Summer Residency ReflectionsBeckie Rankin, 2022 PEARLL Educator in Residence

When we think of the word “residency”, those of us with loved ones in the medical field immediately conjure up images of exhausted young doctors focused intensely on learning, with the work-life balance of a first year teacher. Another residency type is that of an artist at a museum: someone with specific skills who is there for a short period of time to produce art and promote their mission. I love this style of residency because it is grounded in high expectations and yet somehow offers breathing room for growth and inspiration. This also describes PEARLL’s new Educator in Residence program. Rather than relying on PEARLL staff to develop classroom oriented materials, they asked someone (me) with specific skills (world language teacher) for a short period of time (100 hours) to produce (content) and promote (the TELL Framework). And for this I am glad, because there was no way I was sacrificing my summer relaxation for anything less!

Breathing Room for Growth and Inspiration

This initially sounds like a etherial way to go through the summer and I assure you that my head was firmly out of the clouds while I read and digested the TELL Framework and Learner Pathways enough to start developing supportive content. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The fun in the story begins during my first video conference with PEARLL Co-Director, Thomas Sauer. Not knowing what to expect, I put on professional clothes (remember it was summer) and poised myself for marching orders. “I made you a choice board,” Thomas began. He showed me a document that looked innocent enough with five different types of content I could create. My immediate reaction was: “That’s it? I’ll finish this afternoon.” But as Thomas explained more, I realized that each category was a single product that we would need for each learner pathway – one summer didn’t feel like enough. After explaining each of the items, he asked where I thought I might start. Bringing order to chaos is my wheelhouse, so I justified a line-up that brought me from research to practice. Good thing Thomas knows a thing or two about diverse learners since I had already changed my agenda by the first afternoon, then threw it away completely on the second day. Each hour I bounced around within a pathway from learning through synthesizing into an infographic to applying by writing models and blogs.

Pathways to Reflection

In one of my module task models, I created a list of questions that learners could reflect on after their product is done. In true TELL fashion, I’ll answer those questions for myself.

What are you most proud of? I started on Performance-Based Assessments because that’s an area of strength for me. I was really happy with the initial work that I did there. But it was easy, and I was using that content to understand the structures that I needed to learn (What is a module? How do I make an infographic? What drives my blog posts?) to apply those to the other content areas that I was less familiar with. Perhaps, then, what I am most proud of is the visual of keys and doors with Target Language Use. In looking at all the indicators, I realized that what teachers set up as culture in their classrooms opens the door to TL (ex. when we give them resources, it opens the door to  increased text type; when we value meaning over accuracy students can open the door to taking language risks). 

What will you still work on? Well, I don’t think I’ve fully grasped it yet, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about processing. I tend to teach a concept or skill, model it for students, and expect them to apply it right away. Because processing is nebulous and elusive, I did not make time for it in my class. The irony is that I wrote sections of modules for teachers to move from acquiring to applying content and I still struggled with how to write it into the model lessons. 

What do you wish you knew? Aside from wishing I had come in with a firmer grasp on the learner pathways, I wish I focused less on creation and more on understanding the overall picture. At hour 90, I emailed Thomas with a color-coded hyperdoc of what I had produced from the choice board. True to my Type A personality, the choice was more about order than selection and most of the chart is green. I wonder if taking time to think through others’ perspectives, the big picture, the timeline, and next steps if I could have planned myself a better learner pathway.

What did you learn about yourself in the process? I learned how much I love this stuff. I’ve always known that I’m a PD junkie and I love to present and coach. I was nervous that working mostly on my own would send me in the wrong direction, but it seems like the documents, visuals, and explanations will support teachers in the TELL community to continue to shift the perspective towards learning.

If you, too, are looking to let the creative juices flow towards development without the curse of grading student work, I highly recommend PEARLL’s Educator in Residence program as a place to grow, be inspired, and inspire others. You, too, have specific skills and share the mission of supporting teachers as we embrace products, practices, and perspectives that help our students learn language better.