Beyond Language Barriers: A Conversation with Lisa Auslander

This week on the ML Chat Podcast, we are joined by Lisa Auslander, the Senior Project Director for Bridges to Academic Success. Lisa leads the team in professional learning, curriculum development and operations. She is a former teacher, coach and administrator who worked in New York City schools for over 15 years.
Lisa is a fountain of knowledge in Multilingual education. In this episode she goes in depth about the journey that led her to Bridges and how they are fulfilling their mission to advocate for newly arrived immigrants through best practices in curriculum, resources, and teacher training.
Enjoy this conversation with Lisa Auslander!

Automated Transcript

Justin Hewett: Lisa, tell us your story about how you started working with students with limited or interrupted formal education.

Lisa Auslander: Yeah, sure. Thanks Justin. Let’s see. I was a middle school and a high school teacher in New York City. So many of my students who came in were multilingual learners, immigrant students and some of whom had limited and interrupted schooling.

I taught inclusion classroom and an inclusion classroom. So I had a wide variety of students and. I was a social studies teacher. I didn’t have a language development background. I hadn’t had training, and very quickly I realized that I was not able to serve my students in some of their language development needs.

A lot of students had trouble accessing. The curriculum, even some native speakers because I realized that language development can affect also all of our students in terms of accessibility. And over the years I had my students taught me a lot [00:01:00] about, how to support them. I learned a lot and I had to go outside the classroom and, I had some wonderful E N L or e L D.

teach me actually about what I needed to do and I, I did also take some coursework, but I really had, it really was a big aha moment for me in my journey. Especially when I helped start a new high school and, I had a couple of students in my inclusion classroom really who were both SIFE students, but had really different backgrounds and home language literacy, and I realized, really how vast the needs are of our multilingual learners and our SIFE students as well.

And so I, I learned a lot. I continue to learn and now I have a wonderful community of educators that I work with and I can, I part we partner with at our project. And I just, I love being on that learning journey and supporting other teachers the way I felt supported along the.

So that, that’s how it all began for me in my teaching career.

Justin Hewett: I, I have to go back to those days, those early days. You’re in the [00:02:00] classroom, you’re a social studies teacher, middle and high school, and. Some teachers aren’t propelled to go seek that additional support, from those ELD teachers from those experts.

But you were compelled. And then not only did you go down that route, you you kept going down the rabbit hole, you wanted to get more and better and become, the best resource for your students that you could become. And I guess I’m curious, like what propelled you to do that?

What led you down that?

Lisa Auslander: I think honestly the relationship with the students, and seeing my own limitations led me to do that and made me want to learn more. And I think accessibility to curriculum is a huge issue in general because all of our learners come with different needs and an inclusion classroom that especially shows up.

, when you’re co-teaching and you have a large class and really trying to understand and differentiate for such a large group of students becomes a huge challenge. And so I think to be a good teacher, you really have to delve into that. And [00:03:00] so the students really motivated me and I, and when I saw I wasn’t reaching some students, I knew I had to change my own practice.

And that’s a journey, that’s the whole career in my opinion. But I just had some wonderful colleagues along the way and I think that also helped a lot because other people who really cared about their students, who really cared about the school, what we were trying to do.

And so it’s very motivating also when you have colleagues who care and want and will help you. So I’m grateful and I, I even write about, I don’t name names, but I write about , especially one teacher who helped me a lot and I, in a way, like I feel in my work, because I didn’t have that background to start, like when teachers come who don’t understand or don’t have the background, I can be that resource and someone to say I didn’t either.

I can demystify it a little bit and encourage people who want to learn or who feel comfortable because they don’t know things. that they can learn and I can push them into that learning because I come from that particular space. So that’s been an advantage in a way. And I think just, my [00:04:00] path in terms of supporting others.

So it’s nice to be able to do that as well.

Justin Hewett: And it’s neat to see where that journey’s taken you to with bridges. Tell us about Bridges. Can you walk us through its origin, as to where It’ss today and how you support slash students and multilingual students over time and how that’s all evolved.


Lisa Auslander: Yep. Wow. Okay. Bridges has been around for over 10 years, maybe longer. , it’s certainly in its funding from New York State Education. The past 10 years. I’ve been on the project about eight years. A wonderful team of. Teachers former teachers had founded the project and did coming out of the international schools in addition to Dr.

Elaine Klein, who was the PI at the time, and did some great work and developed a curriculum with New York State. And before that, with the D O E. And materials to really help life students. They had seen in their own classroom some of the challenges to really reaching the students even in their own setting.

