Tina on Equity

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23 thoughts on “Tina on Equity”

    1. Ruined the flow.
      I did my first full-blown Story Listening this week. In one class, I asked a question. I do not remember what I asked–I believe it was form-related, though–it ruined the flow. I had to quickly get back to the story before the air left the balloon.

      1. Yesm. My experience too Nathaniel. Even if the question is simple. SL teleports the kids into that Pure Land that Ben has talked about then you bring them right back to school with a comprehension question.

  1. Yup. I missed the equity webinar the other night because our power was still out from the snowstorm. I am looking forward to this being front and center in Portland. It is front and center for me.

    I had a “book chat” today with a class that I feel most of the time I am failing big time. Just the process of circling up in a team huddle with them and asking them reflection questions and giving them freedom to say how it’s going is SO HUGE. I can’t believe I forget to do this regularly. Writing this post to remind myself 😀 Oh the book chat was revealing too. They get why we do FVR!!!! Yippee!!!

    More importantly they chuckled and listened to each other and had fun tossing around the “talking turtle.”

    Oh, and I don’t do pop ups unless there is a student question. I don’t think I ever really did them anyway, if you mean me pointing something out. If a student asks I decide in the moment how to address it (quick this means this / hey lets chat during choice time for more details / etc), depending on the urgency of that kid vs the flow of the story.

    1. Jen, i now see that muh of your work is about community building and acknowledging that the kids matter. There are needs that must be met even before instruction happens. Yesterday i had my last advisory class. It is a group of students we normally do not have in the day and we address some issues but the teacher decides how it goes. I got to know their concerns, likes, dislikes etc… many of them are suffering due to stress, testing and bad grades. But they go on laughing it up over internet references etc… i didn’t mind because there are no grades and little accountability. So i let them be kids with some structure… all they needed was to listen to each other occasionally instead of an adult, an objective or do some meaningless task.

  2. I think this falls under equity but something I wonder about a lot is the block schedule vs non block. I only have my students for 1/2 year. Getting to see students every day for 90 days is somehow that is supposed to be the same as getting to see them every day all year. It just is not the same even though the clock hours are. It doesn’t seem fair to expect students to attend to input for 80 mins per day (they can’t). I suppose I “should” be using the non input time to make them do explicit learning activities. Instead I keep trying to break the time up into manageable (attention-wise) chunks that include input as a group, individual input, mindfulness practice and social time (like games, etc).

    So…at the end of the “year” / course my hunch is that my students would be “way behind” other students in a similar CI based class. This makes me feel a bit squeamish. Should I do the explicit stuff? Would that make them “catch up?” I sort of doubt that they can “catch up” fully, but maybe they will feel more confident if they had worksheets? Maybe I just include worksheets in my choice time? Am I just being lazy and insubordinate?

    There is a saturation point with having to be so rigorously engaged. This is how I justify some of the mindfulness practices (well, there is also the sky high stress level and all…)

    How might I design an action research around this issue of block vs non- block? Seems like block means different things. Some have block every other day all year. I think this would still be better than every day for 1/2 year. There is something my gut says about exposure over a longer period. I believe neuroscience backs this up.


    1. Referring to block classes, jen said:

      …there is a saturation point with having to be so rigorously engaged….

      Who said they have to be so rigorously engaged? Is there someone standing at the door waiting to test? What message are the kids getting? That they are perhaps less important than the knowledge? Can’t we just let that go? Can’t we just do some auditory CI for awhile until it loses energy and then read what was talked about, then give a few fake assessments and always remember what counts, how they feel about themselves? Maybe throw in some word chunk team game fun and other breaks in between? And maybe just sit around and share things in English, as long as we don’t discuss anything personal? Really, where did we get the rigorously engaged during the entire class thing? I know I’m being a bit flip here, but I would quickly add that I’m not being flip at all.

      I also thought for far too many years that my students had to be rigorously engaged. Boy was I wrong. I thought I had to be a really good teacher, get the scores, look like I knew what I was doing when the masters of the building came in to my classroom with my heart all of a sudden ramping up to 165 bpm. None of that is true. I was lied to. The observers were mere ghosts, with no capacity to judge anything I was doing. But nevertheless I believed the lie about rigor for 35 or 37 years. Only in the last year or so did I realize that all I had to do was hang out with my kids and enjoy creating things with them, and then read what we created.

      I can’t have the time back, but I can give my opinion here to younger teachers. It’s just not about any scores or any of that rigor. Go re-read in the Primers (hard link above) how the U.S. Dep’t. of State Defines rigor. We never had to be so excellent at teaching. It’s a scam that younger teachers buy into at the expense of their mental health. And by extension their physical health. So this is a good opportunity to say that we don’t have to work so hard and on a practical note we never want to retire with unused sick days. Or I should say it to myself, with a few tears welling up in my eyes, that I finally see that I never had to work so hard, and to hell with the rigor.

