At the beginning of the school year, I think it's an important practice to learn what every student's hopes and dreams are for themselves. In addition, to prepare for their first student led conference, they interview family members and write out their hopes and dreams and discuss them at parent conference. This practice allows me a window to assess the effectiveness of my teaching against the standards set by the student and the family. In lesson planning for this work, this text is a wonderful resource. Written in verse, we learn that Juan Filipe Herrara, U.S. Poet Laureate, author and son of migrant farmworkers, had dreams for himself as a child just like my students do.


Social Justice Activities:

  1. Students write about their hopes and dreams for their future and then interview family members and ask, "What are your hopes and dreams for my future?"

  2. Create Poetry. This text is written from a poem that begins each page with the words, "If I..." and ends with "Imagine." After completing #1 above, have them generate a list of the hopes and dreams they have for themselves and from their family. Fold their paper so there are two long columns. On the left hand side of their paper it has their list (veterinarian, be kind, have a family, be happy, etc.) on the right hand side they're going to describe each thing but not use the words on the list. For example, for veterinarian, they might say, "care for my community's furry friends" and then add "If I..." and "Imagine" to each concept. You can increase difficulty based on the age and also for older kids analyze how as a young person Juan Felipe Herrera practiced many different skills which are included in his poem.

  3. Create Hopes & Dreams for your Classroom Community. Responsive Classroom is a great resource for this. I suggest studying a community that takes care of the needs of one another. For example, during the Covid-19 Pandemic, young people on the Navajo Nation cared for their elders by traveling to deliver them food and water and ensuring their was knowledge shared about the effectiveness of the vaccine. "Who cared for you during the pandemic? What qualities did these young people show during this experience? What qualities do we want to show as we build the community we hope and dream for?"

  4. Analyze Juan Felipe's various identity characteristics (dual language speaker, son for migrant farmworkers, musician, writer, creative, etc.) Also analyze social barriers he faces: did not have access to running water, new student who speaks a different language... Discuss the societal challenges he likely faced in his life because of unequal power dynamics.

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 4. Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.

Diversity 6. Students will express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them and engage respectfully with all people.

Diversity 9. Students will respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.

Reading Strategies:

Poetry: Read and analyze the poetry of Juan Felipe Herrera. Connect the concepts that are taught on each page and notice how each section starts with "If I..."

Imagery: Analyze the metaphors and similes like, "tiny rivers across soft paper..."

Cause & Effect: As a child, Juan devote time and energy to writing and creating music and this lead to him developing skills that he later used as a profession.

Book Details:
  • Poetic Memoir, All Ages
  • Perspectives: child of migrant farmworkers, dual language learner
  • Author's stated heritage: Mexican American
  • Subject Integration: Poetry, Social Emotional Learning

Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain