Better late than never, right? Yep, I am going with that. I was so ahead of the game at one point. What happened?
Well, anyway here I am two weeks into the new school year, and there is so much on my mind. Like many of you, the new school year is all about goals and growth, progress and perfecting, reflecting and even reducing. (I love alliteration. Can you tell?) On those notes, I thought I would share with you the things I am focusing on this year.
My #OneWord for 2016-2017: BALANCE
Balance is my personal focus for the year, and unfortunately I am not off to a great start. I chose the word last year after finally taking a chance and trying some yoga classes. Yoga had long been something I had considered, and even would say was on my bucket list, but I was hesitant because I wasn't sure I could do it. Well, I fell in love with it, but have had a setback that has slowed my progress towards yogi-ship. I am temporarily in a boot cast to correct a foot problem, but I digress. The point in bringing up the yoga experience is this: beginning my own yoga practice made me more aware of the lack of balance I had in my life. While I love my work, I have spent too many years giving my work everything, and giving the leftovers to my family and the scraps to myself. Yoga forced me to think about what things make me more peaceful, rested and happy, and what things rob me of that peace, rest and happiness. I had to take inventory of things. This reflection led me the realization that my lack of attention on simple things like giving up an hour of tv to shower and be in bed before 10 was something that was making me literally unhappy. Not making myself stop to have breakfast was having a huge effect on my overall state of mind. It probably sounds silly, but those small things were getting lost in my work both in and outside of school. So, even though I have had to put my new yoga love on hold for a bit, balance is the order of every day. Some days I do well. Others, not so much, but yoga has taught me that I must carry my practice from the mat into my life. Sometimes the yoga beats me, just like life, but there is no judge. My yoga is about me "finding the balance between effort and ease," (Manda Greenblatt) and being completely okay with that. Isn't that beautiful?
My 2016-2017 Professional Goals
Texas has a new teacher evaluation system this year, and the focus of that evaluation is goal setting. We have yet to see exactly how this is all going to roll out, but I kind of like the idea of goal setting accountability, and having my observing administrator aware of my goal. We will see how this goes. I will report more on it later. For now, as another form of accountability and transparency, here's my list of focus points for my professional growth this year.
1. Concrete Efforts on Increasing My Target Language Use
Some of you probably aren't surprised to read that since the last several months I've had so many questions about how you provide input and what your thoughts are on the balance between input and output. I can report that so far things are going well. I know it is early, but I am confident I am hitting close to 90% or more most days. I am sure that won't happen all the time. It's exhausting! But, it is getting easier. I am getting smarter about how to make my planning do the work for me, and how to be more deliberate about choices in comprehensible input. Like I said, I think the magic is in the planning, so I will share a little about that later to give you an idea of how I am handling that aspect of my target language teaching.
2. Designing Lessons to Sustain Student Target Language Use
Combine this and my first focus together, and they form the goal I am writing for my professional evaluation. Again, planning is key here. In recent months, friends of mine and I have talked about being more intentional about transitions, and taking control of the 10%. Last year's frustrations taught me that in any level beyond level 1 in programs that have more than one language teacher, we cannot assume anything about what life was like for students in level 1 and how the learning environment was managed. I made this mistake for a long time last year, and even caught myself blaming kids for not knowing how to handle my instruction. Sad, huh? This year, I am planning CAREFULLY. Probably, more carefully than I ever have, and I think I have found a system that is going to work and be long lasting (more on that soon). The main point of this focus is that my instructional design is centered around harnessing as many minutes of class as possible, taking control of transitions, timing tasks, and building one activity on to the next. I am thinking about what the training components are, or the things I need L1 for to train students how to be successful learners in this type of environment. Also and very importantly, every lesson starts with a focus question, that ideally, students can answer in the target language by the end of class because of the build up that occurs from step to step. So, let's take a look at how that planning is happening.
3. Finding and Sticking To ONE Planning Method
The last couple of years my lesson plans were all over the place... literally. I have some in a binder, some in Google Docs, some on power point, some in a journal, and some on Xeroxed primacy/recency templates. All of those lesson plans look a little different with no cohesive template to make me accountable for any type of lesson cycle. While I do take pride in my lesson planning and having an internal sense of timing and progression, I believe all teachers can benefit from imposing some structure on their planning to be true to how the brain learns. So, I am holding myself to that premise. After a collaboration with Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell on lesson plan templates based on primacy / recency, I decided to digitize and Googlize my template so that I could EASILY keep this system of planning going this year. To do this, I created a Google Sheet with all the same spots as my paper template, but with a few new additions. What I love about this system (besides the whole brain based approach) is that I can right click on the sheet, duplicate it and the template is not only ready to be used again, but it has the previous lesson plan on it that I can use if I didn't finish all the parts of my lesson. I can keep the parts I need and delete the parts I don't. You can click this link to view my Google Lesson Plan Book. The only rule is not to be judgy :-).
Wrapping Up and Going to Bed
Those are my goals for this new year. I tried to make things very real, measurable and concrete for myself because otherwise I knew I would fail. I also knew since the main thing I was looking for was discipline, having connected goals was going to be greatly helpful. So far, so very good!
I hope that you all have had a great transition back to the new year. I have missed writing this blog over the summer and hearing from some of you along the way. I wish you all balance in your personal lives, achievable goals, students who let you know when you are doing well and when you need to adjust, and colleagues that encourage and challenge you. Let me know if I can help in that way.
Happy Coaching, Friends!