I hope this blog post finds you well. I am sure you are relishing your last moments of summer before diving head first into the upcoming school year and whatever that brings you. I am at home doing the same, and when I stopped today to count the days and begin calendaring the school year I was shocked at how quickly summer is coming to an end! I'm talking days... not weeks. Yikes! Time flies!
The good news is that after a long hiatus from blogging, chatting, presenting and even teaching, I am feeling the brain cells sparking and my thoughts shifting back to language teaching. During my time away from pretty much everything and everyone, I spent a lot of time seeking wisdom and learning how to listen. Ironically, my lessons on listening often came in the form of writing. It's funny how I took a break from my writing only to write. So yes, journalling was the format my listening took. And even though I am not talking about professional learning, I did learn a ton, and some of that was about how I learn. During my quiet time, I would read a text, mark it up, re-read it, and then sit down with my journal to process how that reading applies to my life. Sometimes the words that flowed out of my pen were things I didn't realize I felt or thought. Writing is powerful that way. We should all do more of it.
So many times we don't know what we know until we force ourselves to verbalize it. That is how writing best serves its purpose in my life, both personally and professionally. For that reason, this year I am reflecting forward. I know that seems oxymoronic, but I really am. Let's see if I can explain...
I have been feeling a little stagnate for a while, maybe even frustrated because I haven't really known what I was learning or what I needed to learn next. The shift to proficiency was such a period of flux that for several years I was working in a state of constant learning. It was absolutely frenetic. Every moment of my teaching day was like action research, and this blog is proof of that. Going back into the archives is like a museum of what I was learning each week and sometimes each day, but there is something important I have realized from this vast ocean of learning I have been traveling. Discovery does not mean mastery. This is true for us as much as for our students. We cannot assume that once we are aware of something that we are proficient practitioners of that thing. To use a familiar analogy, this is exactly the wrong thinking we followed when we believed that if we presented a concept to our language students that they "got it". We know now that acquisition takes time. It takes lots and lots of repetition, so why wouldn't this be the case for teaching, too?
Discovery does not mean mastery.
No, I am not beating up or doubting myself. I just aim to pose those questions as points of reflection. They are my inspiration for this year. While the numbers of language teachers who are making the shift to proficiency driven language teaching is constantly growing, there are many of us that made the shift and survived a tremendous growth spurt, but who might be looking around at this point asking... Now what? This is totally me, and while this is not a sexy goal and it may not shine as brightly as deciding to do something totally new this year, what I do plan to do is something I think will set the tone for the next phase of my teaching.
This year, I am not going to look back on what I did in the past, especially the more recent past. No. The last few years have been difficult and burdened by personal and professional hardship. They are not good samples to reflect upon anyway. Instead, I am going to reflect forward. What I mean is, I am going to take what I have learned, the tools, strategies and ideas I have collected these last several years, and look for places to employ them in this year's teaching. I am going to take them at face value and try to find out how to sharpen them and become as much of an expert in using them as possible. Like my dad, I want to explore the uses of my tools and find out if and where there might be gaps in my tool box. Plus, I want to see how I can use those tools in ways that might be novel and unexpected. I want to go back to the basics of my learning about language proficiency and examine how I am applying that learning to my planning and instruction. I want to find colleagues in my team who want to discuss how that learning connects to the goals we have for our students. I want to reflect FORWARD.
My hope is that this forward reflection will reveal to me areas that I need to understand better or things that I might have seen or heard, but not really understood. What I need right now is not something new, but time to employ what I know with enough repetition that will grow my proficiency as a language teacher. I don't need a new tool or new tool box, rather I need to know the tool box I already own really well.
There is something about the first week of August that always feels like there is a buzz in the air. It has the same feel as Sunday nights. My mind and my body are tense with expectation of the new year, and this can cause a little stress and even some sleep loss. Reflecting forward is taking some of that pressure away because I know that I am not reinventing anything, so no new systems are needed to develop and no new renovations to my room decor are planned. This year will be all about taking inventory of what I know and deepening that knowledge. It's just cleaning out the mental garage, so to speak, but that can be a real chore all by itself.
Whatever your goals are for this new year, Godspeed to you. Take care of yourself and don't overwork yourself. Remember that our teaching is only as good as the shape we are in. I've learned this the hard way. Know that no matter where you are, my prayers for a beautiful start to the new school year are coming your way along with my wishes that each day is rich, rewarding, and peaceful.
Love to you!