaliate in my case, and take those classes away. And, you know, I’ve kind of been in mourning the past couple of years because some of my happiest memories in my entire career have been with English learners. The relationships that we form, the stories that I’ve helped them tell and now. I don’t get that in in the way that I used to because those kids are still in our classes. We still service them, but now they’re in with everybody else and their voice is off and get drowned out as they do. Um, so in the case of, of our district, the change that occurred because usually these curriculum curriculums are reactionary, you’ll notice the cycle often begins and ends with new standards. Right? So when I started teaching in 2001, it was the California State standards, and those had existed for decades.
Teacher A (00:18:57) – And there’s a little bit of movement here and there in flux, but they were really outdated in the Common Core, came along a few years into my career, and they started talking about this Common Core. And as soon as those conversations started, the textbook companies who sold us all that curriculum based on the California state standards, now we’re selling us on Common Core. And again, that Huckster came out and he’s talking about how this is going to fix everything and it’s going to fix your kids. And and the the difference now is. They don’t trust teachers who are the experts in the room to work with this curriculum or or even better, come up with our own. There was a time in the past ten years, you know, when I started at my school ten years ago, we had rigorous curriculum design teams. We had dedicated time during meetings. We had dedicated time during all staff meetings. We had pullout days with subs, you know, that were pulled for entire teams where we would sit all day long and talk about curriculum, what worked, what didn’t work mean? We did what teachers are supposed to be doing right now.
Teacher A (00:20:08) – Things are different. We can we we went from, you know, five years ago having one rigorous curriculum to design day to day per 12:45 a semester to last year. I don’t really remember any. There’s no money for it. We’re being told there’s no subs for it. There’s sub shortages. Um, so our opportunities to actually collaborate with each other. Are far and few between.
Amanda (00:20:39) – Thank you for that. I really, really appreciate hearing everything your your experience through all of this and just kind of the pendulum swinging. And I’m curious. So you and. Work together. What? How to use this curriculum. And actually, I am about to start my ELD teacher journey this coming year. I am about to teach the eld classes, eld level one, eld level two, and I am reading a book right now that I love written by actual teachers and an old student who is now an adult and a teacher. It’s called Multilingual Learners, and the push is to call students who speak a second language multilingual learners, and really give them the respect that they deserve.
Amanda (00:21:44) – And just the terms that we use to categorize these kids are problematic, like long term English learner. Like what does that mean and just how demeaning that is? But and so I’m really loving this book because it’s giving me just really like strategies that make sense, you know? And it’s not a canned curriculum. It’s a book written by teachers that are saying, look, this is what multilingual learners need and they don’t need curriculum dumbed down. They don’t need dumbed down curriculum, they need scaffolds and they need academic like they need all the academics that everyone else does. Because the author of this book talks about how often, you know, curriculum is kind of dumbed down and these students are taught or treated like there’s something wrong with them, but they’re highly intelligent, multilingual, multiple languages. Like it’s amazing. I’m reading this multilingual learner book about all these really great strategies that teachers can use that don’t have anything to do with can curriculum. What were you and your team doing? Like, what kind of curriculum were you developing to support your ELD students?
Teacher A (00:23:03) – Well, traditionally in my career is one of has been kind of field has been one of those specialized fields where every place I’ve worked, it’s almost like we’ve been a department within a department, right? So my current department there are 25 language arts instructors and traditionally there’s been three of us who whose focus was on the ELD classes.
Teacher A (00:23:25) – So we when I was hired there, I was hired as a teacher specifically who specialize in teaching English learner learners and love that term, multilingual learners that I’m going to definitely start using that because that that sounds more accurate to me. So when I when I came aboard my current site, there was a team of two seasoned veterans who had been teachers of English learners all over the world and more recently at my current site. So there were a lot of experts. I mean, us three combined have over 75 years worth of experience under our belt, and site leadership and district leadership always trusted us to develop these classes, to come up with a research based, tiered approach to language acquisition. And that’s how it was for for five golden years of my career. Then around in my time at my current site. And then around 2016, the new Common Core English language development standards were published and it was like red alert, right? We were being told the state came in and audited us and said that, you know, we got some ding marks because of this, this and this.