And so really wanted to do [00:05:00] more to provide teachers resources. And they got funding and they started the project and it slowly grew. And then they got they got the re started the relationship with the New York State Education Department and. Yeah, and Tim and we met through International Community High School where Tim was a teacher and that school continues to be a partner of Bridges.

Just a wonderful principal, wonderful group of teachers, and was a real site for that learning and understanding how to support. , so many different SIFE learners from different settings, backgrounds, multilingual some speaking multiple languages, but struggling to access and the curriculum at times.

And also just learning to read and write in a language they didn’t necessarily have home language literacy in their home language. That was. Very advanced, but come with, so the students come. What I, what we’ve learned is the students come from so many wonderful backgrounds speaking many languages, having so many resources, so many life [00:06:00] experiences that you can leverage in the classroom.

And so I C H S was a place where they really learned how to do that. And so part of Bridges was working with schools like I C H S and teachers like you, Tim, at the time you’re a teacher and. Really trying to partner with schools to advance that learning. But Bridges started out really, I think the wonderful thing about Bridges is that what I love about Bridges and what I think we’ve really tried to continue to develop is creating partnership with schools.

Cuz teachers have a lot of innovation and our wealth of knowledge and contin and teachers who are lifelong learners are amazing people to be around. And you can learn a lot. From working in classrooms. So all the resources we create, we have now several curriculum. It started out with an E N L ELA curriculum.

So we have that, those two curricula. We have an HLA curriculum in Spanish. We just piloting a math curriculum this year. We have online courses with strategies for multilingual learners in content area classes and co-teaching teams. So we really have broadened our . But a lot of that, that wouldn’t happen without these [00:07:00] partnerships with schools.

And also everyone on the team has been in education as a teacher or administrator, or I’m an educational researcher. And so people are really committed to this kind of partnership work. So that’s what I would say is at the heart of Bridges, this project. , we’re part of the graduate center cuny.

We do a lot of research and evaluation, and we really work with educator. To see what’s working with our students.

Tim Blackburn: Yeah, it sounds so organic. Lisa , like the where, the, where, like the, where it started, the, how it started the why it started, that is, actually, thinking about your own origins, and from your, teacher upbringing, so to speak.

Right? And you’re responding specifically. To student needs. And that was very much my experience, at Bridges and at I C H S. And I think that going into that experience, something that. [00:08:00] I didn’t expect was how much of like variance, like how much heterogeneity they would be actually even within my students with limited or interrupted formal education.

And we partnered with Bridges for a really specific, group of students that we knew we weren’t yet serving in. Really the way that they deserved in our mainstream classrooms. And so even within. The bridges setting, there was still a lot of diversity and so that’s something that really appeals to me about the way that Bridges is set up.

And I’m just wondering if you could, please walk us through the. the importance and the why behind the way in which Bridges like really emphasizes, student learner profiles first. Like in your professional learning, it seems to be like a real driving factor.

Lisa Auslander: Sure. Yeah. That makes sense. I think [00:09:00] one of the things we rely on is our partner project at cuny does a lot of work with home language assessment. So we believe in that very strongly as a starting place because our students aren’t blank slates. They come in with wealth of knowledge, life experience, challenges.

, assets. And so there’s a lot you can learn from that intake process. That’s the philosophy is that we start with the intake process to understand where students are in their home language so that we can leverage what they do know and what they do bring to the classroom, and then apply that in their learning of the second language and just content learning in general.

So that’s a real beginning place for. And then continuing across the year to leverage home language in the classroom because we all, that’s how we learn language is we, we leverage what we know, imply it to second, third, other languages. And then, Thinking about student profiles, one of the kind of tools from the book is and that we use at Bridges as well, is creating student profiles in addition to the more traditional assessments so that we can get to know [00:10:00] our students and that teachers who work in teams or work collaboratively can really learn about the student from each other.

, there’s a lot of discovery you can make across the year. So we have a particular kind of intake profile that you can build about the student from talking to the student. A lot of our curriculum emphasizes in the beginning get to getting to know the students and their activities that facilitate that knowledge so that it becomes easier to work with the students by leveraging what their interests.

What they do know and to make it more engaging and culturally responsive for the students who are in front of you. So that’s one piece of how we think about the heterogeneity and leverage that in our students and differentiate. in the classroom.

Tim Blackburn: Yeah. Yeah.

Justin Hewett: So it’s really an assets based approach, right?

