This is the Saturday after open house for me, and as any teacher, this week felt like I worked a double with no days off. Why is that? Why are those couple of extra hours one evening so draining? Don't get me wrong, it is great to meet parents and explain to them what it is that we really do in language classes, but goodness I am tired open house week! It baffles the mind!
So, to recover I slept in a bit this morning, and as I was having my late morning coffee I saw that A.C. Quintero (aka: @klasekastellano on Twitter) had tweeted as a part of an education chat I have never heard of called #Edugladiators. Being a fan of the tv show Scandal, I had to check into this right away! So, as I made my way into their feed, I noticed tweets about teacher self care which is a topic very important to me this year, and others about putting students first before curriculum. All. Important. Things. I am sorry I cannot tell you what the original topic of the chat was, and I looked for a bit to find the guiding questions of the chat, but didn't really find those either, but the little I saw was inspiring! One tweet in particular was the nudge I needed to write this post today. It was this:
I hope you won't judge my type-o. This tweet is me being as honest as I can about me and my teaching. It is especially true when I find myself working in survival mode which was totally me last year. I was having a really, really tough year personally last year, and I found that I just had little internal resource to pull from that would allow me to connect with my students as people. It was rough, and I was very glad when the year came to a close so I could gather myself again and remind myself of why I teach in the first place.
- Are things really, honestly fine?
- How are your classes?
- How is your homework level?
- How many hours are you doing homework and studying now?
- Is school easier or harder for you this year?
- What is your hardest class?
- What is your easiest class?
- What is giving you stress this year?
- Are you sleeping well? Why or Why not?
This Friday I planned for that time more intentionally, but I am not sure I did as good of a job as the first more organic attempt. I tried to connect the chat to our learning for the day, so I chose the topic "family life" to talk to my students about, and I launched the conversation by talking about myself. THIS. I think was my mistake. I made the chat about me and not about them. They were quiet and listened. They laughed, nodded and responded nonverbally, but they weren't as eager to talk to me. Okay, kiddos. Noted. I am really paying attention to you. I promise.
So, what can I take away from this experience? Is it worth my time to talk to my students in Spanish those few minutes each week? Yes. I think so. But, here's the rub. I have long felt that when I committed to target language teaching, I felt a loss when it came to building relationships with my students. It has been a real challenge to figure out how to build relationships with novice - emerging intermediate students while speaking the target language because of their language limitations. Those limitations aren't just what language they can or cannot produce, but what they can interpret, too. How do I drill into the people they are when their language comprehension is limited? How do I mindfully use comprehensible input in a spontaneous way? THAT takes a lot of energy, but that is why I think Fridays are the perfect day for this kind of moment. It is already jean, t-shirt and tennis shoes day. Why not let that casual feel creep into instruction, too?
I won't lie. I am having a mental debate with myself about this tiny bit of instructional time and whether or not it is worth it to sacrifice it. But, I have many other questions about it besides that. How connected to the day's learning should it be? Should I talk about myself at all? Should I scaffold it at all? If so, how? What are the benefits of this experimental time? Do the kids really enjoy it? How many are actually getting something out of the experience? What are my expectations during this time?
So many questions.
What I know right now is that I want to show my kids that growing their Spanish can still be fun and novel even after level 1. I want them to know that they are more capable than they think. I want them to grow their ability to have spontaneous conversations because they are true assessments of how proficient they really are. I want them to know that Spanish 2 is more than just going through the motions of performance assessments that, if I am honest, aren't very fun, personal or interesting. I want to bring the novelty back into learning Spanish for students who are studying it in the most critical year of language learning. I want it to be FUN. Yes, I know I said that already. Let me say it again... I want Spanish 2 to be FUN. The only way I can do that is to put them in situations that are unexpected, unscripted, organic and unrehearsed.
So, no. I don't have all the answers. I have no idea what exactly I am doing right now, but I know that I want to connect with THEM and I want Spanish to be fun. Right now, those are the only goals. I hope to discover the answers to my questions along the way.
Happy Coaching, Friends!