Teacher A (00:24:42) – We were told that things like, um, it’s inequitable to have sheltered classes that sheltered classes, equal pullout and that is inequitable. So we can’t have sheltered classes anymore. We will continue to offer support classes which traditionally have been designed by us. So we taught, let’s say, an E.L. sophomore level course, which was the same curriculum, the same standards, the same skills, the same novel, same everything, same essays, just modified using CDI techniques, again using the experts in the room. So when these new standards were rolled out and we were told that the the school was fine and the district was fine, their solution was to vet a number of different curriculum that they had been that they had seen somewhere. They probably got a sales pitch at some some conference somewhere and brought that back. And so we had a few different options presented to us. We piloted a few of them and despite our opinion on the matter, we kind of had a sense from the beginning that this is just a formality, that we are going to adopt this curriculum.
Teacher A (00:25:53) – It is. You know, they’re saying it’s scientifically based. The person who created it is considered one of the experts in the field. So it all looks really good on paper until you actually have to use it with students. They paid big money for me and three of my colleagues to get trained, a six day training throughout the course of a summer and a year to learn how to use this new curriculum. And we were being told that this is the only thing that this class, this is the only thing this class will be based on, because before it was a support class that we looked at as study skills help in other classes, academic language, all of the other things that benefit English learners besides the core content. And you’re allowed to create that and try new things. Now, they wanted this class to focus solely on this curriculum that they could point to in the state. Auditors come and say, This is what we are doing. Here’s the state standards that are tied. You can open a binder and see day by day, point by point, minute by minute, second by second, what you should be doing in the class.
Teacher A (00:27:05) – And we’re being told if you do this. It’s going to improve the situation for English learners who are Oh yeah, by the way, they’re not going to get a separate sheltered class anymore. They’re going to be thrown into a mainstream class, some of which have 40 or more students in them. Imagine you’re a kid, even a skilled kid, a level three and four who can read and write. But that’s speaking. And listening is always the piece. And you throw them into a class with 35 kids, 40 kids. What’s going to happen to those kids? Right. You can probably make some pretty bold guesses. So when I pushed back. On this curriculum. And, you know, I wasn’t defiant. I wasn’t you know, I’m not using it. I refuse to use this, which I could have done. I’m tenured. I could say I’m not doing it. But when I suggested that maybe we need to differentiate it a little bit, that one size does not fit all in this case, and that this alone is not enough for a class.
Teacher A (00:28:07) – This is an elective class that these kids have to take based on this this canned curriculum that is so tight and rigid that there’s no room for creativity, no room for innovation, no room for anything other than you said. Let’s open the binder 1.1. All right, let’s go. And so when I pushed back for a couple of years, being being asked to teach these classes, because again, I was a teacher of English learners, it made sense that I would be teaching that class after a couple years of pushback. And again, I never said, I’m not going to do it. I never said I refuse. And I did use it in tandem with some of the other stuff that I knew which would engage kids and make them make their time in my class at least a little less abysmal than it was just using that canned curriculum every day. And when I push back, I was a little saddened and surprised when I got my schedule last year. That didn’t include any of those classes anymore. No word? No, I’m sorry.
Teacher A (00:29:09) – No conversation. Just it’s not on your schedule anymore. And I asked my other colleague, who also pushed back. It’s not on her schedule anymore either. So we were retaliated against for standing up for these kids, for knowing what we know is right. And and and so no good deed goes unpunished is how I see it. And so the next thing I know, they were tapping other people, including our friend here. And I’m going to be quiet now because I really am interested to hear what Teacher B has to say about all this.
Teacher B (00:30:21) – Yeah. Um, I think it’s really funny that you found yourself surprised by, um, your class being removed and respectable because I remember being extremely surprised that wasn’t added to my schedule because I still, to this day, feel oddly unqualified. I have no idea how to teach my students. We we took like one very short course in our credentialing program that I really don’t think much about how to teach. I do want to break down kind of like from beginning to end what this process look like for me to, you know, kind of have this class pass on to me.So remember, before the semester started last year, I was put into a quote, training really was a zoom was like 2 to 3 hours. I was presented a slideshow. I watched two videos about how the class would go. And then I was asked to read this giant textbook. The one that you’re talking about gave me a lesson plan for every single day, the beginning of class at the end of class. Um, needless to say, reading through it, I was a little I was a little lost and I was a little skeptical. I was like, You know what? Okay, let me see this. The benefit of the doubt. Um, I’ll try it out. Uh. The glass didn’t go very well. A lot of the curriculum was, you know, fill the blank. Here’s the word of the day. Fill in the blank. Let’s come up with example sentences for each word. Okay. Fill in the blank. Let’s summarize this short text that we’re going to read together.
