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2021 MD Family Engagement Summit: Introduction to Language Focused-Family Engagement

2021 MD Family Engagement Summit: Introduction to Language Focused-Family Engagement

Date of the Event: August 05, 2021 | Lisa Rhodes and Lorena Mancilla
Show Notes:

This session introduced participants to the concept of language-focused family engagement. This unique approach to family engagement firmly centers on multilingual children and their families by drawing attention to language learning and development that occurs across home, community, and ECE settings. Participants learned about tools and resources from the WIDA Early Years Look What I Can Do! Language-Focused Toolkit for Early Childhood Programs that can be used to implement language-focused family engagement at their local sites.

Lisa Rhodes:

Welcome, everybody. Welcome to the last session of the 2021 Maryland Family Engagement Summit, Building Back Together: Reimagining Family Engagement. It’s a one-day virtual event sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition, and the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement (CAFE) at MAEC. Each year, the summit engages district leaders, administrators, teachers, early childhood educators and providers, pare...

Lisa Rhodes:

Welcome, everybody. Welcome to the last session of the 2021 Maryland Family Engagement Summit, Building Back Together: Reimagining Family Engagement. It’s a one-day virtual event sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition, and the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement (CAFE) at MAEC. Each year, the summit engages district leaders, administrators, teachers, early childhood educators and providers, parents, families, communities, and non-profit partners from school districts throughout the state of Maryland.

Lisa Rhodes:

This year’s summit focuses on preparing providers and educators to build effective partnerships with parents and families and meet children’s ongoing academic and social, emotional needs. It is an opportunity to re-establish trust and a deep appreciation for one another while ensuring a welcoming and nurturing learning environment. You can do the next slide. So, our crew today. I am Lisa Rhodes. I work in Howard County and I am one of the people on the Maryland Family Engagement Coalition. We have our technical support. It’s Kathleen Pulupa and Kate Farbry. Hopefully you don’t have any technical issues, but if you have something, you can type that in there. Our next slide.

Lisa Rhodes:

Welcome to joining this session. It’s Introduction to Language-Focused Family Engagement. Our presenter today is Lorena Mancilla. She serves as the director of WIDA Early Years. Thank you for that a couple of times today. Her research development work is informed by her professional experience as an educator, her commitment to social justice, and her passion for serving bilingual, multilingual children and families. She brings to her work knowledge and expertise and family engagement, language development, multicultural education, and professional learning. Lorena joined WIDA in 2010 as a professional learning specialist for WIDA K-12 standards and assessments.

Lisa Rhodes:

Since then, she has held various positions, including serving as the lead developer of family engagement resources and a core member of the WIDA Spanish Language Development Standards team. She joined the WIDA Early Years team in 2016. In this role, she leads the development of WIDA Early Years resources and support state leaders across the Early Years network. Lorena completed her PhD in curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research focuses on the intersection of family engagement and language education. Next slide, please. Just logistics. To view closed captions, click on the CC button in the controls at the bottom of your screen.

 

Lisa Rhodes:

We do have the American Sign Language interpreters and they’re available. So hopefully, if you need that, you can see that in the box. If you have specific questions, use that Q&A to ask the questions. And just like everyone’s putting their names in the chat box, please use the chat box for any comments. So, let’s get beginning. Our agenda for today; the welcoming remarks, introduction to language-focused family engagement featuring Lorena Mancilla, our Q&A, and wrap up.

Lorena Mancilla:

All right. Thank you, Lisa. Hello. Buenas tardes to everyone. Coming to you live from the Chicago area. Very excited to be here. I think the Maryland Family Engagement Summit is an amazing event and I have had the pleasure of presenting live back when we used to do this live once before. So, it’s exciting to be invited back. Quick logistical note on my end. I have an external camera, so right now I hope you feel like I’m looking at you, like we are bonding. If you see me looking this way, then that’s because I’m looking at the PowerPoint slide. If you see me eyeing this direction, that’s because I’ve got the chat up here as well as Lisa so I could see her too.

Lorena Mancilla:

Today, we are going to talk about language-focused family engagement and I am going to be specifically addressing the three questions that you see here on this slide. First and foremost, what is it? I already had someone post a question to the session’s Q&A asking me, what is this? What is language-focused family engagement? Of course my response was, come to this session because I’m going to talk about it. Then I’m going to introduce you all to a new resource called the Look What I Can Do toolkit. I’m going to be highlighting a few of the tools that come in this new toolkit that WIDA Early Years is currently piloting in three states; Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan. So, as educators in Maryland, right now you have access to this.

Lorena Mancilla:

By the end of today, you will walk away knowing how to get access to this online resource so that you can play around with the tools that I’m going to highlight today. That’s where you’ll see that we go… Where do we go from here? I’ll make sure that you know where to access these resources and as well as some other resources that we have available on the WIDA website. Our goals for today in the 90 minutes that we are together bonding virtually, we have three goals. We are going to raise awareness about the critical need to re-reimagine family engagement, to put a space for language when it comes to those environments where we’re serving linguistically, culturally, and racially diverse children and families.

Lorena Mancilla:

I’m hoping that you all sign off from today’s session understanding the need to look at family engagement through a language lens when you’re working with young children who may be identified as dual language learners, or you’ll hear me use the term multilingual children. I also to create some space to foster reflection. You’re going to see that throughout the presentation today, I’m going to be asking you questions, specifically I’ll be asking you to post some responses into the chat. I’ll also invite you all if you want to contribute, unmute, raise your hand, so that we can have some conversation and it’s not just me talking. Last but not least, I want to promote, as I just said, some dialogue, but also some action.

Lorena Mancilla:

Aside from leaving today’s session curious enough to create an account so that you can access Look What I Can Do, I’m hoping that some of you can think of ways that you may immediately use some of the information and apply it in your local settings. So, in 90 minutes, it’s all about planting these seeds for reflection that will lead to action. I’m going to go ahead and get started with what is language-focused family engagement. That’s going to be this first question we’re going to tackle in our time together. But before I give you the definition from my end, I want to know first and foremost… Let’s see here. It says there’s 68 of us in this Zoom session. So, let’s light up the chat. Please post into the chat, what does the phrase family engagement mean to you? How do you define it?

