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In Support of My Colleagues

A wonderful teacher friend is the latest to share exhaustion, frustration and confusion about teaching at this time. Since this site is for teachers, and I have been asked to share my response to her, I will post it here.

I won’t be offended if you disagree with me. Everyone is in a different situation and looks at teaching in a different way.

What many teachers are feeling is this: Students are frustrated, or not even checking in. Parents are frustrated because students are doing these things. Administrators are frustrated because parents are contacting them. Teachers are being asked to take responsibility for everything and to fix everything. The following is in response to that. I am sure, having worked with many administrators as a teacher and as a consultant, that administration IS frustrated with fielding the influx of complaints, but we need to find a better way to address our challenges.

This “blaming down the chain” helps no one. I’d love to see admins call 300 students individually and see why they aren’t turning in work. Really talk to them and find out what the issue is…..not assume that it is something that either teachers are doing wrong or that teachers should be the ones to fix the situation.

And yes, if I am responsible for 100ish students, calling 300 and getting their feedback is an acceptable expectation. I’m not saying that admins can solve it alone. There is not simply one solution, but just handing it to teachers is unprofessional. Expecting to a. locate the problems and b. fix the problems in the first two months of school is also unrealistic. The biggest issue here is the expectations we have created with schools.

Expectations like: National standardized tests are important and have meaning (no) Education is about memorizing facts and answering MC questions. (no) Administrators have the skills to be the PR voice of the school AND the supervisor of teachers. (no) Schools can fix everything. (no) All families have the time and ability to handle all of their children’s educational needs at home. (no)

Teachers can address the educational, cognitive (they are different), social, emotional and physiological needs of 25+ students at the very same time. (hard no) Teachers can address the needs of up to 250 students if they teach some subjects. (harder no) Teachers can understand the needs of all of those families and adapt to them in their teaching. (still no) Teachers not only have the content area knowledge needed, but also the humanitarian skills, crowd management, nursing and custodial skills during a pandemic. (seriously, no) Above all, the expectation that teachers ALSO have the technological information, experience and skills AND hardware/software to adapt ALL of their teaching to that format. (impossible) And here is my new favorite: Teachers also should be finding ways to adapt sports and clubs to these new conditions so that students and parents don’t feel they are missing out on anything. (Um, definitely no.)

Above all, teachers are the ones who need to feel guilty for not being able to take care of the issues of everyone above (students, parents and administrators) because ultimately, that is who they look to for solutions. (NOT SORRY, but no.)

Over the past 50+ years this has emerged as the pattern and it is way past time to change it. But education is a busy “business” and change is never easy in an institutional setting.

Now change is not an option. That much is clear. We, the education folks, have had to change. It’s not going to be about how MUCH we change, it is going to be about how WELL.

I think that it is time to look at what that could mean. I have no answers. I am neck-deep in it with all of you. We are not building the plane as we fly it. We have to redesign it and keep it flying until it flies better. We don’t get new parts. We don’t get new blueprints. We don’t get experts who have done this before. And we get not only the original passengers, but the passengers families on board as well. It’s almost as if each passenger on board needs a life-sustaining surgery and we have to do that at the same time.

Or at least that is how it feels.

So for now…..I think we need to practice a new kind of self-evaluation. Keeping the passengers joyfully happy is not on the list. Keeping them alive as best we can is. Keeping the crew alive is now on the list. In fact, as uncomfortable as we are with that….that is now the prime objective.

No crew, no flight. No flight, no passengers. Dear administrators, please take note.

We also have to stop lying to the passengers and their families. Folks, we are not here to “keep school going during the pandemic.” We are not here to maintain the same pre-pandemic standards. (which may have not been all that ideal to begin with.)

We are here to connect with students and families as our entire society takes stock in a new way to live. That is NOT going to look like school for the last 50 years. It is also not going to look like school last spring.