Tacher B (00:31:14) – Fill in the blank. This is extremely repetitive. It did not feel like it was designed for students. It was designed for. I don’t know, like robots that would be obedient to your every single word. We all know that. That’s not how kids are. We all know that’s not how human beings are. And throughout this entire time, I really had no idea how to give them what they needed, especially because of how disorganized. Think our program kind of became. I had students that had taken this class before, have done the exact same workbook report. I had students that were extremely fluent in English. I had students that were fluent in maybe reading and writing, but not not so much in speaking and listening. What I mean to say is many, many different means that I had no idea how to meet. Um, you know, there were a couple of times where I observed another teacher. I really want to learn how to be more effective. And this teacher, they, you know, taught this workbook to a tee.
Teacher B (00:32:16) – I remember the most striking impression was the entire back row is kind of on their phone or they’re whispering to each other and it’s like, wow. It’s like really clear that I think this classroom is just playing along because they just know they have to do this menial task of filling in the blanks in the workbook. And I remember thinking like, Wow, this doesn’t seem effective. It doesn’t seem like these students are going to pick up a lot of English, maybe a couple vocab words here and there. But, um, I just, I remember feeling incredibly drained after this class, pretty much like every single day after the first 1 or 2 months, I just remember feeling like, Wow, I really don’t want to be here. I really want to change things. Um, we had maybe one meeting over the entire year asking how things are going. Um, it wasn’t even asking how things are going. It was just, um. They never asked for feedback. They were just, you know, Hey, like, are you guys teaching this thing? Cool? That’s a great.
Teacher B (00:33:16) – What can we do next year? Okay, let’s just make sure that we have a couple more differentiated levels so there aren’t so many students that are stuck in the same class, but it’s still like that’s not a solution. The whole issue is like we are teaching out of this workbook and curriculum. Um, and it was just so clearly not created with. I don’t know, like students in mind, like the natural variance that occurs in each classroom community. It was not created with that in mind. It was created for the ideal student, whatever that ideal student is, and that student does not exist. I have no idea what the politics were in going to the creation of our program. I just remember feeling, you know, this program wasn’t created for them. It was created to check box.
Trina (00:34:05) – And do you. Do you see the connection of them taking this away from self-possessed veteran teachers and giving it to someone who’s not tenured? Because that feels very oppressive and intentional. What do you think when I say that? Do you feel like, oh my gosh, they took advantage of me and my situation? I don’t know.
Trina (00:34:25) – I’m going to let you respond to that comment.
Teacher B (00:34:27) – Oh, for sure. I think they’re like happy to be here. I was like, oh, you know, I think I was thrown to the dogs. There’s some political battle going on that I obviously do not see was not part of. I’m just like a pawn in this weird game that I’ve never asked to be a part of. But, you know, I’m going to do it because I was asked to. I’m trying to trying to be professional. I don’t want to, you know, make things harder for these kids. But yeah, I definitely get the sense that I was being used in some way and also being kept in the dark. And that’s the thing is, you know, we’re kept in the dark about a lot of things. They weren’t checking with you halfway through the year. Hey, are you using this curriculum? But when we start to ask questions. Based on that, right? Hey. Yeah, I am using this curriculum.
Teacher A (00:35:15) – Can I see some evidence that this has made a mark? For to know what your end game is. You want to raise the scores. You want to raise scores. If that’s the case, can you prove that this curriculum will help facilitate that? Because as is tradition with learning, as we always teach our kids. Learning is messy. Learning is about making mistakes. And throughout my entire career, teaching is also about learning. And we make mistakes and we try new things. And we’ve always been given that freedom to try new things and to throw them out if they don’t work, unless, as is the case with this curriculum. The district spent a giant wad of dough on it, and there’s no turning back from money because, let’s be honest, they spent the money on it. And if we don’t use it, not, hey, does it work? But we don’t use it, then then their money is being wasted. What they really should be looking at is, okay, we’ve been using this curriculum for 3 or 4 years now.
