Monday, June 20, 2011

New life, new blog.

This summer I have had a major change in my life.  I married my best friend.  Since we are starting a new chapter, I am moving my blog to mark this change as well.  Please continue to follow me:

Take care!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taking care of yourself should be priority #1.

I don't care what anyone else tells you.  This is probably one of the most difficult things for me to learn and to live by.  But I'm trying.  If I do this, I am more relaxed, level headed, a better teacher, a better human, and better able to handle everything that comes at me in and out of the classroom.

I faltered the last two weeks and violated rule #1.  I paid for it. My fiancĂ© paid for it.  My students paid for it.  And I suffered, and so on and so forth.  Well after a particularly difficult Saturday, I found myself determined to "take back my life".  I went to yoga because that's where I go to become a better person.  I went to yoga again today. 

And guess what?  I had some wonderful PQA with two particularly difficult classes and decent other classes.  I actually did successfully provide CI today, which has been something I haven't been able to do in almost two weeks. 

And guess what else?  The tests didn't get graded.  And no one asked about them.  The students know it's the end of the year too (imagine that right?).

So yea.  Make taking yourself rule #1. It's kind of like when you step in your classroom, and you make your students feel safe they'll play the CI game, but if not, you can forget about it.  It's like that.  If you take care of yourself, you'll be able to lead the CI game, but if not, you can forget about it.

It's a tough time of year, but this too shall pass.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Is there anyone else that teaches like you?"

I have to share one of the best moments in my (short) career.  Not only did I have a great day creating compelling, contextual and comprehensible stories, but my fourth period said something that made me believe in TPRS/CI all over again.  They asked me about what teacher to take for second year Spanish.  I told them that I didn't have a favorite, each one was great in their own way, and each one would teach them a lot.  Before letting up, they asked, "Does anyone teach like you?" Throughout this year, I have explained to them that there are a few ways to teach languages based on the goal in mind.  They know my goal for them is fluency.  They got the answer they weren't hoping for: no.

And guess what?  THEY COMPLAINED!  They said, "But we like this class." Read: we feel successful in here.  We feel valued in here.  We feel confident in here.  One girl, whom I've had the pleasure of teaching Spanish 1 to twice said to me, "So next year is going to be difficult."  But I was sure to let them know that they could come back to me for 3rd year.  And I hope they do.  And I hope they tell their friends about me.  And I hope this TPRS/CI spreads like wildfire.

Oh, and on another note a boy asked about past tense.  Not in a grudgingly way.  Not in a "oh goodness I have to memorize another tense." In a curious sense.  With a sense that he wants to be able to communicate in the language.  It even sparked the thought that maybe I could start the past tense a little bit this year... but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  I don't want to rock the boat too much.

I am sold.  If fluency is our goal.  This is our method.

A Saturday of Professional Development

Today I spent my day in then annual technology conference put on by my district.  It was thought-provoking, inspiring, overwhelming and exciting.   Each session lasted about an hour and was jam-packed with information that I'm trying to process, but I'm inspired to write about this day so I'll attempt to do both in one sitting.

Getting started:
This was an exceptional presentation by two younger teachers.  It really addressed my overwhelming feeling about taking on more technology.

Collaborative writing:
This presentation was exploding with great uses for google's platform of presentations, documents, groups, sites, etc.

Flipping your classroom:
Karl Fisch always does a great job of provoking thoughts.  Today he picked my mind about what I can do outside of my classroom.

Gone global:
During this presentation the overwhelming feeling and guilt spread over me.  I had signed up for the Peace Corps' World Wide Schools partnership this year, and typically of me, it was too much.  We haven't done much with it because there just isn't enough time.  Perhaps I can combine this idea with Karl's and have it as an outside of the classroom connection.  I do realize that this is an extremely valuable undertaking, but I get anxious just thinking about attempting it.

Innovative Libraries:
I found myself asking, "What does technology literacy mean?" a lot during this presentation.  Thankfully, our CIO answered - It is determining who a source is from, not where it is from in order to identify it's credibility.

I happily left the conference (we got out a half hour early!) with lots to process.

What I have come up with for next year is that:

1) I would like to explore with making my class more tech-friendly.  I'm looking at developing my teacher page into something to use as more of a resource.  If this is not possible, I'll try to look at google sites or a wiki.

2) I hope to increase the amount of time students have with comprehensible input through the use of technology, especially for my third year students (a 3-day/week class).

3) I want to use google docs/presentations more instead of Microsoft products myself and with my students (in order to stop supporting the "commercialism" of public schooling).