      I didn’t need the approval. I was a good teacher anyway, would have been a far better one if I had known what I wrote above then. My affective filter was tuned in every day to the rigor frequency. It went straight to my kids. Now I know. At least there’s that.

      1. This speaks to me deeply more than ever. I am currently feeling weak and I am at school working. Trying to deliver CI in 4 classes and piecing together a lesson plan for my Heritage speakers class. At this point of the year, to hell with rigor. If we are just consistent and not go overboard, then we will see that it was all worth it for the kids. Teaching is truly a selfless experience.

      2. Bryan Whitney

        I completely agree with letting go of the need to have students engaged the entire class and to be the best teacher ever. At my school we have three fifty minute classes and one hour and a half long class each week. I know for sure that an hour and a half is a ridiculous amount of time to expect kids to be attentive. It simply isn’t realistic to expect students to be able to go, go, go the whole time. Plus, it’s just not good for our mental and physical health. I truly believe that as long as we are using the target language for a good amount of time, talking about the reading, having fun/enjoying ourselves a bit, and caring for our students and ourselves (if we truly want to be in this for the long haul) then we are being successful. Plus, just think of how much time is wasted on explicit grammar and memorization in traditional classes. That’s not going to get them anywhere anytime soon. For most students it will just send them backwards, repel them from the language, and make them believe that they can’t learn a foreign language.

        Really, most students just need a safe and caring place to be- a place that isn’t stressful and that gives them a break. I’m mostly preaching to myself (since I currently have a cold, and am exhausted from the school year…) but it’s not worth it to sacrifice our physical health and sanity to a system that frankly doesn’t respect us (nor sufficiently compensate us) in many instances. I truly do love teaching and (most) of my students most of the time, but let’s just say “no” to the crazy head games (that we usually put ourselves through).

  3. ZING!!!

    THIS –> “My affective filter was tuned in every day to the rigor frequency. ”

    While I pretty much do most of the stuff you mention in the first paragraph (talk to the kids, listen to the kids, input in whatever form is right for that moment, games, etc) I did not realize until I read your response that my affective filter is tuned in every day to the rigor frequency.

    I shoulda recognized it straight off, when I made that statement about the saturation point of the “rigorous engagement.” It hit me like a big old 18 wheeler reading this post, because suddenly I am aware that all of the heavy and entangling externalities have seeped in while I was distracted by whatever distracts me. The budget situation is a big looming cloud. The reaccreditation committees and all that stuff I am behind on. The multiple unit plan and lesson plan and lesson plan reflections and rubrics and updated rubrics that are due to 2 or 3 different committees. The general suffering in the community and the building. The antagonism between the city council and the school board (city demands we cut another 1.3 million…from what I have no idea…I guess they want cheaper teachers or none at all).

    It seems I have built a bit of a wall around me so that is why the “omg I am providing rigor, dammit!”

    I thank you eternally for pointing this out! Yesterday was such a fine day to be in my various groups, with abundant laughter and chatting along with music, games and yoga and input oh my!!! More of this please!

    1. For more on rigor click on the Primers hard link above and find:

      Advice to an Embattled Teacher/Clarification of Rigor
      Rigor US Department of State

      Both articles by Robert Harrell are clear as a bell and will provide us with information in department meetings on this topic that is irrefutable. Excellent ammunition, in other words. There’s lots more on Robert’s website as well:


      Also this article of an interview of Robert on this topic by Jim Tripp:


  4. I was pouring rain yesterday and after I ran home to grab my pup, bring her back to watch the varsity baseball team get annhilated by the local rivals, and then go for a real romp in the forest, I made some dinner and then sat on the couch to CHILL OUT and watch this:


    Brene Brown “Daring Classrooms” a talk she gave a couple months ago at south by southwest. There is nothing in there that we don’t already “know” or “work toward” each day. AND I found it so affirming and empowering now in my last 2 weeks with kids. I’m going to watch it again with a notebook in hand. There were moments of “oh ouch” where I felt the sting of something I’d done to cause (directly or indirectly) harm to students. There were also many visceral moments of relief that I’m very aware of these dynamics, so at least I have a chance to act in the direction of open heart.

    It makes me realize again and again, how much this work requires us to dig into our own dark corners in order to be truly present and accepting of all our students. I’m looking forward to Portland for these discussions ::

    I saw this one too 😀 Can’t get enough!


    1. Sean M Lawler

      jen, I think you are amazing with what you are doing with those block classes you meet everyday. And all the paperwork on top of it! I hope you give yourself a break and, at times, have students do things that require very little supervision or interaction on your part.

      I currently teach 90 min blocks every other day. As auditory attentiveness wanes during that time, we turn to more independent writing, or partner-pair work. But, as I reflect on the year and all the times I wished I only had 50 minutes with them, I really think I would miss being able to slow things down in the 90 min class. Sometimes we have whole group conversations in English about whatever, a performance students were in, an outing, a job a student has, and you never know when these conversations are going to happen. I’ve learned to just let them happen and wait for a good time to slide back into L2. I’m a much more relaxed teacher.