Teacher A (00:36:18) – That should be enough of time to realize whether or not we should continue betting on this horse, because if we don’t really see the growth, we don’t see kids mainstreaming. If we don’t see those Lpac scores being raised and promises that this textbook company made to us aren’t being upheld. And as a consumer, shouldn’t we look at that and say, you know, we are not getting what we are paid for? We need to try something else. But again, it’s the cycle of we have money to spend, we’re spending it, we’ve spent it, now we have to use it. And in the case of this, if you don’t use it, we’re going to find somebody else to do it. And it was dirty what they did to you and to our students as well. Because they act like the people who are who were trained. Because unlike you, who got a few classes in your credential program teaching English learners, that was my dual major. I have a degree specifically that says I am an expert on second language acquisition, as are the other two colleagues of mine.
Teacher A (00:37:24) – We are the experts in the room and to not listen to us and battle against us and act like we are not in it for the kids because that’s honestly you. I’m in it for at all times. It’s these. So nobody would just like you or me would be able to teach that class and see the effects on these kids. With a good conscience and let it slide. And I couldn’t let it slide. And I did it. And I spoke up. And now here we are.
Trina (00:37:52) – And most teachers are not like they’re not going to be like, I see this for what it is. I’m out. Like, he’s rare. Like, it’s why it’s so incredibly important that we have his voice in here right now because we are so overwhelmed with everything else. We’re we’re given something and we’re given this idea that this curriculum is going to fix everything. And when it doesn’t work, we don’t we doesn’t occur to us like this isn’t working. Who do I talk to? Like, it’s that kind of self-possession that has is rare.
Trina (00:38:21) – Like, it’s extremely rare. But I also want to like caution against what Amanda, you mentioned this earlier, like how we refer to kids, especially kids as long term learners like this movement of like. Recoding it because it whitewashes things. It can whitewash things. There are a lot of reasons why an English learner is a long term. What we call an education is a long term meaning. They’ve been at a very low level of language acquisition according to the tests that we administer now for a number of years. And for whatever reason, they’re not progressing. The reason why they’re not progressing is not the teacher pedagogy. There’s a number of other factors that are going on that include wraparound services that a child needs, that are keeping them from progressing, that are expensive. But we want to believe it’s all the teacher’s fault and we need to buy a can and curriculum to move them along. And we also hide behind terms like equality and inclusion to justify not giving them the individualized education that they once had. This happens instead.
Trina (00:39:29) – We’re going to talk about this in the equity episode, and it definitely happens in Elle, but there’s already these textbook companies making K-8 curriculums, so they’re all too happy to make something for nine through 12. You know.
Amanda (00:39:41) – I want to push back a little bit on the So you said that we need that term long term eld, long term English language learner. The book, by the way, that I’m reading right now because actually my new colleague, I’m going to be teaching freshman ELD. She was supposed to send me the canned curriculum through the mail and it hasn’t come yet and we haven’t named what this curriculum is. And I’m super curious what it is because it might be what I am having to teach coming up in a few weeks. And I’m just and I’m a new to ninth grade, so I’m like a new teacher. Even though I’ve taught for 14 years, I am a new teacher this year. I’ve never taught ninth grade and I’ve never taught an old class. And I am not qualified.
Amanda (00:40:36) – I’m just going to say that because I have a CLAD like license and I don’t even remember when I got that like and I don’t remember what I learned. And so that’s why I bought this book that I absolutely love and adore. And it’s called Long Term Success for Experienced Multilingual. So instead of calling them long term English language learners or whatever schools call them, instead call them experienced, multilingual, multilingual is what these authors are arguing, because it’s just demeaning to these kids. Because you’re right, it’s not the kids fault that they feel.
Trina (00:41:21) – It’s it’s not it’s not Amanda. But when we play around with labels like we call kids who are functionally illiterate, struggling readers, we’re just hiding our own inadequacies as the educators and as the educational system. The system, not us, is the teachers the system, because a long term is a kid who’s, for whatever reason, not progressing past a certain stage. And if we dress that up and play that down and whitewash that we absolve ourselves from any responsibility.
Trina (00:41:48) – So you can call them experienced. But what’s really happening is for some important reason, these kids are not learning English. And I think that term experience maybe makes us feel better, but it doesn’t change the problem. I don’t know. That’s my pushback against pushback.