Lorena Mancilla:

Pop quiz late in the day. How do you define family engagement? Let’s see who will be the first to light up the chat. Communicate, family resources and needs, open communication, family partnership, shared power, building a relationship. Building a relationship. Using our families. Working with families on a personal level. Involving families. Empathy. Include families’ language, culture, tradition, into children’s learning. Building genuine relationships. Building on funds of knowledge. Building rapport. Look at the chat go. I love starting off with this question. Back in the day when we were able to be together in person, I’d love asking folks, what does family engagement mean to you?

Lorena Mancilla:

I could be in a conference room filled with 30, 40 educators, and just as I’m seeing in the chat right now, you could receive 30, 40 different definitions of what family engagement means to you. I like seeing some of these responses that have this idea of relationships, partnerships. Why do I ask this question first? There’s so many different ways to define this. I even saw some uses of the word involvement, outreach, relationship, engagement. Since I work at WIDA, WIDA is all about the field of language. We use the term engagement in our work, because to engage, it has a different definition and a different meaning than involve. We do recognize though, we see in policy and in practice when it comes to family engagement the word partnership and relationship.

Lorena Mancilla:

Here’s something to think about. What does it take to actually form a partnership? I always like to joke with audiences and I say to audiences… I’m all about being completely transparent, and I’ll say, I’m on marriage number two. Partnerships aren’t easy, relationships aren’t easy. I’m seeing folks putting in the word trust. I joke and I say, I met my husband, my husband and I were going on 14 years together, and we met, and I will say it proudly, on Match.com. So, imagine if I showed up at that first coffee date with this complete stranger who I did not know, he was not an acquaintance, we were not in a relationship, and much less were we partners. Imagine if I walked into that coffee shop, sat down, and asked him, can you pull up your phone? Let’s pull up the calendar, let’s find a date for the wedding.

Lorena Mancilla:

For some reason, when it comes to the work that we do with families, we tend to want to skip over the get to know each other, build some trust, actually start to go from acquaintance to a relationship, to a partnership. This is one of the things that I think is really important especially when we’re working with families who are coming from culturally, linguistically, and racially diverse backgrounds, because the literature does tell us that they often are not given the opportunities or the spaces to build that trust, to show respect, much less to receive respect. So, family engagement is something that can be defined in many ways.

Lorena Mancilla:

And I think that if we had 68 families or 70 something families also on today’s session, their definitions of family engagement would also vary. Given this, based on a review of literature in family engagement, in the field of family engagement, we pulled out some of the big themes used in the various definitions that are out there in family engagement scholarship, research literature. What we at WIDA, the way that we look at, it is first and foremost it is a relationship built on trust and respect. It promotes meaningful two-way communication. Here, my area of expertise though falls within the realm of linguistic diversity.

Lorena Mancilla:

When you have families speaking one or two or six different languages and you yourself are a monolingual English speaker, this is probably raising some flags or raising alarms of, how do you do meaningful, ongoing, two-way communication in a linguistically diverse environment? But families, if we are setting out to do true partnerships, we need to find a way to do this, promote meaningful two-way communication. Family engagement is also focused on student learning and achievement. Now, here I’m using the word student. It could be children’s learning and development, and then achievement, of course, when we start getting into those K-12 systems.

Lorena Mancilla:

But when we’re talking about children who speak languages other than English, who are growing up in environments where they are exposed to languages other than English, their language development, their proficiency in English, their ability to acquire English as an additional language is becoming and will become, especially once they’re in a K-12 environment, a high stakes component of their ultimate academic success. So, when it comes to engaging with families who are coming from linguistically diverse families, backgrounds, when we think of student learning or children’s learning and development, we have to create that space for language learning and development.

Lorena Mancilla:

Then of course, family engagement also has to be ongoing from early childhood through grade 12. In an ideal world, we would have this going from birth, actually prenatal, all the way through a child’s education. So, today I’m going to be zooming in quite a bit on those areas of relationships built on trust and respect and promoting meaningful two-way communication about language. In this session specifically, I’m going to be highlighting that need to create spaces, to talk to bilingual, multilingual families about language because their child’s language learning, their child’s language use is to play a critical role in that child’s development and in the ways that they demonstrate their learning.

Lorena Mancilla:

Family engagement though is also about social justice and equity. I think that here, looking at the literature that looks at the experiences of black, brown, non-English speaking families, we have a wealth of literature that highlights the inequities that they experience and how often they feel excluded, shut out, silenced, ignored when it comes to engagement or being involved with their children’s educators. So, social justice and equity is a huge piece of the work that we do, that my team does at WIDA Early Years when we’re talking about family engagement because we focus on these populations that are racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse.

Lorena Mancilla:

So, language-focused family engagement. Where did that term, this concept come from? I want you to think about this as the intersection of two fields. On the one hand, you have family engagement, a field of its own with its own scholarship, it’s driven by policy, it’s got practices. On the other hand, we have language education. Here, when I say language education, I’m talking about bilingual education, ESL, English as a second language. In Maryland, I believe it’s ESOL that’s used. Here, we’re talking about children, again, who are growing up exposed to learning, developing more than one language and then they have language education.

Lorena Mancilla:

Now, language education happens not just in schools or in early childhood programs, it’s also happening in homes and communities. All those different environments shape and form, influence a child’s language. So, language-focused family engagement is the intersection of these two fields. As someone in my professional experience, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country to different states to facilitate professional development. What I would notice in my workshops, especially when we were talking about English learners and their families, family engagement was often about policy compliance, notifying parents that their children were identified as English learners, sharing proficiency scores about a child’s English language proficiency with parents.

Lorena Mancilla:

It was compliance. It wasn’t about a partnership. It wasn’t about shared decision-making. It wasn’t about shared power. It was about compliance. I was really intrigued with, why are we missing this partnership, relationship, shared decision-making realm when it comes to children who are identified as dual language learners or English learners? Why the focus on just compliance with their families? That fueled my interest with research in this area and doing research with families who speak languages other than English to get their perspectives on language, on their child’s language learning, and how they believe schools or programs or educators could be supporting their child’s language development.

Lorena Mancilla:

So, language-focused family engagement is family engagement through a language lens. It’s going to bring to the forefront the need to talk about language, understand the impact of language and different languages as a child is just navigating life. We talk about a language-focused approach in our work. As you’ve already seen, I’ve already talked and mentioned that family engagement is also about social justice and equity. So, for us at WIDA Early Years, we look at a language-focused approach as being rooted in equity, centering on what young multilingual children can do with language. It’s an asset-based or strength-based perspective.