Now maybe, in a year, “life” will be back to “normal.” I doubt it. Too much has already changed. But if it somehow is, we will still need these new skills and approaches for when the world changes again. Because it will. We cannot live in a world that updates its technology every 3 months and not change.

In the past, parents went to work and could put their children out of their minds for 8-10 hours in order to be “productive.” They cannot do that any longer.

During that time schools organized the children’s day, from food to instruction, from play to rest. Schools cannot do that, for all students, anymore.

Teachers know that parents will have to take a new role. But we cannot tell parents what to do. Parents are often stuck between an employer who expects the same level of “productivity” and the new type and amount of time they must spend with their children. They cannot always change their employers. (in any sense of the word change.)

So what CAN we do? We can start to be honest. We can keep telling administrators that new expectations are needed. We can stop trying to fly the plane, do surgery and keep everyone blissfully happy.

We can tell ourselves, and each other, to take care of the crew first. We can measure our success with a different instrument. Did we attempt to connect today? Did we speak to students as people today? Did we look at what we asked students to hear/read from their perspective? Without comparing it to what students did last year or “should” be able to do? Did we ask for a response (not just expect it)? Did we acknowledge and honor the responses we received? (not just the speed and/or accuracy of them)

The very bottom line is this: Students who come to school are, at the very least, a captive audience. Students who only have to check in online (synchronously or asynchronously) are not. Because we don’t have any way of making sure that they are, we are exhausted from flying a plane, and redesigning it, for invisible passengers. It feels useless and demoralizing.

So any time that we can actually connect with even one student, we remind ourselves that the plane we are working so hard on is not empty. So take note, some kids are there….and let them bring you joy. Don’t let the ones who haven’t used their ticket yet to determine your personal feeling of success. We can remind ourselves that the children that we teach are the reason that we teach, not the content, not the students’ compliability, not their homework grades nor their test scores. We can work with each other to give meaningful information and provide meaningful activities. We are no longer in the business of controlling the hours in our students’ lives….only enriching the minutes that we get. We can remember that parents and students will use technology when it is available to them, and forgive them when it is outside of our working hours. We can remember to only read and respond during our working hours.

Parents can remind their children, and fellow parents, that teachers are trying and that they care. That they care about the students more than they care about the content material, the number of papers filled in, or the scores on tests. They can recognize great lessons with support, interest and thanks. They can contact us with questions because they care and they can come to realize that many teachers too are parents, and are juggling the very same types of situations.

Administrators can use their position of power to communicate to parents that the children are the number one priority so they will also be strongly supporting teachers. Demoralized teachers cannot do the best possible job for students. Administrators can encourage teachers to find the most important sections of content and help them to find ways to deliver it by giving them time to do so. (Two days is not enough time.) They can read about how long good change takes and practice patience. They can communicate with local employers to search for ways to support families in this new reality.

And students?

Well, you see, we as a society have created the young people we have. We have shown them that winning is more important than growing. We have taught them that who you are is less important than what you “get done.” We have encouraged them over and over again that the most important thing schools are looking for is compliance. Or the appearance of compliance.

Is it any wonder that that they have invented all kinds of ways to not do things?

On one hand, they are a generation of kids who have learned to use technology to find out information that they want/need and to avoid doing things they don’t.

On the other hand, they are a generation of kids who dislikes hypocrisy in adults and craves connection with others……even if they don’t know how to pull it off.

What they have learned is how to control whatever they can. And this moment, right now, is under their control. It shouldn’t be. Even they know that. But things aren’t good, they don’t like it, and if the only way they can get any control in life is to purposely NOT show up for class, they will. Even if it seems illogical.

They feel alone. They feel closed in. They have too little structure and too many demands. They have too many expectations to meet and too few skills to manage it all.

That is where we can be of help. We can keep trying to connect in a positive way….and not give up. We can open doors to communication…even if they don’t walk through them right away. We can provide structure and support, even if we feel like they shouldn’t need it. We can adapt our expectations and use our time with them to build skills rather than pour out information.

