I am slowly coming out of my post #ACTFL14 stupor. Does this happen to you, too? I go to a conference like this one and ride a huge wave of adrenaline and excitement, then I come home and fall into a coma for a day or two. Why do I do it? Because it is always an incredible conglomeration of experiences! Yes, sign me up for the next one! So, here's my list of reflections from ACTFL and what I am taking away from a wonderful weekend in San Antonio. If you didn't get to be there, by all means, try to get there next year. Whatever the expense, the experience is worth it!
#1 People Are Amazing!
The sessions are great and the learning is wonderful at ACTFL, but making connections with people wins the number 1 slot on my list, hands down! This is by far the best that ACTFL has to offer. I have so many stories to tell about meeting people from different places, backgrounds, subject areas and positions. Each of these encounters was an absolute treasure. My first ACTFL connection was with educators I love and respect from Clark County, Nevada. It was such a good time getting to chat again with Kolina Watt de Garcia, James Yoder and T.J. Troche (@ProfeTeeJay) after having worked together over the summer.
My next great experience was getting to meet my fellow #Langchat moderators face to face for the first time at the ACTFL Tweetup that Thursday night. It was sheer joy to find out how awesome each and everyone one of them is and getting to interact with them over the course of the weekend felt like hanging out with friends I have known my whole life. I am so blessed to be a part of that team! Thanks to Colleen Lee-Hayes (@coleesensei), Don Doehla (@dr_dmd), Sarah-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell / @musicuentos), Laura Sexton (@sraspanglish), Cristy Vogel (@msfrenchteach), Kristy Placido (@placido), Kris Climer (@krisclimer) and Erica Fischer (@calicospanish) for a weekend full of comradery and fun! Their only flaws are that they all talk funny! #insidejoke
There were so many other experiences meeting people that I can't name them all, but ones that stand out are getting to meet the following folks:
#2 States Need to Collaborate, Too
At this conference I moved from President Elect of my state organization into the President spot. While I have lots of ideas, the new role intimidates me, however during ACTFL's Assembly of Delegates I learned that many of the issues we face in Texas are battles also being fought all over the country as world language organizations struggle to modernize and connect with new generations of educators in our field. Sadly, we haven't networked enough yet to support, inspire and encourage each other, but after @NYSAFLT's generous and helpful session on their efforts to draw more educators into their organization, I think the leadership from states all around the nation saw that there is power in numbers and there is a lot of potential out there especially if we work together whenever and however we can. So, thanks to NYSAFLT for being open, brave and generous enough to share with other organizations so that we can all benefit! I truly hope to work together with you to make sharing and collaboration more possible among the state world language organizations across the country!
#Say No to Schmoozing, Say Yes to Mentoring
Being that each and every one of us either is a teacher or has been a teacher, much of our work time is spent in isolation. We are lone ships on the sea hoping we have calculated our navigation correctly. ACTFL, along with other conferences, serves as a port where those ships can come in safely. We can compare results, correct our course and forge ahead with renewed vision and excitement. This can only happen if we each, no matter how insignificant or how influential and powerful, commit to mentoring someone else in the field. Mentoring is the single most powerful resource we have in education because in order to make any progress at all we have to allow ourselves to be challenged, corrected and instructed as well as encouraged and praised. The other side of that is that we ALL have to be willing to look back and grab the hand of as many as we can to do the same for them. We will never been too important to encourage a new teacher who is just beginning the journey or too powerful to take time with the veteran teacher who is struggling to be relevant as she realizes that the teaching practices she has employed for decades don't really yield the results she once thought. Conversely, none of us is ever too small or insignificant to reach out to someone further along in the journey or higher up on the mountain who inspires us to let them know the influence and inspiration they give us is game changing. The leaders need to hear praise, too. They are paving the way for all of us and oftentimes are doing it in isolation as well. This weekend I had the pleasure of being on both ends of this spectrum (well, sort of) and I realized how profoundly important each point on the continuum is. I was blessed by so many small moments with people who either encouraged me in ways I would have never imagined or who I had the pleasure to encourage. While I don't really see myself as a leader in the field, there were precious educators who stopped to talk to me to inform me that they DO see me that way and that this little blog means so much to them. I, on the other hand, just had to interrupt my hero, Greg Duncan's conversation to hug him and tell him thank you before he got lost in the crowd again because it was so important to me that he know what his work means to me and how out-of-this-world it was to receive a message from him praising my last post. Sorry Greg, but I couldn't let you slip away without squeezing you. Thanks again for taking your time out for me!
Mentoring is hard to do in our profession because there is always so much to do and so much more to be done, but a wise woman reminded me this week how important it is to find a way to make it happen. I was standing at the coffee station loading up on a dose of caffeine to carry me through the afternoon portion of a meeting when a little, tiny woman walked up and started doing the same. She looked over at my name tag and said, "Amy Lenord, Amy Lenord. Where do I know that name? Do you blog?" So you all know I said "yes." She said, "I am so glad to meet you. I am Helena Curtain. Your last blog post was amazing!" Can I tell you that I nearly fell in the floor?! She went on to say that she fully intended to find me during the ACTFL conference to tell me how good I am doing. Again, my knees wobble and make me eye the floor as a landing place. I was overwhelmed by this meeting! All I could do was say thank you to her for reading the blog, but even more for saying those things to me. What she didn't know is that the last few blog posts were my attempts to get back on track after a very hard six months in my personal life as well as having a slight case of writer's block. She said, "Sometimes all we see is what we aren't doing or what still needs to be done, and we don't take time out to see how good we are. You are GOOD!" This was an incredible validation from one of the most important voices in our field. If you know me personally this will come as no surprise, but I had to fight back tears after this encounter.
Helena's message to me is too big, too important for it to just be about me, so this is my ACTFL souvenir for you all. YOU ARE GOOD. You are good because you are reading this blog NOT because I am amazing, but because YOU ARE. YOU keep learning and pushing yourselves to be better all the time. YOU keep searching for what is best for your students. YOU keep questioning what has been done and keep trying new things. But this week just stop and tell yourself, this message from Helena to me to you, I AM GOOD and turn a blind eye to what you haven't accomplished yet. Enjoy how good you are!
If that isn't great coaching, I don't know what is!
Happy Thanksgiving to you all and
Happy Coaching, friends!
(n.) A special place where we remember that students are humans that need to feel loved and important, where their achievements are celebrated every day and where we learn Spanish along the way!
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