You’re trying to take that student and understand where they are. I there are a number of districts that don’t necessarily, or a number of places, around the country, where, they don’t necessarily take into account the strength of the student in their [00:11:00] L one in their first language or their heritage language.

Maybe, help us understand a little bit more what we’re missing out on if we don’t take that into account, as we figure out how we’re gonna meet the needs of these students.

Lisa Auslander: Sure. One of the things that we do, and we have this kind of some standard activities that we do, and one of them is like sharing profiles of students that we know.

And we’ve had, we anonymize them, of course, to protect the students, but you. When you start to unpack a profile of a student, so for example, we have one student, his name’s Mohammed, one of us worked with him in the past. He speaks Arabic. He has sixth grade home language literacy in, in Arabic.

There’s just so much that he already, and he’s, he is, his family was educated, his father and he would talk politics. , they’ve lived through a lot of political unrest. He has experience of that. He likes to talk about politics. Like you learn a lot about Mohammed through these kind of informal [00:12:00] questionnaires.

And he as he started to learn English, he really liked to talk to his social studies teacher about politics. In his home country, like learning about these things about our students. He has a good re strength in reading comprehension. He has some reading comprehension already in Arabic, so obviously he’s gonna come into a newcomer classroom and he won’t have he’s learning English.

He’s a, he’s in an entering level on an English test. But he has so much knowledge background. He has interests you can love about his historical interests. He’s lived through a lot of life experiences already. There’s so much that we can learn about Mohammed that could help make the classroom a more interesting place for him and a place he feels comfortable and that will be engaging for him.

It’s challenging when you have 30 students in front of you and you’re trying to go on that journey with all of your students. That’s one of the challenges of working in classrooms. However, if with the right. , it can make it easier for teachers to go on that journey with their students and to collaborate with one another.

And [00:13:00] so to answer that question is just the more you know a student, I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, when you have that aha moment where you really find out a student’s interest, , there’s so much you can do then to make the next lesson more interesting or engaging for that student. , or engage in a one-on-one conversation or make a group assignment that will engage that student.

So I think we’re missing out because we assume our students don’t have knowledge or interests other than what we see on the surface. And it’s really exciting when you can start to discover that. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that. At some point

Tim Blackburn: we have. And it’s. It makes me think, Lisa, about you the difference between culturally responsive practice that you’re describing and that you really thoughtfully lay out on page 89 of schoolwide systems for multilingual from multilingual learner success, 89 Uhhuh

Gotcha. And then but additionally, It’s the step, like a series, many steps [00:14:00] beyond like our baseline sort of compliance obligations. That, say Title three requires us really just to focus on what’s not yet there. On, on, in, in Mohamed’s case, in English instead of Exactly, yes.

. And so it’s, Again, like going back to, my experience learning, as a learner in, in, in Bridges is to really emphasize the assets our students bring to class. But you also offer really tangible scaffolds to teachers and in order, to do that. . And so tell us, can you share with us like a.

a Bridge’s success story, like maybe to shine a light on where this is going well on where you see, school teams coming together to really emphasize student assets and then learn more about their students and then start building from there.

Lisa Auslander: definitely. It has to be all concrete and tangible, and also it has to be [00:15:00] another way we differentiate is by the context of the school. A lot of the schools we work with are, they’re many, so many different kinds. Some are small like I C H S and other small schools in the city.

There’s also, but also very large comprehensive high schools and larger districts who have very different structures. . Yeah, we all have the compliance that everyone has compliance they has to f they have to follow in the district. I can give you a couple success stories. Sometimes I, we have one wonderful teacher who works with one who, her interest in Bridges came out of working in a really, a place where there’s very low incidence of sife, number of students who were actually in the district.

But she had one student who she didn’t know how to. So she reached out to us. She started out in an online course. We offered to just think about strategies, and then she decided to try using our curriculum from that. And it’s amazing what she was able to accomplish. It started with the one student.

She started using our curriculum resources. We helped her unpack how to pull resources from the curriculum to support that student in her setting. But what I [00:16:00] think is so wonderful about what’s come out of her work is not only her accomplishment and success with that student, which she did have, but also some of the strategies that she was able to unpack scaffold.

Pro instructional protocols. We’ve used the profile. She just led a teacher transition meeting where she helped other teachers of multilingual learner learners more broadly, content area teachers who have less language development knowledge. Change their thinking about what that particular student can do and what they were able to do by the end of the year.