We can let them, and ourselves, and our parents, and our administrators know that this is a unique and precious time. There are blessings here that we have barely touched on because we have been smothered in dissappointments. We can keep supporting each other by sharing any blessings that we experience, and notice.

Look back on any time, anywhere, in history when life (personally or globally) did not progress “normally”. Do people who lived through it lament about how many hours they did or did not do homework, fill out forms, memorize structures or take tests? No. Not ever. Nor should we now. We can do great things that matter. We already are. Let’s focus on that.

with love,

Laurie

Learn Together Academy Presents….

Hello friends! Life is very busy here in Baton Rouge and before too much time slips away, I want to tell you about a collaboration between Hearts for Teaching and Ignite Chinese: Learn Together Academy!!

This school year we are offering a new and unique professional experience for teachers who use, or are interested in using, Comprehensible Input-based Teaching!

WHO AND WHAT ARE WE?

This year’s Academy team is Haiyun Lu, Justin Slocum-Bailey, Christine Garrabrant Aguiar, Amy Roe (The Storyteller’s Corner) and myself. We have some very clear goals for the Academy:

A. We want teachers to feel more successful teaching in whatever their new situation might be this year.

B. We will train and guide teachers in culturally responsible comprehensible input (CI)-based instruction.

C. We have developed a  strategically sequenced, highly supportive program that emphasizes coaching and skill-building. 

D. We will work to provide teachers the skills and information needed for delivering Comprehensible Input and interacting with students with equity and intercultural competence.

E. We will work towards establishing a community of teachers who support each other in these endeavors.

IT’S STARTS THIS MONTH WITH THE ESSENTIALS!

The team, along with techie guy and Latin teacher Keith Toda and Dr. Stephen Krashen, has created a series of short, concise and compelling videos on the essentials of Teaching with Comprehensible Input. It is a resource that will be valuable and available to you separately or as part of the series.

THERE ARE MONTHLY THEMES!

Each month we focus on a different theme. That month’s session will include 3 one-hour presentations, Q and A, mentoring, coaching and more.

Participants can sign up just for the months that interest them (or fit in their schedule!) or for the entire series! There are Early Bird and Group Pricing Options. In fact, we would love to have you sign up with colleagues and friends. It’s “LEARN TOGETHER’ Academy!

The presentations, starting in October, will be live AND available recorded, so you won’t have to change your world in order to be a part of the group. Our October theme is:

and our presenters are so excited to get started! Just in case you are wondering about November….

Scroll down to see the remainder of the monthly themes and presenters!

Registration is now underway at our website: https://learn-together-academy.teachable.com/

We also have a Facebook page that you can join to keep up with the news and information: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3114641868648522

(Search for Learn Together Academy: Bridging The Gaps)

And of course, Twitter! @LearnTogether8

Don’t miss a chance to make this year easier than it has been! We are looking out for you!

with love,

Laurie

Along with Gary DiBianca!

The Green-Eyed Monster

There was a period of several years, thankfully a long time ago now, where I was often bitter and angry about what other people had….that I didn’t.  Really bitter.  Really angry.  Really hurt.

I didn’t want to be any of those things, but I couldn’t seem to help it.

The list of things I didn’t have seemed endless.  It was filled with little things and big things.  

I don’t know if you have ever lived through a time like that.  A time when nothing went your way, no matter how you tried.  A time when, no matter how hard you tried, everything seemed to go wrong.

My sons call it “being cursed.”  They’ve seen it.  They’ve lived it.  In some way or another, we all have.

It felt like I couldn’t breathe in, or out, without being reminded that life was very, very hard.

Every jealous thought felt justified, but also painful.  I was stoking my own inner misery.  

I embarked on an “inner” project.  Clearly, things were not likely to get better right away.  (It took a long time.) Clearly, I wasn’t going to stop thinking.  (I’m a chronic over-thinker.)  

But I knew that, with determination, faith and a LOT of patience/practice, I could change my thinking.