      But I don’t see them everyday like you do. I did that, some 4 years ago at a school on Chicago’s West Side. Everyday for 80-85 min for semester. I was really pushing hard on avoiding English back then. It was my first year doing CI. So many students got tired quickly. I wish I had those kids again. We’d have more fun. The only thing that kept them going was my dogged determination, and, of course, some of the compelling nature of the story scripts. I’m not as doggedly determined anymore. I feed off the energy of the class more now. And if the class is not giving me the love that I need, I let them know and we recalibrate. Thankfully, there are always a handful of kids in each of my classes that have boundless positive energy. Boy, I need to let them know how much their positivity means to me!

  5. Sean M Lawler

    This thread on equity is bringing up something that’s been bubbling in my head lately. What if we didn’t need to use the title “Interpersonal Communication Skills” as a Gradebook category. What if we could call jGR whatever we wanted to our students. What would we call it then? “Attending to the Input”… “Unconsciousness Channeling”… “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”?

  6. I would like to see a Tina answer to this question Sean. In my view she has subtly ratcheted up the jGR to a new level with the new stuff of the past six months. Honestly, it feels so important to me. I may be wrong. But how we label it in our grade books starting next year, how we label this intangible “thing” about assessment that is so newly recalibrated/rubricated by Tina, is very exciting.

    And yes it’s all got to do with equity. Equity and assessment now must receive the attention they deserve as twins. One thing that is really exciting – the Portland Conference is going to be the first summer conference where we bring in some true experts – Anna Gilcher and Rachelle Adams and Haydee Taylor-Arnold and John Cowart, who runs CI in Kip schools and Jacqueline Miller-Perry, who works in a high-poverty urban classroom in East St. Louis.

  7. I just posted the latest summer workshop to the Moralist. It is a totally new kind of workshop. I am not sure if a workshop like this has ever existed. I am pretty sure not because the tools we will be teaching about, they just got invented. Hey Ben do you no think that we should post parts of the Cleveland Thing here for feedback and for the good of the order here?

    This Ohio workshop is about the most exciting thing we are doing all summer. I am drooling to finish the Cleveland Thing, aka “Cycles of Instruction and Assessment” but it might need a catchier title. Just read what we plan to cover in the Ohio workshop! Alisa your dream of my sharing my assessment and grading stuff, it is coming true. Thanks for the nudge.


    1. We will see if the workshop actually gets posted. In other news the post for the PA workshop did make it on but it was posted by someone else, not me.

  8. The Cleveland Thing has the potential power of ten strong rocket ships all rolled into one in getting us up, up and away from all the “Do you sorry hippies align with the Scope and Sequence for the district?” questions about pacing guides and covering thematic unit vocabulary and common assessments and all of that stuff. What we will do is collect all those things that cause us so many headaches under the afterburners of the rocket and blow them to another universe, or back to the 20th c. from whence they came, or rather were spawned by the textbook companies. I hope I am not exaggerating because it’s like w the Invisibles in Jan. of 2016. Is this happening? Is this real? So the jury is out but my spidey sense is really reacting to what Tina is initiating here, which is so new that we don’t even have a name for it yet except to call it the “Cleveland Thing”. If I am right and Tina is right, this is a “Final Answer” – as much as there are any final answers in this work – to those who CHALLENGE US WITH SUCH IMPUNITY and who still believe that 30 people can all be taught and tested at the same speed in the same old way DESPITE THE RESEARCH that screams “Au contraire, mes amis dinosaurs!”

  9. Uno those docs are still being formulated is the thing. I think that once we get through the summer we will have time to settle in and straighten it all out. Last summer we started out in San Francisco and after doing some summer workshops we had learned a ton about the Invisibles from the teachers we worked with and I am certain that it will be the same way this year. I personally cannot wait to put a big sharp scythe to this noxious idea that has bothered us for so long (since it all started) of aligning with the curriculum, meeting Scope and Sequence demands to quiet those people down who are ignorantly all up in our faces in our buildings about aligning with the curriculum and assessment. They need a big punch in the face and I believe Tina is the one to do it on those topics. She is a one woman wrecking crew on stupidity in this profession, and there is a lot of it out there right now. I am happy how in this area we are doing things that won’t be happening in the other national conferences: the assessment piece, the curriculum alignment piece and the big one, non-targeted instruction and the equity piece. I’d say by the fall, Udo. We also are cranking out Bite Size Books so it is a heavy work schedule right now. I wouldn’t have it any way. But I’m taking my boys to a Rockies game today vs. Seattle. Thought I’d throw that in. ‘Cause the Rockies are rocking the house in the National League this summer. Bam! Another home run in the thin air of the mountains! Look out Mariners!

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