Lorena Mancilla:

So, if young Pablito enrolls in your program, [foreign language 00:19:25], instead of being like, “Oh my God! Pablo can’t speak English. He can’t do this and he can’t do that.” What is it going to take for us to flip that script and to be able to say instead, “What can Pablo do with his Spanish?” Maybe Pablo knows his letters, his numbers. He can tell you how to spell his name, but in Spanish. I think what we’ve seen too often in our work is how simply because a child doesn’t know ABC, but the child can easily say A, B, C, D, E and go through the whole alphabet in their home language, we often miss everything that a child can do just in another language.

Lorena Mancilla:

So, a language focused approach also promotes the dynamic language and cultural practices of multilingual children. I myself, I am a proud code switcher, and it’s really hard for me at times to just stick in one language, because depending on the topic, I like to sprinkle a little Español just to give what I’m saying a little sabor. So, young children use languages in very dynamic ways and they learn early on. And I’ve seen in infant classrooms where infants are able to trans-language understanding their home language, understanding things that are said to them in English, and then using baby sign language to be able to communicate. So, young children are incredibly talented sociolinguists.

Lorena Mancilla:

They can use their language in dynamic ways based on where they are, who they’re interacting with, what they’re doing, and what they want to communicate or express about themselves. A language-focused approach, and here’s the important piece for today’s session, positions families as experts in their children’s language. Now, in the research that my team has done with parents, the number one thing we have seen across multiple states that we’ve conducted research in is parents that have multilingual children often express that they are rarely asked any meaningful questions by their children’s educators about what they observe at home, in the community, about their children’s language use.

Lorena Mancilla:

To give you an example, one of the parents who participated in my research had a daughter in high school already, but that mom was able to speak at great length and with vivid detail, remembering the moment in time in fifth grade when she started to observe that her daughter was becoming English dominant, using the mother’s phrase. Her daughter was starting to speak more English. Her daughter was a junior in high school, but the mother was like, “Oh, no, it was in fifth grade because I remember she would do X, Y, and Z, and everything was in English.” So, parents, we have to look at them… parents of multi-lingual children, as language experts.

Lorena Mancilla:

If we were to ask them about their children’s code switching patterns, about what a family aspires for their child to be able to do with all the languages at their child’s disposal, it could really help us build stronger relationships, to build respect, to demonstrate respect, and to earn their trust when it comes to supporting their children as partners. So, language-focused approach, it’s a call for action. It’s a call for action. It’s a call for us to really rethink how we engage with families who are raising children in environments where their children are being exposed to learning, developing multiple languages. Okay? So, here I’m leaving you with a quick quote from one of our newest publications.

Lorena Mancilla:

“Promoting equity for multilingual children calls on early care and education educators to examine their family engagement practices and ensure that they provide opportunities for meaningful, ongoing two-way communication about language.” I want you to stop and think right now. I’m going to add in a quick little interaction opportunity here. Roughly, for those of you who are in the classroom, for those of you who are providing care and instruction to young children, because I recognize that not all of you may be in that time type of role, how often would you say that you have opportunities to speak to multilingual families specifically about their child’s language use, whether it’s their home language use or English?

Lorena Mancilla:

How often would you say you’re doing this? I’m going to ask, if you could, just plug in a response in the chat. Daily. The beginning of the year. Every day. Parent-teacher conferences. Excellent. Thank you. Several times throughout the year. Thank you. So, parent voice. If we create these spaces for meaningful, ongoing two-way communication with families about language… And now remember, behind all of this is this idea that we are building trust, building respect so that we can be true partners in the spirit of family engagement. Parent voice is essential. We define parent voice as the right and opportunity for multilingual parents and caregivers to express their thinking, beliefs, and understandings about language learning and language use.

Lorena Mancilla:

This falls into the realm of their desires, their goals. For instance, you’re going to see some quotes in a second here from parents that have participated in our research. But asking a parent, what do you want your child to be able to do with language when they’re an adult? So, we’re getting at their goals, their desires, their fears, their concerns, their frustrations. When you open that space, there’s a lot we have learned through our research that parents have say to about language and the language that they know their children are being exposed to about… For instance, as I mentioned earlier, I’m a proud code switcher. I’m a US born Latina and a proud speaker of US Spanish.

Lorena Mancilla:

My parents are from Mexico. The Spanish that I grew up is not the same exact Spanish that is spoken in the village in Michoacán that my parents are from. So, here I have seen in our research when I have interviewed immigrant parents their concerns and they don’t like it and they have strong opinions, for instance, when they hear their children code switch or when they hear their children use US, for example, Spanish. They’ve been able to express a lot of this. Then of course, there’s questions. If my child is code switching, does that mean that he or she is confused? Should I be concerned?

Lorena Mancilla:

So, there’s a lot of questions, and over and over, what my team has seen is that when we asked parents these things and they share with us and then we turn around… And a usual followup question in our interview or focus group protocols is, do you have opportunities to share this or to ask this to the teacher or to the care provider or to the educator? The response is usually, “[foreign language 00:28:08]. No.” So, parent voice. Let’s look here at some examples. I’m going to pause for those of you… [foreign language 00:28:20]. The yellow quote, as you could probably see, is in Spanish. Don’t worry. If you do not speak Spanish or do not read Spanish. I’ll highlight what that says in English.

Lorena Mancilla:

But I’m going to pause here and just give you a quick minute to read the quotes that were gathered from parents during our parent research in different states. These are parents of young children in early childhood programs. (silence) Okay. When we talk about how often do you have opportunities to communicate with parents about language… The green quote here is coming from the mother of a child in a preschool program. She was asked, do you have opportunities… After she shared with us a lot of the things that she noticed about the way her daughters, her two daughters, a preschooler and a second grader, how they were using language, mixing their English and Spanish at home in different ways that she had never observed before.

Lorena Mancilla:

She was so vivid in her details of what she observed. So, when we asked, do you have opportunities to share this? You’ll notice here that in her response, and this is actually a pretty common response when parents mentioned parent-teacher conferences, they all said that conferences were typically really short, on a schedule, on a very tight schedule, and then that the focus was often learning goals or academics, and that they really didn’t have opportunities to go into great detail about their children’s bilingualism, multilingualism, and those spaces for voice, parent voice. So, I chose her quote here, but again, this was a common theme when parent-teacher conferences were raised.

