This article investigates the need for both a theoretical and a practical way to understand the construction of linguistic and social competence as perceived by emergent bilingual and multilingual students of color in an American urban elementary school. In doing so, it employs Critical Narrative Analysis to look at how linguistic (mis)alignments and institutional discourses of school success in the US shape the ways in which these children made sense of their schooling experiences through co-constructed narratives. Findings pinpoint children's perceptions of academic success being closely linked to communicative practices in Mainstream American English. Beyond academic success, findings highlight the social exclusion of children from play and affinity groups based on Mainstream American English linguistic competence and performance. Implications point toward the need to create spaces in which language (mis)alignments are acknowledged, (re)positioned at the center of the curriculum, and positively reframed.