So I started to practice “blessing” instead of “cursing”.   If a friend had a loving, attentive husband, I practiced being grateful for my friend.  Wishing her peace, joy and love…..even though I felt like cursing someone else’s blessings.  Like I said, it took a LOT of practice/patience.

I remember wishing blessings on people because they had a lawn, because because they were able to drink a beer without a second thought, because they didn’t have a dog to clean up after, because they could buy a Happy Meal for each child.  I remember wishing blessings on people who had bought a new mattress, not a second-hand store one.  I even wished blessings on people for having a pedicure, laughing at jokes, being able to read a novel.   In many, many ways I really would have preferred to punch them in the mouth. 

In time, although I was still jealous of what other people had, I started to see what I had that I wasn’t appreciating.  I also remembered that other people’s lives were not perfect either.  Most of the people I was jealous of had no idea that I had reason to be jealous of them.  

I didn’t share my problems with them and realized that they weren’t sharing theirs with me either.  It made it much easier to “wish blessings” on them.  

Why am I writing this here? 

Well, the monster returns from time to time, and I have to put a muzzle on it.  

I see a lot of posts and messages on social media about all the ways I could be reaching my students right now.  And I don’t have the time, or the energy, or the money, for any of them.

Not even just individual idea, but even posts like “Top 25 Things to Do to………”  

Twenty-five????  I must be seriously way behind!

I find myself envying folks who are ahead of me in technology skills or have a computer with more power than I have.    I get a green tint in my newly-replaced lenses when I read about confidently juggling breakout rooms and delighting in Flipgrid responses.   Not to mention money to go to virtual conferences, time to write books or ….ok the list goes on and on.  It is so easy to go there. 

So I’m back to “wishing blessings.”   I have to honest. It ain’t easy people.  But it doesn’t fester inside me like the “cursing” used to.

So here’s to hoping that those wonderfully-talented teachers have supportive families and sickness-free homes.  May they be blessed with understanding administrators and enthusiastic students.  May they have homes full of health and sunshine.   May they have children who sleep through the night and in-laws who are kind to them.  May they have faith in themselves, chocolate when they need it, and fresh-brewed coffee in their cups.  

And may you be blessed as well,

With love,

Laurie

Wherever You Go, There You Are

It’s the beginning of my fourth week of classes.   That is hard to believe!  For many of you, it will be the first.  I was calm on the outside but quaking inside that week.  New school, new students, new admins, new colleagues.  Clearly at my age, even if you didn’t know anything about me, you would expect me to know what I was doing.  

But like a lot of you, I felt that I had no idea what I was doing.  Or very little anyway.  Luckily the people around me felt much the same way, and weren’t afraid to admit it.   I knew that I was not alone.  

They also DID have knowledge that I did (and still often do) not.  Where the different rooms are.  Who is in charge of what.   The unspoken expectations of an institution, of a building and of a community.  They have been reaching out at every turn.

Last week, while we watched Hurricanes Marcos and Laura, many of them gave me advice on how to prepare and asked if I had questions.  They also offered up phone numbers and promised to check in on me if things got ugly.  (Luckily it didn’t get ugly here, but much of Louisiana was not so lucky.)

So here I am, four weeks in, with my own experience, many, many questions and the support of others.

Is that not what Life is about?

When I visited Alaska, I was keenly aware of an interesting dichotomy there.   It seemed that everyone was quite prepared to take care of themselves.   Extraordinarily capable.  Yet, there was a very strong sense of community there.  People relied on each other.  They knew that to thrive, it would be necessary.   Independent, but rarely alone.  

I think that we are all in that place right now…..maybe even more so if you are teaching from home.  You are working through a new experience …and having to do it independently.   I’m sure that some districts believe that they have prepared you well.  I know that they are telling parents and students that they have.   

The truth is, they probably haven’t.  No one made decisions early enough for that.  (Not throwing blame, it’s a complicated situation.)  So…..here we are.