Lorena Mancilla:

Now, this particular parent is a bilingual parent who could speak English and Spanish. As you can imagine, we had a lot of concerns about parent-teacher conferences when there was no interpreter available, or because of the interpretation, it just made things a little bit more hectic and less time for meaningful conversation. The quote in the blue is coming from a non-Spanish speaking parent of a pre-school aged child who also noticed that the preschool program seemed to do more for Spanish and for Spanish speakers. This parent’s comment was also reflected by several non Spanish speaking parents that were like, “Well, what about our languages too? Why can’t there be more opportunities for the children to see and hear other languages reflected in the environment?”

Lorena Mancilla:

Lastly, the quote in English is from a Spanish speaking mom who’s talking about the importance for her of her children, because her home language is Spanish. It is her native language, but it is vital, essential, for her children to maintain that language because it is the language that she wants to communicate to them in. So, this is a mom who had a young child in a early childhood, not preschool, but infant toddler program. Her older children had already experienced language loss of the home language and so she was hyper attentive to making sure that with her youngest to try to avoid that language loss. Here’s another one. And these are coming from parents in Maryland in the parent research that we conducted in Maryland back in 2019.

Lorena Mancilla:

I will pause here and give you a minute to look at these. (silence) Now, in terms of parent voice, what you’re seeing here are these parents beliefs and goals as well as their concerns. The yellow quote, that’s a goal, that’s a belief. This particular mother, she inspires for her children to one day work for the United Nations, to be able to speak multiple languages in order to help as many people as possible. So, for her, when she was looking into a early childhood program and to enroll her child in an early childhood program, she specifically was setting out to look for programs that had linguistically diverse classrooms, because she wanted her child to be able to interact with as many different languages as possible, because in her mind, her children will grow up to be at the United Nations helping others across the world.

Lorena Mancilla:

In the blue quote, this mom is speaking to her awareness and her belief in the strong role that language plays in one’s identity, and a bilingual identity, a multi-lingual identity. For example, even me, I have a bilingual identity, but also as a Spanish speaker, an identity as a Spanish speaker, an identity as an English speaker. So, when we’re talking about social and emotional development and learning for young children, when these children are coming to us from linguistically, culturally, racially diverse backgrounds, what are we as educators and as advocates for them doing to create spaces to help these young children develop healthy linguistic identities, racial identities, cultural identities.

Lorena Mancilla:

So here, this was a really important thing for this mom, but she wanted her child to know his background, his language, his family’s cultural traditions are a core part of his identity. Then last, the green again is Spanish. This mom, she hit hard with me. [Foreign language 00:34:51]. Here, she’s basically saying, their children, they can’t communicate with their cousins nor their grandparents, nor their uncles and aunts, nor with nobody because they don’t understand. This is a mom who has experienced and seen language loss in the young adults and the teenagers, the adolescents in her family and she was beyond upset about that.

Lorena Mancilla:

And this, I say, hit home with me because that was me. By the time I was in junior high, I had lost my expressive Spanish. I could understand it, I could no longer speak it. The reason that that happened is because I was enrolled in a predominantly white, suburban English-speaking school and I had started to receive and interpret and internalize those messages that speaking Spanish was bad. So, I had lost my Spanish and it has taken me many, many years. I know I look really young, I know many of you are like, “Oh my gosh! Looks like Jennifer Lopez.” But no. It took a long time, and to this day, I’m still working on bringing back and reclaiming my Spanish because I lost it due to experiences in school.

Lorena Mancilla:

These are examples of parent voice and it’s pretty complex. I also want to mention that, because I’m looking at the chat, Stephanie posted to the chat that she appreciates how these voices reject ethnocentric positions that we tend to hold. You would be surprised, especially in Maryland, in the research that we did in Maryland, it was focus groups and interviews, these moms had such a global perspective. They see the value in their children knowing more than two languages because they look around at the environment and the society that they live in. And they all said this was a big, common thing.

Lorena Mancilla:

They were like, “We need them in early childhood to be exposed to as many languages as possible because when they get to kindergarten, K-12, it’s going to be all English.” That’s a strong message that seemed to be internalized. That was a belief that was held by the mothers who participated in our research in Maryland. I’m going to pause there. I’m keeping an eye on the chat. I’m giving you a chat question, but I’m also extending an invitation if there is anyone who has a question, would like to unmute, raise your hand, a comment. Is there something bubbling up for you? But I’ve got the question here on the screen for you to put a response in the chat as well.

Lorena Mancilla:

Jose Roberto Florez, you do a family book club. Offering resources in their native languages. Jose, with your family book club, I’ve got a followup question for you. How do you select the books? Do families give input on the books that you’re exploring in your book club. Not to put you on the spot, but I’m curious to know. Thank you, Jose. It’s important to have family input. Stephanie, open door communication. Yes. What is one thing you currently do? Oh, come on now. In the spirit of sharing, I’m like, “There’s 78 of us on here.” Come on, let’s light up the chat. Got it. Is parents the right words? Thank you. Family share about their culture. Excellent. Letters, flyers in various languages. Greet everyone in their home language. Yes.

Speaker 3:

Hello.

Lorena Mancilla:

Hi.

Speaker 3:

Hi. I’m a family engagement specialist for a childcare resource and referral agency. I can say that what we do on a monthly basis, we host virtual events such as parent cafes. Because I am bilingual, I facilitate these workshops in English and then in Spanish. I think that has helped because with the translation throughout the sessions. We try to make the sessions as short as possible because we know parents are extremely busy and we normally host these events in the evenings. For those who are not aware of parent cafes, what we do is we use Zoom online platform to unite families in the community to share resources with them and to connect and also invite guest speakers from different organizations to speak on their services so we can have parents meet the professionals and put the name to a face.

Speaker 3:

Having these events and separating them by language, I feel like it has made it more intimate for those who are timid to speak during these sessions and it has helped throughout the pandemic, especially to unite families in their comfort, meeting them halfway or even more, 75 or even full way, and I think it has been a great success.

Lorena Mancilla:

Excellent. Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Wonderful. Anyone else? Anyone else want to unmute and share?