So she stretched their understanding of what that student was able to do. And as a result, the teachers have a couple of ideas now of what they can do for some of their entering students or newcomer students who have come into the country in their classroom. So sometimes it can start really small, and really then branch out. And now she’s a wonderful teacher leader in the district. She is anyway, and other things. That’s just one success story. And then I have many success stories where, you know, students who have or two [00:17:00] school, we end have another school, wonderful school, have undocumented immigrants.

So many students, hundreds of students coming into the district every year, they have a very high enrollment throughout the year. A lot of struggle with the changes in enrollment. A lot of older students who work. . But they have managed to create a wonderful Bridges program. We’ve trained them in the curriculum and they also have one other supports that they’ve created in the school to support their students.

Anything from a soccer program to afterschool learning. So in addition to the Bridges curriculum and all the support they receive there in CR in, their E N L E L A, and now they’re doing a math classroom and an HLA classroom. They’re like a kind of a lab site for bridges. , they’ve been doing wonderful things throughout the school to create additional supports as part of their MTSS plan.

It’s a lot of work. They work really hard, but they’re amazing at what they do and they’re very thoughtful. So I have five other examples I won’t give you now, but I that are very different in contexts that I’ve seen. I hope that gives a couple of examples though.

Tim Blackburn: It  does kinda give you an idea.

No, it [00:18:00] does very much. But pull out the themes. It’s, in, in each example it’s, being, responsive to the students that that are there and finding solutions for specific groups of students. And you also really made a very clear connection to, a school’s multi-tiered systems of support, MTSS and I’m wondering, About the why behind your book?

Like or like the through line of the through line there of, like your personal interest perhaps of that sort of responsiveness to students, to M T S systems. This book is different. I see. Yeah. , this book is different in the sense of audience for sure.

Somebody in my role, for instance, I ate this book up be I think just because I felt like you were talking to me in some ways and . I was just wondering, yeah. Walk us through a little bit of the, what drove you to approach. This topic through a school systems lens.

Lisa Auslander: You’re right. Okay. Yeah. You are a part of this book, Tim, as well, [00:19:00] just to say you oh,

Tim Blackburn: I, I show up. Cameo came. You show

Lisa Auslander: up. You’re a star in the b cameo in the book. Which is amazing to have. Have you there Joanna and I have been having this conversation, I wanna say for 15 years, maybe 10 or 15 years,

And so we, I’ve been wanting to write something like this for a long time, but it took all the experience and then this opportunity to do it. I think it comes out of both of our experience, both teaching, coaching, doing administrative work of different kinds realizing that in order really to effectively serve our multilingual learner it’s not just about pedagogy alone. Pedagogy is a step, but there’s so many parts to the process in a school of making, of helping our multilingual learners be successful and teachers be successful. And that, we both have a systems thinking approach. And we both try to create systems, whether it’s in schools or whatever particular role we’ve been in.

That systems are key. to making [00:20:00] schools be more effective for our students, and that one person alone can’t do. Just, you can do good things. You can always do good things on your own, but together and with different kinds of systems in place, you can do great things. And that realization and that, and then having the experience.

And one example of the book, there are different levers that we showcase throughout the book. We focus on leaders because leaders play an important role in all levels of the organization. Whether that be like teacher leaders, school leaders, district leaders, there’s, there are opportunities for leadership everywhere in a school also from the family end, parent engagement counselors, people who are working with the families wonderful opportunities for systems there.

And we showcase in the book one example are concretely as a teacher teams. As a unit in the school there, we both have the personal experience of what you can do as a collaborative team, whether that be at the discipline level, at the high school or a grade level. Just being able to work alongside other teachers who are working with the same students to create more aligned [00:21:00] approach.

in how you teach how you facilitate the instruction, how you align the curricula. Just had amazing experiences of how that can make a huge impact on our language learners in particular. And we really both wanted to, find examples. And that’s a lot of what we try to use in the book, is just giving lived examples of what that can look like both through our experiences and other people’s experiences in schools.

Yeah. Yeah. Does that make sense? It really, you’re doing, you’re living it, Tim, so like to me, you’re like a living example of doing that kind of work. And I know it’s still recent years that you began, but it’s amazing, what a community can do and that’s something you talk about both in the book and from your experience of that, what a community of collaborative educators can do.

I feel like you and your colleagues are an example of that. Of course it’s a work in. That’s the other thing constant we talk about in the book,

Tim Blackburn: It is constant. And but to also have, in, in the book a framework[00:22:00] of considerations. And there was one particular consideration that I felt in hindsight was really missing from, certainly from my own practice and and I can’t really recall like instances of it being like a shared topic of conversation on my, among my partners on my team.

