Episode 89 – Inviting You to Reflect with Celia Zamora, ACTFL

It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 89 - Inviting You to Reflect with Celia Zamora, ACTFL
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“The point of language is to connect and the point of language is to communicate. [We need to] to stop looking at language as something to be taught and only acquired and given a grade for. Language is a tool for you to be able to live in this incredible global community and to be able to interact with so many different people from all over the place.”

Its About Language - Episode 89 - Norah Jones

Reflect: In this challenging time, in what ways are you listening even more carefully to others? In what ways are you demonstrating that you are ready to hear and act on what needs, hopes, and burdens others bear? Oh yes, it takes energy! However, you know well how it transforms your own life, when you connect to others’. Reflect on your own life and your own outreach as you hear Celia Zamora share that, in a listening tour, she heard over and over from educational peers, “I haven’t really seen myself in ACTFL in a while.” And may Celia’s response inspire you in your work: “And who can blame them? Because definitely we had a lot of work to do in terms of diversifying, in terms of being equitable and inclusive and accessible. So a lot of the incentives and initiatives and platforms that we’ve been running on this year is really making sure that we are staying true to our word and transparency and ensuring that we are giving that platform to underrepresented communities.” What new are you doing to make sure you are “staying true to your word”?

Its About Language with Norah Jones

Reflect: In what ways are you bringing fresh insights to others, gifts of understanding that perhaps only you are in a position to give to those in your circle of influence who need to hear it? In what ways are you joining hands with those who need a companion? Celia is trained, skilled – and comes from a personal history — in the area of how language works…and what is and is not a “real requirement” of language learning or use. Celia gives others freedom when she tells us, educators, and parents/guardians/community members that by “empowering our students to realize that whatever they can do with the language is enough to be able to get them to survive, then we’re bringing in a brand new generation of learners that are not just there to fulfill the two year requirement of a language to get into college.” Celia’s gift is to reveal that students are being given a tool for life no matter what level of “control” they have at the time they are observed. In what ways have you helped those who have become discouraged to know that surviving and thriving might be within their reach right now, just as they are?

Reflect: In what ways are you bringing healing and freedom? May we all, with Celia, be able to say, “I feel like there has been a lot of learning and a lot of understanding and a lot less judgment. And by having a lot less judgment, I feel like we’ve been able to open up many, many more doors.”

Reflect: How are you inviting others in to collaborate and share for their good and the good of others? Celia shares some initiatives with us, with you: check them out and see if there is a path or an inspiration here for you. “Come collaborate with us. We want to hear your ideas. We want to hear what is lacking to get you to that next point… Here’s a link, to a form that we have that anyone that’s interested in collaborating with us can do so, as well as advocacy opportunities, volunteering opportunities. And we have a program called Facilitators in Training, which is the FITS, the ACTFL FITS. And that’s one of our initiatives that we’re doing to make sure that we are providing those underrepresented communities with the opportunities to come and facilitate for ACTFL.”

ACTFL FITs: https://www.actfl.org/learn/workshop-facilitator-self-nomination

Come collaborate with us: https://tinyurl.com/ACTFL-Comeworkwithus

Let’s open up the doors for one another.

Enjoy the podcast.

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Episode 89 | Reflections Series | Guest Celia Zamora, ACTFL

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If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

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Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

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You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

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Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

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Resources

Episode 62

Episode 70

Celia Zamora Bio

Transcript

0:00:02.4 Norah Jones: Past several weeks, I’ve been pondering over one of my former podcast guests, episode 70’s Celia Zamora, who’s the director of professional learning and certification for ACTFL, the umbrella world language organization in the United States. ACTFL holds its annual convention in November. The November 2022 convention in Boston was extraordinary. It had many thousands of attendees, as is typical, and it had sessions and networking and events and plenaries. And I knew there was going to be energy there, because the last ACTFL we had all been able to attend together was in 2019. The pandemic had us going virtually. And while we could learn a lot, that face to face that brings the energy, I was excited for it and was not disappointed. But I also noticed that there were initiatives around things that I hadn’t seen before, especially in the exhibit hall. There were collections of spaces that seemed to be bringing in new thoughts about language, new opportunities to address professionals needs in ways that just weren’t about, say, resources or opportunities with organizations. Rather, people seem to be gathering and listening to specialized presentations, right in the middle of the exhibit area. I recognize their initiatives that caught my attention as helping people to navigate their way through a difficult time when I thought about who it is that would know what the story was.

