English Language Learners, Science, and Single-Serving Friends

By Kathy Reeves
24 August, 2016


I had just finished an afternoon of teacher training and was at the airport facing two flights that would put me home at midnight. I saw her waiting at the gate, sipping a bottle of water and sorting through several manila folders bulging with neatly collated and stapled handouts. She picked up her phone, responded to some emails or texts, then went back to studying her handouts. Although we had never met, she looked familiar – not her appearance but her mission. I knew I was looking at someone with a passion for education and quickly inferred that she was also a provider of teacher professional development.  

As we lined up in our Southwest boarding positions, I had the good fortune to be directly behind her. We begin chatting, quickly identified that we had much to talk about, and made plans to sit together on the two flights to Austin.

Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ed.D, is a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist and Academic Language Therapist. She has authored numerous programs, books, and articles around literacy development for English language learners and has led research in the areas of reading assessments and interventions for ELL. As if that weren't enough, she serves as the Vice President of the International Dyslexia Association.

What promised to be a boring late-night trip home became a delightful journey with conversation about kids, grandkids, favorite Austin restaurants, and strategies to support learners. Elsa shared bits about her research, and I talked about our product development and the way we built the research into our Science Starters and Science Sidekicks and into our teacher professional development course "Launching Literacy with Science Starters". We shared our concerns about Spanish translations in student assessments and the fact that the same strategies that support ELL and struggling readers will support ALL students.

The next day I shared some of our conversation with my team, and Patrick said, "It's always good to make a single-serving friend".

I had never heard this phrase, so I consulted my best friend Google for an explanation and learned it came from the 1999 movie Fight Club.

"Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They're single-serving friends. Between take-off and landing we have our time together, that’s all we get." 

I've made many single-serving friends over the years, but I hope Elsa isn't one of them. We still have much more to talk about.

Tell me about some of your interesting single-serving friends.

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