Working with what we have and what we know.  Knowing that we could know more, but don’t, yet.   

And again, that is Life.

Covid-19 has reminded us of many things.  It has forced us to see that we have depended extraordinarily on the world of technology to answer all of our questions.   No, we are required to use that technology to teach.  Whether or not we have been able to keep up with what is out there.

Some teachers are techie.   They have been so for years and delight in bringing tech into the classroom.   Some are Luddites.   They see teaching as one of the last bastions of people to people communication and do not want to bring anything electronic into the picture.   Others are somewhere in the middle….some moving slowly at the pace that is comfortable for them.  Others are in the middle and jumping around….trying this, trying that, using what can be used well in their particular experience.  

And we are often treated like puppets, pulled by the strings of the present administration towards whatever idea, program, etc. is the “new” focus.   Even if we wanted to fully explore something, we are often yanked out to complete some new project required of us.

So, as a profession, are we fully prepared?  No.  Nor should we have been expected to be.  

We’ve been focusing on our students.

The question I hear over and over again is…..how will I be able to connect with them using techology?  

Trust me, you can.

What are your strengths?  What are your skills?   What is it that you do that opens doors so that students trust you and listen to you?

Are you funny?

You will still be funny over the internet.  You will just have to realize that you won’t be seeing and hearing those smiles and that laughter.  You will have to trust in it.  Use your funny bone to create memes and stories.  

Are you thoughtful?

Ask your students thoughtful questions about the topics that you study.  Provide them with thoughtful stories and articles.

Are you interactive?

Still possible!!  There are many ways to have students use Jamboard or actual white boards, gestures and hand signals to interact using the language.

Whatever your strengths are, use them.  Work with them.  Build on them.  Don’t forget them.

But we will always do better if we accept support from others.  

So, when you look around out there, don’t look at everything.   Look for what goes with your strengths.   Look for interactive activities if you are interactive.  Look for humor if you are funny.  Look for what will enhance and complement the way you teach, so that don’t lose yourself in all of these new activities.

Take this new teaching world one step at a time.  Please.  ALL teachers are struggling to make this transition, and or students and their parents are as well.   

In the first few weeks, BUILD your new world, one layer at a time.  One piece at a time.  It will be all that your students can handle.  It will be in everyone’s best interest.

I know, I know, we haven’t worked that way since we first started in our present position.  It’s not “supposed” to be this way.

But my friends, this IS where we are.

And wherever we are, we bring ourselves and all of our skills with us.  Teaching is more than well-honed lesson plans and tried and true activities curated over the years.  Much, much more.

Teaching is leading by example.  Teaching is facing challenges with humility and courage.  Teaching is knowing that we must work WITH students, not for them or in spite of them, and certainly not against them.

Teaching is starting out from one small place of security and testing the waters.  It’s building boats and mending bridges to move ahead.  

It is NOT going from point A to point Z in a certain period of time.  

It is growing enough at each point, and between each point, to make better decisions, and learn even more.

Do NOT expect more from yourself than is humanly possible.  

Even if you, your school, your students and your parents think that you can.  

Create an outline, a pattern that students can count on and you can count on.

Stick with it.  Let everyone get used to it.

Grow with it.  Make small additions and changes and lead you and your students to more understanding and more input.  

Do not evaluate, yourself or the students, too soon.  Give things time to take root and to grow.

When plants are repotted, there is often a period when they are “in shock” before they grow….even if the new pot is bigger and better.

We are in that spot.  That’s where we are.

We are also surrounded by support….some of it more welcome than others.

You are on a new journey.   It’s an independent journey, so don’t accept more than you can carry at any given moment.   But there is help out there.   And you can offer help as well.  You would be surprised how much you already know and how much knowledge you are acquiring along the way.

It is OKAY to be where we are.  Even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient or frustrating.    

How we handle this will determine how well we get through it.   We cannot control what happens, but we can control our response…Even if others are yelling what our response should be…WE GET TO CHOOSE OUR RESPONSE.