0:01:53.6 Norah Jones: I thought about my guest Celia Zamora. Her podcast 70 was named language as a lifeline. And when you listen to it or listen to it again, you’ll hear Celia Zamora’s personal story about her language background, her opportunities, her struggles, and the way that it informs her work. And everything about Celia Zamora spoke to me about the life that is found in language and what that life implies with regard to diversity, with regard to opportunity, joy, awakening, new pathways. And so I contacted her for this reflection. I wanted to find out how ACTFL got to where the convention provided what I perceived were brand new things for people to learn and do. And I wasn’t disappointed. When you hear this reflection, what you’ll hear is a chance to see how in language education is evolving as our understanding of what global citizenship means, how human beings are all engaged in the language enterprise, and how multilingualism is the tool that many in the world already have, and that those in the United States that have it have opportunities to use it. And those that do not yet have it can begin to have it so opportunities can open for them.

0:03:27.4 Norah Jones: And then in the midst of a challenging time, how educators can be supported. And when we read the news in the United States, we hear of so many educators at all disciplinary areas and at all levels, leaving education, they’re thinking about leaving education, or there seem to be suffering as they try to hold the weight of the world on their shoulders as they teach the citizens of tomorrow, our youth. We also know that educators are able to forge new collaborations, new pathways, new visions, new ways of even defining what it is that they are doing, and how they are doing it to support each other, and to provide a pathway for health, well being, clarity, hope within the educational enterprise, and also in their personal lives. When you listen to this reflection of Celia Zamora, take a look at your story. Where have you started new initiatives, that when you look at them now you realize that there are additional aspects that you had never thought to address? Where is it then that these aspects now in your life that you’re addressing and working on, how will they lead to the future? How will they lead to a better life for you and for those around you?

0:05:02.7 Norah Jones: And as you listen to Celia Zamora, listen to how it is that the diversity and the excitement of the world has come in to lift up all to invite all into the opportunity to be educators, to be educated, and to be able to bring language and cultural understanding for all. This is an inspiring reflection, and it’s also a call to action, because ACTFL is there to help those who are in the education field and those who support them to be able to succeed and grow and have new hope in a challenging world. Enjoy this reflection and check out episode 70. Also check out my website fluency.consulting. Celia, as you will hear, has provided me with brand new links and resources so that whether you access ACTFL through its own website, actfl.org, or pinpoint for the things that we talk about today in this reflection at my website fluency.consulting, you have an idea about who is there for you and for those you love. So use your voice, become engaged in the enterprise yourself, and let’s go bring hope to the world. Enjoy this reflection with Celia Zamora. Well, Celia Zamora, it’s a pleasure to have you back again to chat with me. Thank you so much for agreeing to do a brief reflection with me today.

0:06:42.6 Celia Zamora: Absolutely. Always a pleasure being with you, Norah.

0:06:45.1 Norah Jones: Thank you. Well, you were my guest on episode 70, and I’ll be encouraging the listeners to listen again to that episode. But I want to make sure that those listeners either that have already listened or will listen know that you are the director of professional learning and certification for the national organization for world language educators, ACTFL, now ACTFL Language Connects being its full name. As we do our reflection, just having come back from the convention, which pulls that annual energy together, I was impressed by the convention. And I’d like you to help us to understand what have you been doing with regard to this national organization coming up to the convention. And then I’d like to reflect with you a little bit about how the convention worked.

0:07:35.2 Celia Zamora: Sure. So it’s been quite a year. I completed my first official year of being director of professional learning and certification. And in fact, this little department that started with only a few people that started two years ago is now a big department of eight. And we’ve done a lot. So one of the best things that I’ve done this year is I went on what I call a listening tour. I went to over 30 conferences this year. And I know that I saw you at a lot of them. A lot of them were all over the US. Some of them simultaneously online while I was somewhere else. And really what I did was just listen, listen to our members, listen to our teachers, and more importantly, listen to the teachers that weren’t members of ACTFL and ask them, well, why not? And a lot of times I heard, well, I haven’t really seen myself in ACTFL in a while. And who can blame them? Because definitely we needed a lot of, we had a lot of work to do in terms of diversifying, in terms of being equitable and inclusive and accessible. So with that, a lot of the incentives and initiatives and platforms that we’ve been running on this year in my department, as well as at ACTFL, is really making sure that we are staying true to our word and transparency and ensuring that we are giving that platform to underrepresented communities.

