By Gary Chapin
Writer, Educating for Good
There are ten Learning Excursions planned for the ALP Convening in Tucson. They all focus on assessment and look at how Tucson and Sunnyside school districts are succeeding at doing many of the things that ALP advocates.
Two hundred thirty educators and friends (230!) are converging on Tucson with the jubilant curiosity of very, very smart golden retrievers. On day 3 of the convening, these 230 ALP friends will fan out across the Sunnyside and Tucson Unified districts, go into the schools, and learn from the teachers and kids there.
The Excursions have been planned by teams of Sunnyside and Tucson teachers paired with ALP folk who have been working on this since at least November. Other district leaders have been planning with us since last summer.
I’m only saying all this so that you realize what an amazing amount of creativity and labor have gone into these Excursions. So much work that, at times, I wonder why Tucson and Sunnyside agreed to this! It’s an extraordinary and generous invitation from the two districts. We are fortunate and grateful.
I talked to Yolanda Sotelo about this very thing. Yolanda is a mentor/master teacher in the CR (Culturally Responsive) Learning Department of Tucson Unified. It is she who has provided support to the teachers leading these ten Excursions, making sure that all of the resources are in place so that this very complicated set of events can happen without a hitch.
Yolanda has a long history of lighting up classrooms by simply bringing books the kids could relate to. Books in which they could see themselves.
“This book has La Llorona!”
So, I ask her about the Excursions, “This is a lot of trouble to go to for our benefit. Why do such a thing?”
She laughs and tells me “that’s not a question for me,” but then goes on to answer it anyway. “After what we’ve gone through with the MAS (Mexican American Studies) court case … our teachers need to be showcased.” They’re doing great work and “even though it’s in the middle of the quarter, you’ll see great assessments.”
I remember the quote from James Dickey, from the front piece to one of his books of poems: “Do not read these poems unless you are willing to be changed by them.”
How would Yolanda like the ALP folk to be changed by these excursions?
“They will see what is possible, I hope,” she says. “When you bring this Culturally Responsive literature, a CR approach, the kids light up. They have so much joy.” Her advice for participants is, “Watch the kids. They will show you.”
Books Every School Should Have On Its Shelves
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erica Sánchez
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
House on Mango Street & Woman Hollering Creek, by Sanders Cisneros
Rain of Gold, by Victor Villaseñor
The Devil’s Highway, by Luis Urrea
Mexican Whiteboy, by Matt De la Peña
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, by Laekan Zea Kemp
Let Their Spirits Dance, by Stella Pope Duarte
Zoot Suit, by Luis Valdez