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This weekend, I had the chance to be in the room with talented, passionate, and deeply committed leaders from the Arizona Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (AZ ALAS) organization at their annual conference. And I cannot begin to explain how inspirational this was. 

It kicked off with a compelling message from Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, Chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District who not only shared best practices of what works to ensure ALL of our students are college and career ready, but also shared this powerful image:

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_135951.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] It took me a while to catch on since I’m from Brooklyn and can’t even keep a houseplant alive, but the point was that the same way each of these plants requires different environments to thrive, we need to figure out the conditions it will take for our students to reach their full potential. [/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_140233.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] This is a great lead-in to the two breakout sessions I had a chance to attend on Sunday. Patricia Lopez, who heads up the Teaching and Learning unit at Cartwright Elementary School District #83, brought John Hattie’s Visible Learning theories to life in her session, “Know Thy Impact, Instructional Practices that Work.” I was surprised to learn that Transformational Leadership (setting a vision, mission, and things we typically associate with strong leaders) had a much smaller impact on student performance than Instructional Leadership, which is the unsexy business of building Collective Teacher Efficacy and empowering students through the use of their own data. [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_144650.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_145138.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] And did you know that the State of Arizona’s Department of Education recently published a powerful report on the need for and tips to implement Culturally Inclusive Practices statewide? Fortunately, the remarkable Gisselle Herrera, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Tolleson Elementary School District and her colleague Amy Bowen were able to take this massive report and help a room full of passionate educators understand how this template can help us create a more additive, rather than subtractive model of education that recognizes the assets students bring into the classroom. With the practical ideas shared in the Professional Development, Instructional, Curricular, and School Climate & Culture arenas, this session painted the picture of a future Arizona that values ALL of its students.   [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_153715.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_154542.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_153830.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171105_161508-1.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”]

After a fun-filled evening of fellowship, amazing live mariachi music, and laughs, we returned bright and early on Monday where Sunnyside Unified School District’s Grupo Folklorico Los Amigos woke us all up with their energetic dancing.  

 

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] What followed was probably one of the most affirming experiences of the conference. Many educators are aware of Arizona’s now-overturned Ethnic Studies ban which was targeted towards Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American studies program. We had the honor to hear from Richard Martinez, Esq., who was one of the attorney’s in the lawsuit that ended up declaring this law unconstitutional in its enactment and in its implementation based on racial animus – an extremely rare outcome in a constitutional law case.   [/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171106_090040.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] But what mattered about Richard’s keynote address wasn’t just the power of this victory, but the value of the Mexican American studies curriculum itself. When Arizona Department of Education officials were flabbergasted of the outrageous academic performance of formally under-achieving students in this program, Richard made it clear: students with an academic identity have an academic future. Do our students truly have an academic identity if we fail to provide them with instruction to helps them to understand who they are?  [/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] This call to action was a great segue into the next breakout session I attended, “Educology,” led by Sunnyside Unified School District’s Superintendent Steve Holmes and Chief Academic Officer Pam Betten. I appreciated their questioning of Angela Duckworth’s focus on “grit,” because their schools have shifted the focus to agency. It was so cool watching a video of a 1st grade girl explaining how she sets goals for herself whenever she starts a new activity, and that when she doesn’t get something right away it gives her the chance to collaborate (her words).  [/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171106_095406-1.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171106_100737.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171106_103001.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171106_100854.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20171106_103938.jpg” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] Last but not least, I had the honor to present to a packed room full of Arizona educators for my session “From ‘What’ and ‘How to’ to ‘Why’ and ‘What if’ – Powerful and Practical Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking to ALL Students.” When I asked the participants why they chose this session, it turned out that so many of them had been focusing on getting their teachers to deliver rigorous critical thinking for several years now, but they were getting caught up in the “how.” So it was humbling to receive such positive feedback from these talented educator leaders about how thinkLaw’s practical approaches can apply across grade levels and subject areas, and even more exciting to see everyone commit to at least 1 instructional practice they will focus on to bring forth the Critical Thinking Revolution in their schools.  [/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version=”3.0.86″ src=”http://www.thinklaw.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Photo-in-AZ-ALAS-2017-Tucson-AZ-Google-Photos.png” show_in_lightbox=”off” url_new_window=”off” use_overlay=”off” always_center_on_mobile=”on” force_fullwidth=”off” show_bottom_space=”on” /][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”] So all in all, the 2017 AZ ALAS Conference was an amazing experience that has me more fired up than ever to do this work. Fitting that instead of a plaque, AZ ALAS honored thinkLaw with this beautiful piece created by Crystal Bernal, a 6th grade Arizona student, with the chance to snap a pic with the phenomenal Superintendent of the Tolleson Elementary School District, Dr. Lupita Hightower. Because it is all about our students.  [/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.86″ background_layout=”light”]


To learn how your school or organization can adopt thinkLaw’s standards-aligned program that helps educators teach critical thinking to all students, please click here to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team, call us now at (702) 318-7512 or join us on our next webinar; Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students

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