0:08:58.9 Celia Zamora: And we’ve done so, for example, we had our first Black World Languaging panel where we brought in a panel of these incredible Black world language teachers to talk about their kinds of struggles and their issues in world languages so that a lot of teachers can see themselves in the profession and continue to grow. We’ve done a lot with the teachers of the year, and that’s not only talking about their best practices, but their worst practices, because we can all learn so much not just by what’s gone right, but by what’s gone wrong as well. We’ve started to give a platform to our indigenous languages, to our heritage languages, community schools, community colleges, private schools, homeschoolers, and neurodivergent learners, making sure that all of our materials are starting to go through an accessibility process. Are they accessible to second language learners? Because sometimes our documents and our videos and our modules use a lot of jargon-heavy wording that is very difficult for second language learners of English to understand. We’ve made sure that we have had ASL interpreters at all of our events. We’ve made sure that we have been there for our teachers, advocating for them at every turn, whether it’s through JNCL-NCLIS, whether it’s just showing up at the historically Black universities and colleges, the minority-serving institutions, the rural areas.

0:10:22.5 Celia Zamora: We’ve really made sure to show up where we were needed, and again, running on the platform of accessibility, but also quality professional development and affordable. So with that, we’re finally launching in 2023 ACTFL Discover, which is our subscription service for PD that’s going to be extremely affordable, micro PD, in a variety of topics, such as trauma-informed teaching, the UN Development Goals, neurodivergent learners, not just for the students, but also neurodivergent teachers, providing differentiated instruction for our teachers, as well as our students as well. Just a lot of things to making sure that our teachers know that we are there for them and that we’ve heard them and that we’re going to do everything that we can to continue taking these massive leaps forward to providing the platform for them.

0:11:16.4 Norah Jones: Wow, we have come from the reflection into the future in one wonderful, massive leap, and it’s been fantastic. And when we take a look at what that implies, the language learning enterprise in the United States has been, if I’m saying this correctly, and I will ask you to reflect on what I’m saying and has historically been an intellectual enterprise found in schools as a disciplinary area. And the description that you have just provided sounds much more like a living experience of people that should be part of their everyday lives and not simply, if I may put it that way, pigeonholed in an academic environment.

0:12:06.0 Celia Zamora: Correct. I’ve gone through the listening tour and I’ve given workshops and just talked to a lot of stakeholders. And one of the things that I’ve been running on, which has been interesting, it’s been interesting how it’s perceived by teachers, is that the point of language is to connect and the point of language is to communicate. And that involves the variety of languages. So for instance, my platform for heritage language speakers and really empowering them and embracing them and bringing them into our classroom, because I myself am one, is to stop looking at language as something to be taught and only acquired and given a grade for. Language is something, it’s a tool for you to be able to live in this incredible global community and to be able to interact with so many different people from all over the place. So when you have a heritage language speaker come into your classroom who’s coming with a very different variety of the language that maybe is not necessarily the standard of that language, it is our job as educators to say, hey, that’s not wrong because you are communicating with that variety. So let me show you a way to take that and apply a standard to it so that you can choose.

0:13:21.4 Celia Zamora: So you have the autonomy to code switch between the standard variety of the language and your variety of the language, because both are equally important. Both are valid. And by empowering our students to realize that whatever they can do with the language is enough to be able to get them to survive, then we’re bringing in a brand new generation of learners that are not just there to fulfill the two year requirement of a language to get into college or to fulfill Spanish three and then place the check mark once they pass the AP test. No, we’re building a generation of learners that want the pragmatics, that want the cultural connections that really want to understand each other and learn from each other. Because really, as ACTFL says, “Language is what connects us all.”

0:14:06.9 Norah Jones: How is that message being received by those that outside of the language education enterprise? Is it being understood by the communities, administrations and others with whom you’ve been in contact or your teams have been in contact?