And that was the attention to social and emotional learning. SEL comes up really as a, as an important criteria in your book. And again, I think this has like really clearly evolved over time in bridges and can you point to, I either, like examples in your experience or even in the book where, schools are taking a, like a school-wide approach to sel specifically among, newly arrived, students with limited or interrupted formal education.

Lisa Auslander: Yes. Some examples of sel. First of all, integrating the [00:23:00] counselor. So one school has a enrollment team , where they integrate the counselor into the intake process so that there, there’s conversation with families or guardians about what bridges is the role it plays in their education. The counselor does intake and it’s a part of the understanding of building the family relationship.

That’s one way socio-emotional learning can come into play, is just have, that’s that collaboration with the counselor. Another example that I wrote about in a different, in an article, it’s just like an example of a case study of a school that has counselors. It’s not always possible. Caseload of counselors is huge, still continues to be huge, but having counselors work with teachers to inform the way they set up their classrooms, and integrate strategies that might support some of their ciph and newcomer students.

Other ways is integrating SEL into instruction. We rely, we use the Castle competencies in thinking about how to integrate competencies like self-regulation and relationship building. A lot of that shows up [00:24:00] in bridges in our curricular programs through the culture, developing and building classroom culture and individual classrooms.

But, Not only the classroom and what you do, but also the things around it. Another example is peer mentoring. Having someone in the in the classroom and also some students, older students or adults who can help. Our siphon newcomers get acclimated to the school, showing them around, giving them a resource, an adult they can talk to or check in with someone they can speak in their language with.

So there’s so many ways that you can build out the culture across the school. These are just a few. But for me that is, Was something that was really missing. I feel and I, I feel like now there’s more consciousness of it and it’s something we’ve tried to really build out intentionally and integrate into our resources and another structural way, like through the MTSS process is like tracking that data.

Like how is the student doing? , what are, how what are the kind of supports they need across the year? Are we having checkpoints to check in about that? [00:25:00] So thinking about not only the academic needs, but what’s going on socio-emotionally and also what is the student. There’s some of our students come in with great socio-emotional strength.

And so leveraging that, there’s been like, we have an example of a new to Prince student who struggled with her language and literacy, but made a great like collaborator because she just had a lot of maturity. So she needed some support with the literacy, but she could create and support others in the way she tackled the work and at the table, Those are just a few examples of integrating sel.

Tim Blackburn: Justin, what about YouTube? I, Justin, I’m processing. Honestly, like I I’m processing, firstly is that, My recollection of, of my collaborations felt, I guess at first like mechanical as we were ju , just like adjusting and getting to, to know, I think ourselves as young teachers getting to know one another as a, as new colleagues and also like myopically [00:26:00] focused on the notion of literacy and kind of forgetting that it’s literacy and.

It’s and what else? And Lisa, listening to you, for instance, highlight a partnership of counselors and teachers, especially in thinking about the classroom environment the environment around our students, both, in the classroom and now that really resonated with me and.

It highlights an obvious area for growth, like in my own practices to, to to lean into kind of the tier one sort of social emotional learning. Environment and instead of looking for like a student by student fix,

Lisa Auslander: , yes. But one thing I’ll say, the reason why I turned it back to you, Tim, is cuz I think about you.

And the way you work with your colleagues and I think it starts with the adult relationships. , that’s one thing I know for sure in terms of socio-emotional learning, is it starts with the adults feeling comfortable working together, modeling, [00:27:00] collaboration. Anything that we do with students, we wanna do with each other as well.

And I think you do that with your colleagues, at least what I’ve seen and what you’ve described. And that’s like the beginning. We can’t practice the SEL unless we’re practicing it ourselves. It doesn’t, and it’s not always smooth. as things are in life with with those competencies.

Tim Blackburn: Certainly not linear, that’s for sure. . Yeah.

Justin Hewett: I just love hearing about, this approach, this systematic approach. Cuz ultimately what you want to do is put as many things in place that you don’t have to, that will happen without having to make the decision every time that it needs to happen.

And I think. Yes, as an early teacher you’re doing your best, but every decision you’re having to make every decision, every single time, and it’s exhausting. Tim, I remember you telling us about some of your early years when you’re teaching and you’re thinking so hard about every little, every student, every little thing that you can do.

And so I love this idea of having a system framework, [00:28:00] for a building or for a teacher to be able. Take and go implement. It’s almost it’s the same reason why, pilots use checklists, so it’s not a decision they have to make. Am I gonna do this today? No, it’s on the checklist.