Amanda (00:42:05) – I just I mean, I’m curious. Seems like you would like to say something teacher A.
Teacher A (00:42:10) – The language is wrapped up in in, you know, the old standards, the the the legalese that’s spoken by the state and the federal government, they are the ones that use these terms like L1, L2. I mean, my my graduate level classes and language acquisition classes were full of acronyms and long term English learners is just it’s everywhere. It’s in all the standards. It would be hard to to sweep that away and start fresh. Although I do like more positive commentating words, I do think that I agree with Trina that it’s important to be honest about what these kids are, because there is some shame in that. Not just not for the kids.
Teacher A(00:42:56) – For them, they feel it because when they’re labeled as a long term, there is a deficiency label there, right? Like, Oh man, I’m never going to learn English when the reality most of the kids who are labeled as long term English learners are perfectly fluent. They can read and write and speak and communicate. They struggle in other areas that are indicative of the long term English learner label, things that might occur even down the road, like the amount of long term ells that go to college versus mainstream kids who do like. So I agree with you. It’s important to to change the language as we change the culture. But long term, this is the one that they use and that’s the one that most people are talking about these days. I’m not sure structurally what your new school is, what it looks like, but our school was restructured to look like this. We had newcomer English that students would be in for a year. Then they had English one, two, three and four based on grade level.
Teacher A (00:44:01) – Right? That’s what it was. For years now, all the grade level classes have been swept away. Those kids have been mainstreamed in other classes. If they are level 3 or 4 based on their Lpac scores. And it just it leads to this cycle of, you know, kids getting stuck because that’s what a lot of long term ells are labeled as being sort of stuck, stuck academically, stuck in place. They’re not progressing. Their scores are kind of have plateaued. They’re not improving and they are not given as many opportunities. They don’t have as many opportunities when they leave our schools. So we’re trying to fix that. And the way that we’re trying that is by one, tightening up the state standards, which are fine. You know, look at the new Common Core standards and there’s nothing new in there. There’s nothing archaic or strange or that doesn’t make sense. They are actually probably a little tighter than they used to be. They’re a little more intensive, I think, especially at the higher levels.
Teacher A (00:45:06) – But they’re doable. But to say that that we can fix this long standing problem of long term English learners being stuck in place with a color by numbers can curriculum is erroneous at best and oppressive and dangerous at worst.
Amanda (00:45:23) – So I just have a quick question. And for how much were people kind of coming into your room making sure that you were teaching this canned curriculum to Fidelity? Like how much pressure did you feel to, like, actually teach this curriculum? Because I feel like everyone, all of the leaders of our schools and things, they hand us this and they say, teach it to Fidelity. But no one ever, like actually comes and checks if we’re doing that. So like, what was the follow up? Because I know you said there wasn’t really much follow up, but he was outspoken and like being, you know, authentic and vulnerable and like speaking up for the kids, which, yes, the kids come first. This podcast is called Empower Students. Now it’s all about the kids.
Amanda (00:46:13) – But yeah, like can you tell us a little bit about like maybe the follow up that you had with your administration or anyone else?
Teacher B (00:46:22) – Yeah, sure. I remember more people come in at once this entire year, four people, they observed me. They told me ahead of time, I’m going to be completely honest. I put on the works for them. I did exactly what was in the book. I like split the tables and did all this stuff that I don’t normally do because I felt the pressure of, Oh, I need to do it, quote unquote. Right? Can you do it right now that I’m not a teacher anymore? I feel a lot more comfortable saying this. I, through the second semester, basically did away with that curriculum. I stopped using that workbook. I taught it for maybe like 15 minutes for the beginning of each class. And then afterwards it was just work time. For them. This is something to work on. So I’m going to come around. I’m going to be checking that you’re working if you need any help on anything, especially, you know, English or history has just come up to me.
Teacher B (00:47:19) – I will stop whatever I’m doing. Um. I just couldn’t put my kids and myself through an entire day of this canned curriculum. So sorry. Go back to your original question. They came in once. I didn’t really know who some of these people were, but they just watched me. I put on the works. Try to, like, show that I was doing it. And then I just did my own thing afterwards.