Reach out as soon as you can.  Share one idea, get one idea.  Say thank you.  Repeat.  

You will always have yourself in this new strange land.  You will always have support (really, just ask, we’ll help you find it.)   And bit by bit the land will not be so strange.

We were made for this.  We learn new languages.  We teach them.  We explore new worlds.  We share them.  All good things take time.  This journey will too.

With love,

Laurie

SWBAT

So, eleven school days in and we are home for three.  This isn’t COVID-related, it’s the combination of (was a hurricane) Marcos and Hurricane Laura heading our way.  First, let me say how AMAZING it is to be where you can actually stay home and safe in the case of dangerous weather.   I’m very grateful for that!

Are we missing out?  Is this a terrible thing?  Will be able to “get back in the groove?”  Honestly, I have no idea.  But what I have seen so far is this:  If I think it isn’t going to go well, it’s already over.   

As a whole we educators are evaluators.  We have been trained that way.  We replay every lesson, every interaction, every assignment, ever assessment.  We evaluate before it happens, while it’s happening and for a long time after.   I’m no longer sure that is in our best interest.

It has allowed us to develop this good or bad syndrome.   Either we were good, or we were bad.  Either the lesson was good or the lesson was bad.  Either the students were good or the students were bad.  Either the scores were good or the scores were bad.

I don’t think that type of thinking gets us anywhere.

Part of it has to do with the SWBAT (Students will be able to) Lesson objectives we’ve been asked to write for nearly 50 years.   The truth is that students will not be able to do much after one lesson!  Nor should they be expected to!!   After a unit?  Maybe.  After a marking period?  Sure.  After 40 minutes?  Nope.

So write it if you have to, but don’t believe it.  Particularly now.  Right now here is what we can hope for…and there are no guarantees:

Spoiler alert….this may be depressing, but hopefully it will help you to connect with the second part of the post!

If you are teaching remotely:

  1.  Students will be able to access our lesson at some point in time.   

      This in itself could be a 10 step process depending on their home situation, the internet situation, the school’s internet situation and the functionality of the SLP we are required to use.

  1.  Students will be able to follow the directions.

       This is difficult even when we are there in person to walk around and assist.

  1. Students will have the time to attempt the lesson/assignment.

        We have no control over that and no right to expect that parents can manage it.  If you are a parent, particularly a single parent, you know what I mean.

  1. Students will have enough interest in the topic to attempt the lesson/assignment.

         Let’s face it…..sometimes we are required to teach things that just aren’t all that thrilling to our students!

  1. Students will have the confidence to attempt the lesson/assignment.

 Whether or not we like it, our students worry about being able to do things right.  Many of them believe they need a great deal of support.   Many of them do.   

  1. Students will be able to turn in the assignment.

  Again, this is not always easy or clear and each teacher has his/her own way of receiving assignments.  As an adult, I have trouble remembering passwords.  Is it any surprise that our students can’t remember the different expectations of each teacher?

  1. Students will believe that there is enough benefit to our lesson/assignment that Steps 1-6 are worth working through.

This, really, is where the rubber meets the road.   Students are not stupid.  If we can’t produce lessons that really do something, we are out of luck.

  But wait Laurie, didn’t you just say that 40 minutes is too short to get students to “be able to” do anything?  How can I get them to see a benefit of anything then?

By letting them know how much you care about them as people, and as students.   

I’ve been saying that for a long time, but it is clear that this is the time to focus on it.  I’ve seen many posts titled “Community First, Curriculum Second” or something similar.  GOOD!!!!!!  Keep ‘em coming!!   Let’s be an incoming wave of humanity this year!!   Read every one that comes at you to find out which ideas and activities will work for you and your students.