You do it anyways. Yeah. You don’t have to use any of your, that emotional strength that you have, or men, your capacity and you can just focus. On actually executing it rather than whether or not you should do it. And I’m, it’s interesting it’s making me wonder a little bit why any of us don’t use systems and the only time I feel like we don’t use systems is cuz we get lazy and we don’t implement it necessarily.

But there’s gotta be a lot of other reasons as well. And part of it might be someone’s trying to be more creative. and they’re trying to be a, anyways, I’d love your thoughts as to when you step into a, a new client or customer or district that you’re gonna go work with or a new school and maybe they don’t have the systems in place. , what has led to that moment, right? [00:29:00] What is, what has prevented them from having systems and what does that transition look like as you start helping them, be more system?

Lisa Auslander: That’s a great question, Justin. If I had the full answer to that I think ,

Tim Blackburn: you’d write another book.

I know. Maybe

Lisa Auslander: I’ll at some point. I don’t know that’s a great question. That’s a, it’s the cha it’s the challenge. The thing that I love the most though, I would say I think. First of all, I think there’s this misconception that systems like auto, like you put systems in place and then they’re done and that it’s like a fixed thing, which is completely the opposite of my experience and the completely the opposite of what Joanne and I think we’re trying to communicate in the book.

And that the other myth I think that you have to bust with this kind of work is like you’re gonna get good in all. Like we put out five levers, which are by no means the. levers. Yeah. To think about or systems, we put out a some examples of systems that we think are key.

They’re others that you would use. You’re never gonna be good at all the systems at once. I think there’s [00:30:00] a myth also there oh, we’re gonna be good at all of these things. But the reality is schools and districts and schools in particular are just. Living things that change over time. People come and go.

Leadership often, there are times where leadership comes and goes, and so there’s a lot of change that can happen and I think the key is developing that distributed le leadership model and being willing to have, part of building systems is building the flexibility by having the times where you can check.

and do some kind of reflection on where things are. We teach our kids to be metacognitive and meta reflective, but let’s face it, the, there’s a lot of odds against us as educators sometimes to do that in the sy in the world of education we live in, and building that in the, that time for reflection with teams, with colleagues.

Throughout for different, different purposes. Yeah. It’s actually a piece of it. Without that, it is very hard to have that metacognitive ability to step back and see. where you need to [00:31:00] change and what needs to come next. And so a lot of it in the beginning is me in terms of working with districts or clients or whatever schools is getting an understanding of where they are now.

What is their problem of practice, what are the challenges, what are they doing well, leveraging, just like we do with our students, we have to leverage and think about and focus on what we do well first, and then you build from. And then maybe your goal is set upon one area that you’re trying to improve that can really support your students and get to the next level.

One of the things I think with these kind of systems thinking, in my experience looking at systems thinking over the years is oh we’re just gonna do this. But the reality is it’s a journey of, lifelong journey of if you’re working in leadership of whatever, I’ve been a teacher leader, I’ve been in all kinds of leadership roles, and I’ve.

I think that’s a real part of the learning in and of itself. Cause I think it’s such a good question that you’re asking, and by the way, I really love that book Check, look at List Manifesto. , it reminds me of you, you must know that book. [00:32:00] That’s like a book we used to read and look at to in my team, like way before Bridges even that, that really informed my thinking about like, how do you create these systems?

What does it look.

Justin Hewett: I think there’s this there’s this idea that, Hey, let’s set a goal and we’re gonna go reach our goal. And I love that thinking. Obviously I’m very goal oriented myself. However, I think a lot of times we might rise to our goals, but we also fall to the level of our habits.

or of our systems, right? . And yeah, I think that’s kinda a way to think about it is what systems do you have in place? Do you have systems in place that will propel you forward? Or that hey, I’m gonna, anyways, it, it’s an interesting thought. I’ll need to think a little more about that.

Tim Blackburn: I think you, but I think you highlight something really crucial there, Justin and Lisa, you call out. Three characteristics of strong, systems in schools, resilience, self-organization, [00:33:00] and interconnectedness. And, thinking about those themes, throughout our conversation.

It really relies on collaboration, on our, collective work together and finding those areas of overlap. And to Justin’s point about rising to those goals, on page 1 21 of your book, you you call out the role of school leaders. In setting those conditions and that’s the Justin, what I was, where I, lept to, and my is in response to your thinking is the role of a leader in creating that space, the role of a leader, and setting the conditions for that sort of collaboration.