Stephanie:

I just wanted to say that this is very helpful information. I’m actually an English-speaking guardian of a Spanish-speaking scholar and it’s always been very important to me and to engage those of other languages into my family area, family type. So, it’s very refreshing to hear this information and I can’t wait to implement some of these ideas.

Lorena Mancilla:

Wonderful. Thank you, Stephanie, for unmuting. All right. I’ve learned so much from just opening that space for families to talk about language. In the field of sociolinguistics, you’ll hear sociolinguists always say, as humans, we may not be aware of it, but we make judgments, split-second judgments when we hear somebody talk. It could be based on the accent, we could have a reaction to it. We’re probably not even conscious of some of the reactions, responses, or judgments that we’re making when we hear someone talk and the assumptions that we may be making about that person.

Lorena Mancilla:

When it comes to language, just to give you all a bit of why it’s important to be thinking of linguistic diversity, right now roughly one in three children ages birth to eight are growing up in homes exposed to languages other than English. That’s a pretty big number and it’s only going up, it’s not going down. So, while the number of children growing up in homes being exposed to where they are learning and developing languages other than English is on the rise, the same population of monolingual English-speaking children is on the decline. So, in our work with WIDA Early years, we always like to tell our audiences, we’re like this, “This rich, linguistically diverse environment, this garden of language is growing and thriving in early childhood and sooner or later our friends in K-12 systems are going to have to get ready because those children will move into their system.”

Lorena Mancilla:

So, I think when we’re thinking of language, another example of just how fast something can change, demographics can change in a community. I once did a workshop in Illinois and it was May. It was the end of the school year, it was May, I did this workshop for the state. I don’t know, for many of you who are not familiar with the layout of Illinois, you’ve got Chicago all the way up in the northeast corner of the state. There’s the Chicago metropolitan area, those of us who are from this area, and then there’s the rest of the state. So, down in southern Illinois, which is a very rural area, I met a director from a school district that had a kindergarten through 12th grade program.

 

Lorena Mancilla:

At the time when I met her in May, her district did not have any type of bilingual program because there was simply not enough English learners in her district. That was May. They only offered English as a second language support. Okay. December, the following December, I bumped into the same educator again at a Illinois statewide conference. She comes up to me asking me for all kinds of resources on starting bilingual education, dual language programs. Her community opened up some new businesses or factories, jobs opened up, and the demographics of the community shifted so quickly. They now had enough Spanish-speaking students enrolling into kindergarten where the district was going to start a bilingual program.

Lorena Mancilla:

That was just within less than a year. So, I think sometimes when I do this type of work and we talk with educators, many will say, “Well, we don’t have that many in our program right now or in our community,” and I just like to sit back and think, “Just wait, just wait, because it may change.” So, what is it is the Look What I Can Do toolkit. I have talked to you about what language-focused family engagement is, it is the intersection of the fields of family engagement and language education. It’s looking at family engagement through a language lens, right? We’re going to put language, language learning, language use, parent voice on language, bring that to the forefront as we’re working to build relationships with families.

Lorena Mancilla:

The Look What I Can Do toolkit is a new resource. As I mentioned at the beginning of this session, it is currently being piloted in Maryland. That means that right now, Maryland educators have access to this resource. All right. Look What I Can Do has a full publication, you see the cover of it right here. You will have access to this to download this publication. The publication was developed with support from the Maryland State Department of Education, MSDE. We published this back in 2019. The book is 165 pages. 165, 166, something like that, because it includes lots of translations of tools meant to be used with families.

Lorena Mancilla:

You all right now we’ll walk away from today knowing how to create an account so that you can access this book, download the entire book from the e-workshop for Look What I Can Do. In the next few slides, I’m going to dive in and just introduce you all to this. The session handout that I put into the conference app, if you look up the conference session, is the flyer that gives you the instructions on how to create an account so you can access this. Look What I Can Do was designed to be used by early care and education teachers who serve children ages three to four years old. They’re preschool age. Now, there are tools in this that I know folks working with younger children will be able to adapt.

Lorena Mancilla:

But when we publish materials, we have to identify a primary audience. This primary audience that we had in mind as we were developing this were educators who work with children ages three and four. The purpose of Look What I Can Do as you heard me say earlier, it’s about asset-based, strengths-based, understanding what young children, multilingual children, can do with all the languages at their disposal, in their homes, in their community, and in their early care and education settings, because as they navigate these different contexts, their language practices are being shaped, molded, developing, and they’re using their language in dynamic ways.

Lorena Mancilla:

Look What I Can Do has the following intended uses. So, to promote language-focused family engagement. Language-focused family engagement is at the heart of the Look What I Can Do. Each of the sections of the book talks about families and language-focused family engagement. Two, it has language use surveys, so it has resources to help you identify multilingual children. The language use survey, the family questionnaires, actually it’s more like a protocol for a conversation with families on language. A lot of the questions in these were informed by questions we’ve used in the research that we’ve done.

Lorena Mancilla:

It has tools to help you observe and gather information, again through a language lens, about language use, the language that children are producing, the language that children are processing, the language that they’re being exposed to as they’re playing and learning in your environment, at home, in the community. It has tools to help inform language-focused planning for care and instruction. And it has resources to support transitions to kindergarten. It’s a pretty robust tool kit, and again, it is currently being piloted. There are three research sites in Maryland, three research sites in Illinois, and three research sites in Michigan that are…

Lorena Mancilla:

The researchers who are conducting this pilot study are from the Center for Research and Early Childhood Education at the university of Wisconsin-Madison. That pilot study is ongoing. In addition to the downloadable PDF, that big book, there’s an e-workshop. We developed the book first, we rolled the book out first, and then the Early Years developed an e-workshop to help further introduce teachers to Look What I Can Do and to all of the materials that it comes with. The e-workshop is also available right now in Maryland. Once you create an account to this, you basically have access to the e-workshop and to the downloadable PDF as well as several other downloadable files that are in the e-workshop.

Lorena Mancilla:

It’s self-paced, which means if you choose to create an account, come and go as you please. Again, it has several different resources in there. I see familiar names in the participant list. I know several of you are trainers and coaches and teachers. So, you can go in and use this if you do coaching, if you have professional learning communities, et cetera. Eva, I see your question in the chat. Right now, Look What I Can Do is available for educators in Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan, so just those three states are the only ones that have access to this right now. Excellent.