What a wonderfully thought-provoking Saturday.  I just wish I actually had the time to sit down and process it all!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Real Progress DOES come from CCCI

I read the proof today!  My district participates in PLCs, thus we have common assessments.  Since I am the only TPRS in my school (and district) I feel pressure when it comes to common assessments because I worry they don't know how to "play" the game. 

Before spring break, our essential learning (per the mandated curriculum) was the perfect tenses.  I was feeling up-tight, under pressure and worn down, so I slipped back into the trap of "hammering grammar" (through CI).  No, it wasn't a good thing.  I stuck to what I had planned, what I had to say, and didn't give the students enough CCCI... in my first and second hour classes.  In my fifth hour, however, I always seemed to be in a more laid-back, student-centered mode and my fifth period blew the assessment away.  We had wonderful, student-centered, compelling, contextualized, comprehensible input... and they learned the perfects much better than my other classes.

As if that weren't enough, this class sometimes struggles more than my other classes because their background knowledge of the language has some gaps.  I was so proud.  It really set me straight. 

I even changed my original lesson plan today because of what I had learned from them.  Instead of using fill in the blank sentences with por and para, we talked about what we will do this weekend, when we are leaving for it, how we will get there, why we are going there, etc.  The students were much more engaged in the conversation than in some sentences on the board.  Much more worth our time.

CI wins again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keeping it simple and going SLOW among other things...

This undoubtedly has been the biggest challenge to me in my quest this year.  I feel like I started the year out very simply and went very slow.  However, the more exhausted I've gotten, the sloppier I've gotten.  (Surprised right?)  After a much needed spring break, I feel like my brain is almost a brain again and not some mush in my head, so I've been much more able to reflect on what I'm doing in my classroom.

I'm really trying to keep it about the students in my classroom.  It's tough to do that if you also want to keep it simple and go slow.  That's a lot to remember.  It doesn't sound like much to my non-teaching fiancĂ©, but we know it is.  It's difficult because not only do we need to keep these things in mind, but we also have no idea what the students are going to throw at us in their responses to questions. 

Despite TPRS being a more difficult (and effective) way to teach students to acquire language, I've noticed that if I have enough sense to reflect back on a class period rather than just discount it as a "crash and burn" then I can be proud of the fact that my students with learning disabilities and students who have failed in other classes are thriving in mine.  I can also look back and realize my students are able to decode anything someone throws at them.  It's a beautiful thing to watch my first years, but it's sometimes a challenge to look at my third years through the same lens because they haven't had TPRS ever before so where my first years are thriving, my third years are throwing in the towel.  Interesting...

So anyway, I'm focusing on keeping things simple and going SLOW and one of my classes even called me on it today.  Good for them.  As long as I keep working, they keep winning.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Break 2011 - Reflection

Last night, while going to sleep, I decided to write this post.  This post is for the future me to look back and reflect upon how I felt during this time of year.  My hope, is that next year I may look back at this post and realize that things are going better then than now.  Because with each passing year of teaching, I feel like everything gets better/easier, but at the same time it gets more difficult to continue.

Today marks the end of spring break... that awaited time of year for both students and teachers alike.  I have been looking forward to having this time away from school to rejuvenate for the remainder of the year.  I've been needing to get away from school and rest for awhile, so that I can sustain the practice of CI with my students.  The novelty of TPRS has worn off with me, and the true difficulty of the practice has worn me down.  Instead of focusing on the negatives, I need to refocus on what is important.  My goals for the rest of the school year is:

1) Be optimistic. (It definitely is a choice you must make.)
2) Focus on providing contextual, compelling, comprehensible input SLOWLY.
3) Shelter vocabulary but use grammar freely. (This means keeping story scripts simple.)
4) Use "water wings" as needed; for my sake and the students' sake.

It's so easy to get caught up in life in general: what a difference others are making in peoples' lives, what is happening with others, what our contracts are looking like for next year, how much grad homework I have, how much wedding planning is still left undone, what other TPRS teachers are doing in their classrooms, what other non-TPRS teachers are covering in theirs, what extracurricular activities you should be attending, how important it is to eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep, etc. that it can get overwhelming. 

But we need to remember that this too shall pass.  Summer is on it's way, and we cannot speed up or slow down the processes in place in our classrooms.  We can choose to be optimistic, focused and effective facilitators of language acquisition, or we can choose to totally freak and start cramming the grammar into students' heads in light of the overwhelming/out of control feeling that we get with the approaching end of another year.  I will feel best if I choose to be optimistic, focused and effective.  My students will feel best if I choose to be optimistic, focused and effective.  My students will acquire more language if I make the same choice.

Now, take a deep breath because you can do this (and NTPRS will be here before you know it!).