And specifically you call out the systems criteria for team. Secondly, school-wide integrative practices for SEL and academic [00:34:00] instruction, and finally, culturally and linguistically responsive data practices to learn about students and improve the system by exposing inequity, exposing it. And that’s so exciting.

That is , very exciting language and certainly exciting in practice. And I’d just love to hear your thoughts on that, Lisa like those three criteria. .

Lisa Auslander: That’s a long conversation. But I wanna say about equity. I think sometimes where systems fall short in schools, it’s a trend.

That you looping back to what Justin was talking about. When we began our conversation is like the blind spots around language learning, language development. in the way that it’s not always integrated in any way in a school-wide approach or in a team approach. And so the burden becomes often on our ENL teachers who are forced to take that on Yes.

Alone in many cases. And then, yeah, to be the sole advocate in some situations where, trying to help others understand that situation. And so[00:35:00] putting something like language learning front and center is part of a system approach. Meaning, for example one of the things Joanna and I focus on in the book is how teams can look at language as a part of their analysis of student work.

Language development, how the students are doing in language. Like I have that as part of the student work analysis. And we give examples and templates of how schools have done that. Can be like a shift because may many teachers may not have examined language in that way as a part of student work or as a part of their thinking or using a rubric that may take language learning into account integrated with the content.

And it shifts the thinking and puts it front and center in how we view our students and how we view their learning. And so if we don’t have those kind of tools, and structures, then the equity that you were just, we were talking about it it’s not going to be there. And so building equity is trying things that have been put in the margin, putting them at the center.

And that’s just one example, a small example, but it can be [00:36:00] very powerful to look through a different lens that our student work and have a discussion about language development as part of the literacy. . And also to redefine what we mean by literacy in many cases can be so impactful in team learning.

Does that make, so that’s just one really, I think it’s a small but powerful example, of like how we build equity in systems.

Tim Blackburn: It really resonates with me. Think

Justin Hewett: we all want to go like three different ways on this, unpack this. We’re like, oh my gosh Lisa, this is so good. Okay, so I wanna, I want to, so we’ve heard the term E N L a couple of times.

Do you mind defining that? Yes. I think some folks some


Lisa Auslander: our list it’s different. Yes, it’s, thank you. I’m sorry to use the, it’s very New York specific language. English is a new language. Some states still say English language development, e l d some ha still have the e ESL terminology. English is a second language.

So that’s what I mean when I use that term. E n L Teacher Language. Language, yeah. Language development. . And

Tim Blackburn: is that English as

Justin Hewett: a new language?

Tim Blackburn: English

Lisa Auslander: is a new language. Sorry. Yes. English as a new language. [00:37:00] Perfect.

Justin Hewett: . And then you said, and Tim, I know you want to go into this, but I’d want to ask this question.

Okay. You mentioned how we define literacy, Lisa how should

Tim Blackburn: we define literacy? Yeah,

Lisa Auslander: I would love to also hear what you have to say, Tim, but I guess, do you want me to start? I could just say I think sometimes we have narrow definitions of what we mean by literacy. Can the student read, write, listen, speak.

But I guess I think of broadening our understanding of literacy to also include a social component and thinking about what our students. and what they their experience, their life experiences can be a part of the literacy development. Because I think without that, sometimes you’re teaching literacy in a vacuum and not recognizing or starting with the student.

, and you’re also not including home language literacy necessarily. Often we presume that land literacy means just the language of instruction when many of our students are coming in with home language that have so [00:38:00] much meaning and I, and sort of cultural relevance.

One example . I can give multiple examples. I just wonder if this resonates with you, Tim, because you’re working in schools and you work every day with teachers and students. And just wondering if that resonates with you. Just like thinking about rethinking, lit, the idea of literacy.

Tim Blackburn: Yeah, what I heard you share is really starting from our students’ background knowledge, really starting with their lived experience and their linguistic, their cultural, their social funds of knowledge and bringing it into class. But I think the only thing I would, add to the literacy conversation is really around how literacy is dynamic across context.

Yes. But, funda fundamentally it’s about, the ways in which our students feel like they can communicate what and show what they know it can do. Yeah. And, depending on the context, that’s all variable. It’s even variable based on their lived experience prior [00:39:00] too.

And so it’s, from a teacher’s perspective, It really comes down to, creating the space for our, to, for our students to, to show and build connections to, from outside of the classroom into the classroom. That’s what came up for me in the, in the literacy conversation.

But circling back to what you shared before about the emotional labor, of what happens when we don’t partner, and it’s that sort of bifurcated view of the E n l teacher will look after the, the multilingual students. Yeah. And the classroom. And the classroom teacher will focus on the content and that’s just.

