‘Tis the season! August is always a confounding time for me… I’m excited for school, ecstatic about perusing the endless aisles of school supplies, and filled with wonder at all the possibilities a new school year brings. But I’m also struggling to adapt my eating/sleeping/bathroom habits back to a bell schedule, anxious to meet my students, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by all that possibility that lies in front of me. It always feels like it should be an organized time of the year, but it’s inherently messy.
So here you have it, a peek into my August thoughts with 3 confessions, 2 things rolling around in my head, and 1 (AWESOME+EASY) tech tool to help you start the year off right!
It’s the last day of a four-day-workshop on Project Based Language Learning (PBLL), and to be honest, I’m sold. I love the ideas behind it, and I love the idea of giving students more motivation than “you’ll need this for the test”. Not all students are motivated by points, and that’s not what I want anyway! I don’t want little point DustBusters, sucking up all the available points in the local vicinity. Project Based Learning feels like A Gift From Above to both myself and to students. *cue the “Hallelujah” chorus*
So this is awesome, right?
But I’m an all-or-nothing person. It bugs me on a deep level to feel like I’m doing something poorly or haphazardly. Basically, I’m the human version of the Hokey Pokey. Either my hand is in or it’s out. I don’t do things halfway, casually, or hastily.
And if I’ve learned anything this week, it’s clear that Project Based Learning is a massive undertaking to start and has a steep learning curve. The presenter has reminded us many times that starting with one or two projects a year is plenty. It requires a major restructuring of how a traditional course is taught, and, despite being a self-described over-achiever, it may not be humanly possible to “go all in” and maintain it throughout the year.
So how do I do enough to keep myself happy (not feeling like a cop-out) but also avoid getting overwhelmed?
It’s so easy to write about something that went poorly that we are eager to fix and now know how to do better next time. I think it makes us feel better because we can almost explain it away and move on, knowing it will not be nearly as bad next time.
But a lot of my reflection (’tis the season!) is not only what I want to change but what went well so that I can keep the “good” and fix the “bad”/”ugly”. Here are 6 things I have NO regrets about:
#1: Started a blog.
I started a blog to have a place to collect my own thoughts and reflections. A lot of my posts were written just for me, just as a place to decompress and talk myself through things. I am a “percolator”. I have to mull over something for awhile before making full sense of it and deciding how I wish to continue forward. My blog helped me in many respects to make sense of what I value as a world language educator and to digest all of the thoughts we have running around in our heads all the time. It’s kinda like my own little Fortress of Solitude, and, hey, if any of my ramblings also benefit someone else, well that’s just icing on the cake.
#2: Let them color.
Students are full of anxiety these days. I went from 0 students my first year to 7 students this year who have documented anxiety disorders. The pressures to get into college or to get perfect grades is higher than ever. Peer pressure hasn’t abated since we were in school, and now with students’ lives being shared digitally with everyone in the world, our students have a lot of pressures built on top of normal teen pressures. But we tend to forget that they are still just KIDS. After quizzes or tests, I offered a new option this year: coloring. I printed off a few different coloring sheets and gave the students the option to color while we waited for our classmates to finish. Some chose to work on other homework instead. Others laid their heads down. But a surprising number chose to color and asked if they could hang it up around the room. And let me tell you: when I said “Sí” to that simple request, their faces LIT UP. It told them that I value them as a person and see them as a contributor. They were so proud to hang it up! Coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and it helped build relationships. Did it help with language proficiency? Heck no. But I don’t just teach Spanish — I teach students.
I am very nervous today. My students take our department’s proficiency test today and tomorrow, and I am so nervous how they will stack up to the others. I know I’m a good teacher, and I know I’ve done my best for them this year. But will my students’ score as well as other students? Have I done enough? Will this test accurately show what they know and can do? I’m worried that the answer to all these questions is a big fat “no”…
Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea of holding all students in the same level to the same standards! I think comparing data will be a great opportunity to discuss best practices and grow together as a department. I am eagerly looking forward to the conversations we will have when this is all said and done! I do wish the test was more proficiency-based, but no common test is ever ideal. Continue reading “Why I’m wearing a Flash shirt today”→
Today me will live in the moment… Unless it’s unpleasant in which case me will eat a cookie.
I had my final eval for the year today, and it went great. I love my school, and I feel very supported from admin. Over the years, I find that I’m rarely surprised by the feedback I receive. A lot of times, I’m much harder on myself than my evaluator is! I see 490532 things I need to work on, while they see maybe 2-3. It’s a very positive experience because I get reminded that I’m really doing just fine.
But my principal had one area of improvement this time that surprised me: making a conscious effort to fit in more with my department. Although I think I hid it well, this comment totally shocked me. I, of course, think I’m very personable. I’m 5’4″, energetic, happy, and always smiling. I have also approached department members periodically throughout the year to invite them to collaborate with me, and we even have a shared DropBox folder that is full of mostly just my files. How could he possibly think I’m not doing enough collaborating?
But as my mind mulled this point over throughout the day, I think I see where he is coming from… I think I may be unintentionally intimidating.
Over the weekend, the unthinkable happened. One of my freshmen in my 5th period class passed away. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, I don’t want to focus on the details. But it was an accident, and it was totally unexpected.
This week has left me and my students reeling. That empty desk is something they don’t talk about at “teacher school”. How do I support my students (and myself)? Where is the balance between grief and “getting back to normal”?