Trina (00:47:47) – I’m cracking up because I’ve been in that situation where I’ve been in a low socioeconomic school and people come in to check on you and in their mind they’ve checked that box. You’re good.
Amanda (00:47:58) – But, um. Okay. Does anyone have any last things they want to add that they didn’t get to say? Um, I really appreciate all of you being here and speaking out about all of this. Um, it’s very validating and it’s very, very helpful, especially for me as someone who’s about to start teaching. Classes.
Teacher A (00:48:22) – So the last thing I want to say is that, you know, these kids need our help. They’re one of our most vulnerable populations, English learners. And for all kids, there’s no magic bullet. You know, there’s been companies since I’ve been in education and decades before trying to get their hands into the cookie jar of education. Um, be it through technology or textbooks or curriculum, there is no magic bullet. Kids are different. The real work in our classrooms is through the relationships that we form with those kids and our ability to pivot and make adjustments. Because we’re the experts in the room. We know what we’re doing. And when district leadership starts trusting us a little bit more, we can get back to doing the real work and stop coloring by numbers, because until we do that, we’re just going to be standing in place. We’re not going to see growth. We’re not going to see happy kids, healthy kids, and we’re just going to be standing in place. And we want we want to create kids who feel loved, who feel enlightened, who feel engaged and canned curriculum is moving in the opposite direction of that.
Trina (00:49:30) – Teacher B do you have final words?
Teacher B (00:49:31) – Yeah, I think I want to add one last thing. Um, I feel like the practice of throwing new teachers into the pits with these poorly planned and creative classes is definitely contributing to the decline of new teachers. Um, I just don’t think new teachers are going to put up with this knowing that they can get a higher paying job that requires less work elsewhere. Um, it’s. Yeah, it’s not. It doesn’t look great. It doesn’t look great.
Trina (00:49:59) – I am. You should not be giving the hardest stuff then the new stuff that we’re still trying out to new teachers. I mean, they did that on purpose because he’s not tenured and he didn’t have the self-possession yet to stand up to them. And that is so oppressive to the kids and to us. And it did such a disservice to this amazing group of people that have a rare and precious knowledge within education, like the kind of knowledge they have to support students is rare, even where we are in California.
Trina (00:50:33) – And they’ve completely sidestepped it because they didn’t like the complications of what they were saying and they just wanted to like quickly move it along. And let’s be very, very, very clear. They’re going to call it equality so that they’re getting the same education as non learners. It’s just what’s cheaper because kids were getting a much lower student to teacher ratio in their rooms and they’ll say it’s anything else to save face, but it’s all about dollars and cents. And those textbook companies say, Hey, you don’t like paying for these small classes, Here’s a curriculum, you’re done.
Amanda (00:51:11) – It’s appalling. And this information, I think is just so valuable. So thank you all for being here and just being willing to speak up and speak out. And if you’re listening right now, share this with other people. That’s why we’re doing this. I mean, we want other teachers to just be validated in their own experience in all of this and know that you’re not the only one out there having these struggles and these questions in your mind about like, this isn’t working.
Amanda (00:51:40) – Why are we why are we still doing this and why can’t we rely on the experts in the room and value our teachers more, their expertise? Just we are such big hearted people that and all we want is the best for our students. And I know you listening are the same, so thank you for listening and please share this with other anyone, anyone, even people who aren’t in education they don’t even know. I actually asked my friend to be on this podcast. She has two kids in elementary school. I said, We’re doing a podcast series about the teacher shortage crisis. And she goes, There’s a teacher shortage crisis. She doesn’t even know. She doesn’t even know.
Trina (00:52:32) – Because they’re hiding it. They’re hiding it like we, you and I talked to you brought it up. And I completely agree. We need to do an episode describing why the teacher shortage issue is one that we should all be caring about and, like, prove it. And so we’re going to have like an introductory episode to talk about what it means to be in schools when there’s a teacher shortage, like not having subs to do a proper and legal IEP, for example.
Trina (00:52:58) – Like there’s a lot there’s a lot going on. So we need to preface it so that it’s, you’re right, understandable to everyone and not just teachers because we need everyone on board to fix this mess.
Amanda (00:53:08) – We do. And I just again, I really, really appreciate all of you and the time that you have dedicated during your summer break. You’re we’re supposed to be on vacation. What are we doing okay by. One. Thank you for listening. Please share this with others.