Noelle: Have you been able to continue with the
garden? I don't want to pry, are you at your school right now, or are
you in a space in your own home that you've created?
Juliana: I do have a classroom set up in my home and
for a lot of the year, that's where I've been leading and teaching
from. I am at a new school this year. So I did leave Crestwood last
year. I'm happy to lead from this school. We are working on plans of
creating a garden program here.
We still have to have the social distance, but what a beautiful way
to welcome your students back to school than to welcome them into the
garden. Although I'm not at Crestwood anymore, I am happy that garden
will be there to serve those students.
The coolest thing is I live in the neighborhood, down the street from
Crestwood. I felt so in love with that community that I moved in. I
think it was like the second or third year that I was teaching there.
And I bought a house with my husband down the street from the school.
On walks around my neighborhood I see the garden every day. Some of
my dearest friends still teach there. I see the families all the time.
In fact, yesterday, I saw two of the families just out and about, and we
stopped to talk and social distanced and all that good stuff.
Social media has made it wonderful that we have access to each other
through Facebook. Yesterday, I just saw one of my past students have her
quinceañera, her 15th birthday. They did a drive-by thing, so I got to
see her. It's really beautiful that when you're able to build those
relationships, they continue on, whether the teachers left the school or
whether the students have left the school. I'm really proud to be able
to keep those relationships going.
Noelle: I think every teacher needs to know that's
one of the things that connects us. We've all had that experience of
being seen in public. What's your teacher sighting experience?
Juliana: I absolutely embrace it because it just
brings me so much joy. I think that we underestimate the power of being
around a lot of people and COVID-19 has taught us that. I don't know
about some people, but I miss people, I miss just everyday people. I
love communities. I always try to build with families. Even if their
child wasn't in my caseload, I always try to build with those families.
And so part of my commute was getting on a cute little bike and riding
my bike to school every day.
It was a two minute bike ride, but I felt so happy when I got to
school because I would say hello to the families on my way. And it also
gave me a superpower. I'm not going to lie to you. The kids knew that I
knew where all the kids lived. The kids knew that I would see the
families at the grocery. And so they're like, "Uh-oh, you better watch
out. She'll talk to your mom. She'll talk to your dad. She'll talk to
your grandma." And I never abused that privilege. Don't worry.
A cute story is one time we found this little three-legged Chihuahua.
I found him on the street on my way to get lunch. I'm like, "Oh my
goodness, this poor dog. I can't leave him on the street." It was down
the street from the school. And I said, "Somebody at the school has to
recognize this dog."
And that's what I did. I grabbed the dog after I got my sandwich and I
went to the cafeteria and the playground. I said, "Does anybody
recognize this dog?" Sure enough, one of the kids said, "That's my
neighbor's dog." "Great, after school let’s meet. We'll walk to your
house and I'll deliver the dog back to the neighbor."
I think that schools have tremendous power of being unifiers in the
community. A lot of the times schools are like vacuums and teachers come
and they go. But when we blur those barriers and we just push past them
really beautiful things happen.
Noelle: And just pure love. Right? It's a love for
people at all ages of the lifecycle. I know how to problem solve. My
students know how to problem solve. What advice do you have for teachers
who are supporting parents who don't speak English, but you can read
their face to know something needs to be shared or talked about? What
advice do you have for being able to think past language barriers to
know how to continue to make family connections?
Juliana: I think we underestimate the power of
nonverbal communication. Like you said, you can sense when someone's not
feeling heard. Every school should have a family community liaison who
speaks the language of the majority of the families. I know some
colleagues at schools that have over 40 languages spoken in their
school, so that could be challenging.
The second is the power of learning. I think that when teachers try
to learn, even if it's a few words, there's a lot of power in that.
Families will feel, "Okay, we're trying to communicate." Another thing I
think is really important for teachers to understand is that even if a
family doesn't speak English yet, it's not because they don't want to. I
think we have to think about access and how difficult it is for some
folks to acquire English as an adult. I have colleagues who don't know
their native language because their family was afraid that they would be
I think we have to look at that social context. English holds a lot
of power. And so when you speak English and somebody else doesn't,
there's a power dynamic that, whether we like it or not, comes to the
So how can we push past that? You could have something like a garden
or a family night where language isn't a requirement. Right? Anyone,
despite whatever language you speak, can plant a sunflower seed. Anyone
can shovel a garden bed and you can find different things that everybody
can do. I'm thinking about ability with an asset mindset.
I know that I'm giving you a little bit more of a complicated answer,
but I think that those are the philosophical frameworks, education and
education practitioners can start developing that will ease families
into not feeling like the mutual language barrier is their fault.
The other thing is that the power of technology today is amazing.
There are all sorts of apps, including Google Translate, that are really
great. If there's a couple of words here and there that don't translate
well, it's okay. We'll understand each other. These kinds of efforts
are really great.
Our relationships could be lifelong, so we have a whole life to learn
each other's languages. It's not just about families learning English.
It's about schools being accommodating and open and interested in their
families’ languages too.