As you read the ideas and suggestions, keep these things in mind:

  1.  Your time and energy are valuable.  If it involves giving up your mind, heart, body, soul or bank account, don’t do it.
  1.  Comparison is not just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of sanity.   DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER TEACHERS!!!   (See upcoming post on this later this week.)
  1. Make access to your information as simple and foolproof as possible.   Don’t worry about “babying” students right now.   Life is already giving us all challenges.   If we want them to see our stuff, we have to make it super-easy to find.
  1.  Require the minimum amount of work acceptable by your school or institution.   You can always OFFER more, but require the minimum.
  1. Hold students accountable in the easiest ways possible.   Students who will cheat, will cheat.  Students who will game the system, will game the system.   You can worry about that later.  Not now.
  1. Now here is the fun part:    Make it as much about them as possible!!  Take a lot of polls using Google forms or any other system that works for you.    They are GREAT low-pressure and interesting reading activities.    For novices, ask a lot of either/or questions.    You will learn a ton about your students and they get in a lot of reading!   
  1. Use the response to create readings or slide shows.   (See upcoming post for more ideas.)   They don’t have to be long.  They don’t have to violate anyone’s privacy.   Yet, they will be personalized and interesting to your students.
  1. If you know how to record yourself, consider reading the pieces and recording it so that students can see and hear the text at the same time.  Voices are very powerful and hearing your voice will light up their brains! 
  1. Schedule announcements or emails to go to students daily.  Short ones!  That aren’t an assignment!  I love sending memes and pictures.   These say, “I’m thinking about you.”  They say “Life is hard, here is a smile.”  They say, “Hope to see you soon.”
  1. Don’t be afraid to share stories and pictures about your own life from time to time.  
  1. The quality is about the content, not the length or the difficulty.   

Maybe you already have all of this figured out.  Hugs if you do!!!!!  

Just remember, right now there is no good vs bad.  There is kind (to myself and others) versus  unkind (to myself and others).  This is a time to focus on what we can do and what we appreciate…..even if it seems small.  I promise you, it will make a big difference.

With love,

Laurie

Shhh…Don’t tell 2020 I’m back in the classroom!

Hello friends!

I know, it’s been a while….and if you are reading this, I’m grateful.   Where am I?  I’m in Baton Rouge, Louisiana!!   I’ve been living here since August 1 and hope to be here for a while.   Last fall I accepted a sub position for a maternity leave in Austin, Texas.  By January I knew that I really wanted to be back in the classroom full-time for a while….if I could find the right fit.    With the advice and support of many of you, I found my way to an independent day school here in Baton Rouge.  

We’ve been in the classroom since August 7th and yes….it is a very different world in many ways!   First, I need to say that the staff, students, parents and administration have been very helpful, supportive and welcoming!   It is OVERWHELMING to start at a new school.  I’ve done it a number of times (3 times in the past 4 years actually!) and it takes a while to get the details straightened it.  (the hundreds of thousands of details!)

I have two classes of 7th graders (second half of Spanish 1), and three classes of 8th graders (Intro to Spanish 2 and Spanish 2).   I also have a homeroom/study hall with 7th graders and advisory (which we haven’t started yet.)   It’s a rotating block schedule with 4 classes per day and an A-G day schedule.  I have a page printed out for each and every day on my wall or I have NO idea what kids I’ll see!   It’s actually already starting to make sense and feel normal but those schedules are never “natural” if you know I mean!!

Things I love about being here:

  • Crepe myrtle trees
  • Passing thunderstorms
  • A beautiful view from my classroom and my apartment
  • Having to go outside to go anywhere on campus
  • Students who say “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am”
  • THE FOOD!  (On and off campus!)
  • The diversity of this city
  • My colleagues

Things I am learning to appreciate:

  • Canvas  (a bit of a learning curve for me!)
  • Loom
  • Google Teams
  • A slower pace 
  • Using pool noodles as a social distancing visual

With love,

Laurie

School Closed? Need Resources? Not on Facebook?