0:14:23.5 Celia Zamora: So when it comes to people completely removed from education, they actually at first laugh and don’t take me seriously thinking that I’m running on some weird hippie, you know, like, peace and love kind of thing. And they don’t realize that I’m an educator and a researcher. Because I feel like a lot of people that I’ve talked to, they always preface any conversation by saying, well, I’m horrible at this language, or I can’t speak this language, or I can’t do anything. I took four years of Spanish and I can’t say anything. But then when we start talking about, well, whatever you have with your language, you have something with that language. And you can do something even if it’s ordering a sandwich, you just did something with that language that you couldn’t do before. And I feel like the more that people realize that I am not judging them for what they can’t do, but versus what they can do, they start opening up more and then start talking to me more about their experiences. But when they first hear that I’m a linguist, so that I work for ACTFL, it’s kind of like they close themselves up thinking, “oh, man, she’s going to judge me.”

0:15:25.4 Celia Zamora: But it’s quite the opposite. Now in terms of people that are in the education field, especially like administrators and district supervisors, people that are in these positions of power, but may not necessarily be of the world language community. It’s been really interesting because a lot of them don’t even really know what is supposed to happen in our world language classroom. So it’s really been a point of, again, the listening part, right? Because we go in there with these notions that they know, but they were treating a world language classroom like a math or a science classroom. So they didn’t really know what they were supposed to be looking for in a language teacher. So then when we started having these conversations and again, educating everybody on what is supposed to happen in a world language classroom, they really said, oh, I had no idea that I should be looking for someone that is completely in the target language or that is trying as much as possible to be in the target language. So I feel like there has been a lot of learning and a lot of understanding and a lot less judgment. And by having a lot less judgment, I feel like we’ve been able to open up many, many more doors.

0:16:31.9 Norah Jones: That’s great news because language is supposed to bring hope to those that are learning. And if it also brings a sense of at least relief and potentially hope to those that are beginning their understanding of the language enterprise, that’s all to the good. Now when we take a look at the convention itself, which happens each year in the week before the US Thanksgiving, it’s a large convention and has many opportunities for sessions. And I’ve been going, well, decades, frankly. And I see when I went this time, a tremendous number of new places and spaces for people to gather things and in a non in-room session kind of way. Can you describe what some of the initiatives are that the convention had and what kind of role you may have had in that because of the professional development that implies?

0:17:32.5 Celia Zamora: Sure. So one of the really spaces that I was really proud of and I was so happy to see there was a wellness studio right in the middle of the exhibition hall. So of course you’re thinking, well, what does really mental health and wellness have to do with ACTFL and an exhibition hall? Well, of course I think that all of us have been through this pandemic now and we know that it took a massive toll on our mental health and especially teacher burnout. And a lot of the feedback that we have gotten was the burnout and the self judgment and the criticism and the I’m not good enough and the I’m going to take care of everything and everybody except for myself. So we brought in one of my colleagues from Georgetown and she was a Spanish professor. And in fact, during the pandemic, she burned out and she started doing a lot of her certifications in yoga and mental health. So she started her own business about really taking care of yourself and how to be able to do yoga at your desk and how to take time, regardless of how busy life is, to focus on yourself, to breathe, to regulate, to really center yourself.

0:18:41.1 Celia Zamora: And she’s bringing that in the perspective that she was one of us. She knows what it’s like to have that burnout. She knows what it’s like to be a language teacher and just be nonstop and not taking care of yourself. So she had this space in the exhibitor hall where she… We put up youth spaces. They’re thinking that, you know, she might get like five or 10 people during the exhibit.

0:19:06.1 Celia Zamora: No, she had a packed house to the point that teachers were bringing in rows and rows of chairs just to listen to her and to… Even in this crazy loud exhibition hall, they were meditating. They were paying attention to their breathing. They were regulating themselves and centering themselves. And I saw teachers crying at this session. And it was just so beautiful because the feedback that I got was thank you for, I think this is the first time that I thought about myself. Because when we’re not thinking about our students, we’re thinking about our career or our families. When do we ever take time, especially at an actual convention, to think about ourselves? So that was something that was really beautiful that came about because of all the initiatives that we’ve been doing on mental health at all these webinars and self-care modules.