Lorena Mancilla:

I apologize. I’m looking at the little purple bubble on my slide and I just realized professional didn’t fit and it bounced down. I’m sorry about that. Bad facilitator, I should’ve caught that. The learning modules in these e-workshop, what you see here is the layout of the seven different modules. Again, this is self-paced, this is totally optional. You want to learn more and you want to dive in a little deeper to this stuff you’re hearing me talk about today, then I invite you to create an account and to explore this further. Each of the modules, we estimate from start to finish, if you sat down, each of these would take you somewhere between 40 to 60 minutes to complete.

Lorena Mancilla:

But again, if you start reading in the book and reading all the downloadable files, it could take you a little longer. During the pilot study in the three states, you all can access this right now. Explore it, download the files, and use them with your program, with your staff, for those of you who are coaches or administrators. The e-workshop, again, was designed to help early care and education professionals identify concepts, considerations, and tools to implement a language-focused approach. It has tools to help you plan, like create your own little action plans of how you might integrate some of these tools into your practice. One of the other objectives is of course to help you implement a language-focused approach with these tools.

Lorena Mancilla:

Jacqueline, I saw your message. Stay tuned, Jacqueline. What we did in Look What I Can Do to help familiarize people with the different tools that we have is we have different characters in the book. In the book, you would see that we have a lead teacher, a principal, a preschool teacher, an instructional coach, and a kindergarten teacher. Throughout the book, you see these characters and how they are using the different tools and resources with the students in their care. In the e-workshop, on the modules, the same characters are there, but now we build on their stories from the book to help you see different ways that they’re using these tools and resources.

Lorena Mancilla:

What we know so far from the folks who have been using these resources is people like the characters because it’s easy to find one that you can relate to. Let’s take a quick look at some of these tools. What you see right here is what we call a concept tool. It’s a one-page document. It’s your cheat sheet, it’s the cliff notes on language-focused family engagement. This is one of the pages in the book and this is meant more for teachers. So, if I’m thinking I’m working with staff, I’m doing some professional learning, I’m coaching or mentoring teachers, I could be faculty and I’m working with pre-service teachers in Maryland.

Lorena Mancilla:

This is just a one-page cheat sheet that summarizes the what, the how, and the why of language-focused family engagement. This is a concept tool, and there’s a couple of different concepts tools in the book. I’m just highlighting two of them here. This is one and this is the other that I chose to highlight for today. This one here, as you see, going back to this theme of how are we maintaining ongoing, meaningful two-way communication with families about language? This is ongoing language-focused family conversations. It gives tips, sample follow-up questions to ask families. You can see we have all this little scripting in here. Again, this is a tool to help teachers.

Lorena Mancilla:

When we designed this and some of the feedback that we’ve heard about these concept tools is teachers say that it’s a quick thing to print and to have handy when they’re actually with families as reminders or when they’re in a professional development, et cetera. This particular concept tool, we actually did translate this one to Spanish, Arabic, and simplified Chinese, the top three languages spoken nationally. The reason that we translated this one was we knew that there may be interpreters involved who may be helping a teacher during these ongoing language-focused conversation. So, we did translate this one into four different languages. And again, all the languages are available in the big downloadable book.

Lorena Mancilla:

I’m looking at the chat, don’t see any… Okay. Let’s take a quick look at the language use survey. Before I do that, in the chat box, enter a one if your current program uses a home language survey of some sort. Enter a one if you use a home language survey. Enter a two if you do not. A lot of you do. Not started yet. Very cool. Excellent. For those of you who do use home language survey, how many questions are on it? You can just ballpark like three to five, one to three. How many questions do you have on it? Five to seven. Okay. Five. You five. Nice. Okay. Five seems to be the sweet spot. Nice. Okay. Excellent.

Lorena Mancilla:

In my home state of Illinois, the home language survey that’s used often asks parents, is another language spoken in the home? Yes/No. If yes, then there is a series of two or three other questions. In work I have done with Spanish-speaking parents of English learners or dual language learners and the topic of home language surveys came up, parents never really understood why they were being asked that. For families who have bilingualism or multilingualism present in their home, I have learned from families that being asked, is another language spoken in the home? Yes/No is problematic because I have heard parents say it depends, and they’re never asked as an option, it depends.

Lorena Mancilla:

That really struck me because I was like, “Well, tell me more. Why does it depend?” “It depends on what we’re doing. It depends on who’s in the home. It depends on if it’s the time of the year that grandma is visiting or somebody else is visiting from their home country. Then yes, another language is spoken in the home. But if not, no.” So, to me, then it started to really get my mind going on, what is it that we’re really after and are we asking them the right questions? So, sometimes putting it in writing and asking them to fill it out comes with a lot of challenges at times and we may miss stuff.

Lorena Mancilla:

But I also recognize and I’ve heard loud and clear about how hard it can be to have the conversation with them and get the information from them, because then we’re having that space of clarifying the question for them and asking some followups. So, here, let’s take a look at some of the questions that we have put into the language use survey. And again, you’ll see, I’m already flagging it here, that the language use survey is available in four languages; English, Spanish, Arabic, simplified Chinese. It is a two-page document and this is one of the downloads. Victoria, I see your question in the chat. This is in the Look What I Can Do e-workshop.

Lorena Mancilla:

So again, if you look at the PDF connected to my session description, it’s a flyer that gives you information on how to access Look What I Can Do and then you can download all these tools. We’ve offered some sample scripting because even from research perspective, as a new researcher, the first time I set out to do an interview with a parent and sat down and said, “Tell me how language is used in your home,” to me, it was a really simple question, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t the right way to approach it. We offer some simple scripting here. “We would like to know which language or languages your child hears and speaks. This information will help us better support your child’s learning. I’m going to ask you a few questions about the languages your child hears and speaks at home.”

Lorena Mancilla:

That second sentence, “This information will help us better support your child’s learning,” we have heard too often from parents that they are often asked to complete home language surveys and rarely are they told why. So, to us, it’s like, “Well, why are we asking these questions?” We’re asking these questions because we want to support their children better, so let’s let them know that, right? Here, you notice that the little first question says, “On a typical day at home, what language or languages does Pablito here?” I’m inserting a child’s name. Notice that we said, “On a typical day at home”. The reason that we did that is because… like I just shared, when I go in and say, “Tell me how language is used in your house?” It can be really overwhelming because many families have expressed the “it depends”.