So artificial. I’ve actually heard Kenji Hakuta describe that as the Cyclops conundrum or the cyclops dilemma. . . And is that Yes. Without a language lens, are, we’re not able to really like, attend to, to depth of thinking and [00:40:00] it’s, it’s shallow and, this shift that you’re describing really does come down to.

Collective work, collective efficacy. And I feel like, again, to any colleague that wants to look at specific examples of school practices that pull teams of colleagues together for the benefit of multilingual students, they have to pick up your book . And it’s not just focused on, what I love about it is that, , it’s not just focused on like classroom practice but also around like the conditions around our student.

And that for me was a big learning from your book. Lisa.

Lisa Auslander: Thank you Tim. I really appreciate that. , and it was such a pleasure. To talk with both with you. We have some case studies and some scenarios where we have leaders tell about their own experience and very, from very [00:41:00] different vantage points in their career and different roles.

And I hope that that helps others. I think it will. I think it has. I think people like to hear about the journeys of others because it’s you learn from others’. Leadership, experie. I know I have. Yeah, so that’s one of the thing that I hope the book can accomplish and can support others in their own leadership journeys in supporting our multilingual learners.

In a more systemic way. Systematic way.

Justin Hewett: Lisa, I love that this has been amazing. This is so much fun. Will you tell us. Are you coming out to nae? Are you going to be at NABE this

Lisa Auslander: year? [00:43:00] I am going to be at NABE. I actually am presenting only a recorded session this year at NABE with my colleague Wanda Tecara.

She and I are doing a recorded presentation however, so you can definitely catch that if you’re at NABE or online the NABE Conference. And we present a lot about our work at Bridges and some of our success stories in our schools and what our schools are doing, and a lot of the data that comes out of that from our evaluat.

Work. I’m also presenting on the book at n. Which is a wonderful conference for educational administrators. It’s the day before the NABE conference and we’ll, I’ll be doing a presentation on behalf of Joanna, myself on the book, and I’m excited to work with colleagues there, but I’ll be there all week.

at NABE, so I hope to connect with people there.

Justin Hewett: If people  bring, if they bring your book, will you sign it ?

Lisa Auslander: That’s so funny. Yes. It’ll be great to be so funny. Better sign it.

Lisa Auslander: That’s funny. That would [00:44:00] be great. Yeah. I hope the book can be useful to people. I really do. I would love to hear how people use it.

That’s one of the things I’d like to see if people can

Justin Hewett: tell us where people can find your book and, maybe tell our listeners also where they can find you online if they were to follow you,

Lisa Auslander: Lisa. definitely. So you, this is an Ion education book from Rutledge, so you can find it on their website or on

And you can also visit us at We have a lot of free resources available to educators and you can reach out to us if you want to get connected. We would love to talk to you. And thank you for having me. This has been a wonderful

Tim Blackburn: person. You’re the best.

Yeah, I love, thanks so much for doing this, Lisa .

Justin Hewett: Yeah. I’m thinking about all of the areas of my life where I need to put better systems in place right now. , what’s funny? I need checkpoints, checklist. Excuse me. Oh man. I’m ready to go. I got

Lisa Auslander: work to do. One last thing, I’ll [00:45:00] just say informally with.

You know that quote in the book, which is from James Clear, you do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your system. I totally feel, he has a website. Yeah, and I totally subscribe to that and I find all kinds of things because I feel the same way. It happens in your life too, like you’re just everyday life.

It’s so funny, if you put something in play, It’s I totally get it. Justin still working on it, it’s always in progress.

Justin Hewett: But I love that we had this conversation for schools, for the classroom, for these districts. Because I think that, sometimes we’re not thinking in systems, right?

And we’re kind, we end up being a little bit reactive. And I think anything we can do to, to put those checklists, put the systems in place that allow us to, meet the needs of our students. In the best way possible. Like really accounting for their background and their experiences and all of that.

So anyways, I think we could probably go on and on, but what applies

Lisa Auslander:  I know we gotta stop. It’s [00:46:00] been, we’ve been talking a long time. I hope this one works out and. It’s, I love just having the conversation with you guys. To me. I get excited, first it starts out and we’re, but I just always feel like you guys are great at just pulling a conversation together and it feels so natural and it’s fun.

So I really enjoyed it.

Tim Blackburn: Thanks, Lisa.

Justin Hewett: . We’ll see  you at NABE. .

Lisa Auslander: Okay. Awesome. All right, take care.


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