0:19:54.0 Celia Zamora: Another one was the career center and the social media lounge where teachers, again, got to focus on themselves, you know, in some places mentally, like, you know, focusing on themselves, but also focusing on their growth, focusing on what their next steps are, focusing on how to write a great resume, how to apply for leadership positions, how to apply for tenure tracks, how to really do the side hustles. Really, we started focusing on the teacher as a holistic person versus just PD. And I think that was something really beautiful that came out of the actual convention. And yeah, it was a really big one. And it was a very busy one because finally, after all of those convention days, I had to put on a few band-aids on my feet from running around in those heels. I mean, it was just so energizing being there with all of these teachers and all of these great connections that I can’t wait to do it again next year in Chicago.

0:20:46.8 Norah Jones: It’s good news that it will, in fact, come again next year in Chicago. And I love the phrase that you use there, a holistic approach. That alone speaks volumes as to the nature of a professional conference that also is engaging the affective and health behaviors. When you look forward now, you’ve already, Celia, shared some visions of what is to come. What kinds of visions can you share with listeners that can help them to reflect on where they are, where they have been, where they are now, and where they might choose to be, act, make a difference in the future? So it’s really about two things. What are you doing with ACTFL? And what can those that are listening be inspired by to do?

0:21:43.4 Celia Zamora: I think that this coming year, I want to continue growing as a professional. And I want that to bleed into my department and ACTFL. We have so much growth left to do. We will never stop growing. We will never stop learning. So we’re going to continue providing this massive platform for these underrepresented communities and these underrepresented voices. And so what I want to tell listeners is that we want you to come collaborate with us. We want to hear your ideas. We want to hear what is lacking to get you to that next point. Where are you in your teaching or leadership journey that you need that extra boost or that you wish that ACTFL will provide X, Y, and Z to get you there? I’m going to provide you a link, Norah. It’s a form that we have that anyone that’s interested in collaborating with us can do so, as well as advocacy opportunities, volunteering opportunities. And we have something, a program called Facilitators in Training, which is the FITS, the ACTFL FITS. And that’s one of our initiatives that we’re doing to make sure that we are providing those underrepresented communities with the opportunities to come and facilitate for ACTFL.

0:23:02.3 Celia Zamora: This year, we had a wonderful cohort of five, and now we’re looking forward to having a new cohort starting in March or April. So I’m also going to put that link there because there are a lot of times that we forget how much privilege we have in attending these conferences. We don’t think about the childcare costs, the travel, the hotels, the food, or even just getting substitutes. I mean, it’s so hard going to conventions and even presenting at a convention. So we want to make sure that we are providing different opportunities to grow teachers that are really passionate about language and helping out their fellow teachers, but maybe haven’t had the opportunities or the monetary or support to do so. So we are giving you that opportunity to apply so that we can help you. And I like to end by just saying that you being in the classroom is more than enough. You being there for your students and you being there for your language colleagues and for the profession is already the most that you could be doing to really continue to grow. So please stay with us and please let us know how we can help you so that we can continue expanding on this amazing profession so that everyone can become multilingual.

0:24:18.2 Norah Jones: Be who you are, stay and make a difference. I’m looking forward to folks taking a look at the website of ACTFL, actfl.org. I’m looking forward to people taking a look at my website, fluency.consulting. And thank you ahead of time, Celia, for the various resources and links that you’ll provide that are on my website so that folks can take advantage of this generous offer to be who they are and gain the help that they need to stay healthy, stay sane, and stay effective for years to come. Celia, thank you so much for your time today. The best wishes to you as you do this inclusion that is so needed for us to be able to reflect the diversity of our lives in everything that we look at with education, especially, of course, world language education. Thank you.

0:25:12.3 Celia Zamora: Thank you so much, Norah, and happy 2023. I can’t believe I’m saying that. Happy almost 2023.

[music] 0:25:22.5 Norah Jones: I hope that you enjoyed this podcast reflection with Celia Zamora, and I hope that you’ll go to my website, fluency.consulting, to pick up some of those resources, links, and opportunities that Celia referred to in this podcast. There you’ll also see where you can access her previous episode, episode 70, Language as a Lifeline, and her biography. It’s one way that we all can help to lift up one another, so I hope that when you’ve reflected on your own background and needs, your own situation now, and where you’re headed for the future, that you’ll take advantage of these opportunities to be the recipient of the help that’s out there in the world. Thank you for what you do to bring hope to the world, and I hope that with this podcast and others, that you are having hope brought to you, too. Hang in there, and we’ll talk again soon.

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