Lorena Mancilla:

When I am conducting an interview or when I’m sitting down and talking to a family and I really want them to really just zoom in, I have found that it’s been helpful to say, “On a typical day, on a typical Monday through Friday, or on a weekend.” If you frame it, it helps them really think of the setting, the context, who might be present, and more importantly, what’s the language that is likely to be heard or spoken? “Has there ever been a time when the child regularly heard a language or languages other than let’s just say Spanish in the home environment or elsewhere?” We’re trying to get at the exposure to community environments if they’re involved in a community program and et cetera.

Lorena Mancilla:

Here, the second page, this is just a two-page document, but it gets more to… We started off by asking about what the children are hearing, we start getting into, what do they speak? What language or languages do you use most often to communicate with the child? Are there other ways your child lets you know that he/she needs or wants something without using words or talking? We do know that children will use baby sign language, they’re going to point, they’re going to do something maybe physically to communicate. Because we’re talking about language and understanding children and looking at everything children can do, we felt it was important to include the non-verbal forms of communication.

Lorena Mancilla:

The last question was something that we added. And again, this was informed by responses that we’ve heard from parents in research. “Do you have someone that cares for your child, Pablito, regularly? Yes or no. And what language or languages does the caregiver use to speak with the child?” This was really interesting and research that we did in Wisconsin with parents of preschool children, multilingual preschool children. We had many monolingual English-speaking families who wanted to participate in this study because the child’s babysitter, the care provider after the half-day preschool program, spoke another language. So, to them, that counted as my child is being exposed to on a regular basis to another language and it was an intentional arrangement because they want their children to start growing up and learning additional languages.

Lorena Mancilla:

I’m going to pause there and see if there are questions, comments. I invite you to unmute with regard to this tool that I’m giving you a preview of. (silence) Anything? (silence) I don’t see anything coming in in the chat. Here are just a quick peek at what different tools look like in the Look What I Can Do toolkit. Then again, all of this, it is one big PDF book that you can download. If you go through the modules that I showed you earlier, if you go through the modules, the modules highlight different tools from the book and you can just download those. This gives you a snapshot of introducing and how we introduce some of the characters and you could see the observation tools. This is a language-focused… down in the purple, language-focused observation for when you do a home visit.

Lorena Mancilla:

We also have examples of how one of the teachers filled this out. We have the end-of-year language-focused summary. So, if I’m a preschool teacher and I’ve been gathering data on what this child can do with language and I’ve been gathering input from the family and I’ve been observing and maybe I did a home visit and I’ve actually have observed how language is used in the community where my program is located, I have all this information, we have a tool here to help you summarize that with the intent of hopefully passing that on to the kindergarten teacher again to support those transitions to kindergarten so that the kindergarten staff can receive qualitative data on this child and what the child can do with language.

Lorena Mancilla:

The family tools, again, they’re in English, Spanish, Arabic, and simplified Chinese. Jacqueline posted, “I’m finding that language loss is happening quickly with our pre-K kids that have older siblings and just their exposure to media and English language only.” Yes. And that is the number one concern that families have raised. In 2019, we did parent research, qualitative parent research, in Maryland, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. That is a huge theme. Parents were often most concerned about their youngest losing their language quicker than the oldest and it’s because of the influence of the older siblings.

Lorena Mancilla:

So, the little things like that, to be able to ask a mom that fear and to understand it. Now, you may be sitting there thinking, “Okay, great, I get the parents don’t want their children to lose the language, but I don’t speak their language. So, what can I do?” I think that having the awareness that a family has this goal of maintaining their language of their children growing up bilingual or multilingual and maintaining that is important because perhaps you come across a community resource that they may not be aware of, but that can support their home language. So, how can we point families in the right way? How can we connect families with each other if they don’t know each other? I’ve often facilitated workshops for families and it cracks me up. I love watching the dynamic.

Lorena Mancilla:

They walk in, and if they came with their spouse or they came with a family member, a neighbor, a good friend, they sit together and it’s often a really shy environment. One of the things that I like to communicate is to explain to them this idea of being part of a school community for example, we’re part of this community. There’s the community we live in, but this program, this school, is also a community and we’re here together, our children are learning together. So, turn around, introduce yourself to the person next to you, someone that you didn’t come here with, and take two to three minutes, brag about your children. It just seems to strike up conversation to help them build a sense of community, to get to know each other.

Lorena Mancilla:

One of the most powerful things I’ve seen is when the families who speak lower incidence languages, Polish, Urdu in this one case, and they found someone else and they were sharing resources with each other because the school didn’t support those languages. So, I think it’s important as we work with families and we’re doing family events, how are we doing things? I always say, for those of us that are on today’s session that do professional development with staff, how do we take all those strategies that we know work when we’re doing adult learning and use them with families rather than just having traditional come, sit, listen, and walk away.

Lorena Mancilla:

How can we be creative with our check papers, our sticky notes, our markers, and our highlighters, and turn and talk and think, pair, share and do all these things when we’re working with families in these events? So, what is one idea you have for how you might use the concept tools that I shared with you or the language use survey in your program or setting? One idea. I welcome you to put this in the chat or go ahead and unmute. One idea you have. (silence) Tracy. Tracy is going to revise her language use survey. Excellent. Any others? (silence) Use it at the beginning of the school year and keep it in the child’s file? Yes.

Lorena Mancilla:

Now, as a facilitator, I have to ask, the follow-up question would be, when we take the language use survey, that’s one data point, one initial entry data point, but language changes dynamically and rapidly. The ongoing conversations with families about language are going to be critical. In the toolkit, you will notice that we have family conversations one, two, and three. In addition to the language you survey, we have three other protocols with questions that you could be using throughout the year to talk with families and continuously ask them, what are they observing? What differences have they noticed? What questions are coming up? What fears do they have? Et cetera. Excellent.

Lorena Mancilla:

Victoria, I will find a way to follow up with you. Victoria, I see you’re having trouble finding it. Conducting PD. Don’t push the compliance. I know, right? We’re supposed to be partners, we’re supposed to be in a relationship, we’re supposed to be doing shared decision-making. Yes, lead by example. Excellent. Thank you, Rosemary. So, where do we go from here? I have to give massive kudos and a shout out to the interpreters who are keeping up beautifully with the pace. Thank you. Here’s an image of the flyer that I uploaded and attached to my session description. Again, you should be able to find this in the conference app or the conference webpage for my session.

Lorena Mancilla:

I actually looked before the session started and it is there. You can download the PDF that looks like this. It’s actually a two-pager. Page one looks like this, page two gives you a bit more instructions on how to go in and create your account. So, right now, again, educators in Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, you have the option to go in and create an account and start exploring these resources and downloading these tools. At MSDE, the Maryland State Department of Education, the person to contact if you want to know more about what’s happening in Maryland with WIDA Early Years and all these different tools that are being rolled out in this state, Julia Chavez at MSDE is the person to contact. You can see that I have her email at the bottom of the slide here.

Lorena Mancilla:

Now, the purple bubble here gives you a heads up. It says, “We are migrating to a new learning management system October 1st.” So, let’s say you all hop off today’s session and you download the flyer, you go in and you create your account, beautiful. You will see a note saying that this system is going to be changing October 1st. October 1st, all of WIDA Early Years e-learning is migrating to a new system. So, with our partners at MSDE, we will be funneling out all kinds of communication to Maryland educators letting you know what you will need to do come October 1st. If you have accounts right now, or you create accounts today or tomorrow, come October 1st, you’re going to need the instructions on how to get into the new system and MSDE will have all that information. So, please stay tuned.

Lorena Mancilla:

Additionally, in my session description, I posted URLs to two additional publications from WIDA and WIDA Early Years that talk about language-focused family engagement and family engagement. These are free downloadable PDFs off of the WIDA website. And again, you should be able to find these as well in the description to the app, in the conference app. Kathleen just put the WIDA website URL in the chat. Thank you so much, Kathleen. Yeah. She also posted the URL to the MSDE WIDA Early Years website for all of you in Maryland. That is your go-to site because MSDE has been doing a nice job of keeping that page updated with things happening or things available in Maryland from WIDA Early Years.

Lorena Mancilla:

Lastly, there’s two other family engagement related resources that I wanted to highlight to you that you can also find on the WIDA website. And again, these are available in different languages. Learning Language Every Day as a PDF book that has different activities focused on language that you can share with families because these are activities and things that families could do with their children at home. Then the other flyer here, family connections through home languages, this just reiterates some of the important themes about the importance of home language, families, beliefs about languages. This is a nice little resource that you could use with staff or you could share with families as well.

Lorena Mancilla:

It’s just a one-page document highlighting the importance of children’s home language. I’m looking at the chat, nothing there. So, that is it for me. I’m going to turn this over to Lisa, Kathleen. I can’t remember which one of you will jump in.

Kathleen Pulupa:

It would be Lisa for any of the questions.

Lorena Mancilla:

Excellent.

Lisa Rhodes:

Oh, yes. I don’t know if there are any other questions that people have. I know that here in Maryland, the family engagement summit group is excited that you were here. This is really fascinating. I think the biggest thing that everyone always wants are tangible resources. It’s always great to have some basic information and some history and background. But that tangible resource and this tool and the fact that you have something that has like a training component to it so that you can sit there and actually figure out how to use it is just so fantastic and that’s exactly what people want to walk away with today. I can’t thank you enough for everything that you put together for us today.

Lorena Mancilla:

No. Yeah. No, this is exciting. This is exciting. I think that when MSCE said that they would support the development of this tool, for us, this was like [inaudible 01:20:39]. So, we’ve had a lot of interesting opportunities with different folks in Maryland, in Michigan, and in Illinois that have already been going in, playing with Look What I Can Do, looking at the resources, and letting us know how they’re using it. So, we know folks are finding practical ways of using these tools, so it is exciting. So, our team is super grateful to MSDE for their support in this. It’s an exciting partnership. I see here there was a question. What’s the URL for the resources and the flyer for those that are not in Maryland?

Lorena Mancilla:

Right now, Look What I Can Do is just limited to Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan. Early Years currently partners with eight states. Well, actually, surprise, surprise. I’ll go ahead and share here. There’s going to be nine. Come October, there will be nine Early Years states. I did see that someone here is from Virginia. Virginia is coming on board effective October 1st and so is Minnesota. We’ve grown to nine states. Out of the nine though, the only three states right now that have access to Look What I Can Do are Maryland, Michigan, and Illinois.

Lorena Mancilla:

Yeah. Declan, welcome. I see here in the chat. Any other questions, comments? (silence) Which states will be able to use these resources later? We don’t know yet. This pilot study started last year, and sadly with the pandemic, we’ve had to extend. Can you just imagine trying to get a team of researchers into a site when everybody was shutting down? So, our pilot study has been extended twice already because of the pandemic. So, please stay tuned. Every time we extend the pilot study, we extend access to Look What I Can Do for those three states who are involved in this work. Tracy is asking, where will we find the handout with info to download the toolkit again?

Lorena Mancilla:

All right. Tracy, give me a second. I’m going to stop sharing because I’m going to try to pull up my conference website to show you. Okay, now I’m going to share again. I am in the conference website, I clicked on the session. The page for the session looks like this. If you look at handouts, it does have the Look What I Can Do flyer. I can just click on that to download the flyer. It gives you the URL and then it gives you a page with more instructions on how to create your account. So, that is there. Hope that helps. All right. Any final questions, comments? Are we granting ourselves three minutes of unscheduled free time?

Lisa Rhodes:

Oh, you’re gifting everyone three minutes back. [inaudible 01:24:23] Absolutely. Not only did you provide some fantastic information, you’re gifting us three more minutes for the rest of the day. [inaudible 01:24:33] is survey. You know there’s a survey. I don’t know where it is, but there will be a survey.

Kathleen Pulupa:

If you can go back to the slides, there’s just three remaining slides and I will go over them. [crosstalk 01:24:45]

Lorena Mancilla:

One second. All right. I’m going back to the slides. Sorry, Kathleen.

Kathleen Pulupa:

Not a problem. Thank you so much for joining us today. If you could take a brief time to take our survey, I’ve just put it into the chat as well. Just wanted to give a huge thank you to our speaker today, Lorena, or a great presentation, for taking the time to do this. Lisa, thank you so much for your help as well as the interpreters, Tiffany and Randy. Thank you so much. We couldn’t have done all this without you guys and just thank you for showing up today and for attending this conference.

Lorena Mancilla:

Thank you, everyone.

 

 

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