Just in case you are not on Facebook, but could really use some support preparing for (actual or possible) days out of the classroom due to COVID-19, here are some sites that have been sharing FREE activities for you to use. Note: I have not yet checked out each one in depth, so hopefully they really are free. As always, we will have to adjust for our own students!

Voces® Digital

The Comprehensible Classroom

CI for French Teachers Articles Videos

Fluency Matters

Maris Hawkins

If you have, or know of, any other resources, please consider sharing!

with love,

Laurie

CI Savvy: Wisdom from the K-5 Classroom

If you are available Tuesday MARCH 17 (NEW DATE!!) at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, please join me for a free one-hour webinar! Thanks to VOCES /Digital / Teacher’s for sponsoring this series!!

Check in/sign up here: CI Savvy with Laurie Clarcq

Check back for information afterwards! There will be a link where you can re-watch the webinar or see it if you missed it!

Speaking of things you may have missed……Here is the link to a webinar I did for VOCES/ Teacher’s Discovery in the fall. I hope to be writing some Watch and Wonder posts about sections of it this month!!

PS If you are watching me on Comprehensible Online right now, don’t forget to leave me a message….I’d love to hear from you!!

Success Squares

This is an activity that does a great deal in a short period of time!  It’s easy, can be done several ways, and is helpful for teachers and students.  Win Win!!

Start by creating several squares or rectangles on a whiteboard or computer-projected document.  I usually start with four and build from there. As you can see below, I label each square with a question word.   (Usually in the target language, but in English below for my readers.

I have students create one as well. ( Use small white boards, index cards, or print a sheet/half-sheet out for them in advance.)  

In the Who? Block, I ask students to list the names of two people/characters (actual or fictional, present-day or historical, human or not) that they admire that are positive role-models.  I often use Harriet Tubman as an example. They are given 2-3 minutes to think of names. Then I have them share with a partner and “harvest” on to their own list any of the names they agree with.  The pairs then match up with another pair and repeat the process on my signal.

At that point,  each group can share out their ideas and we create one large list together from their suggestions.   

We then repeat the process for the other squares. 

Directions:

Where:   List school-appropriate places where your students like to be/go or would like to be/go.  With novice groups, proper names (Starbucks, Disneyland etc) are used. With groups with more language, we add the target language tag (el café Starbucks) to the proper name.  The proper name is important for interest! If your students know the target language name for a culturally-related place (countries, cities, landmarks), fantastic! The key here is places that are high-interest for your students!

It is amazing what you discover about your students during this exercise!!  Be careful accepting names and places that you don’t recognize. Set them aside on a “To Google Later” list!!!  Sly students like to try to slip those past us!

What:  

1. List items that can be recognized by the proper name.  This one usually requires teacher support to get started:  

Food/Drink:   Coke, Mountain Dew, Orangina, Milky Way, Doritos, etc.  Cognate-friendly languages can also use those ie: pizza, chocolate or more universal terms:  crepes, tacos.

Technology: Ipad, Mac, Iphone, remote, Facebook, Insta, Minecraft, Playstation, Fortnite  etc.

Shoes:  Nikes, Toms, etc.

Transportation:  Segway, Porsche, Tesla, Schwinn, Greyhound, local metro or lightrail (BART etc.)

Highly-recognizable Animals:  Chihuahua, Condor, Gorilla, etc

2 Actions that students know in the target language:

TPR’d terms are the easiest to start with: walk, run, sit, stand, looks at/for, points to, dances, eats, drinks, sings, takes, takes pictures of, etc.

How:  Because many teachers use TPR, these are interesting and accessible terms for many classes:  Slowly/Quickly, Romantically, Without interest, Intensely, Carefully, Like a baby etc.

When compiled, we have a gorgeous, student-created, highly personalized list of things to use in discussions, stories, etc.  We can create one list to use with all classes, or create one for each level/class.

It can be printed in large font, or hand-written on poster paper (students love this job!)  It can be printed out for notebooks or projected on a screen. It can be done with words or in picture form for pre-literate students of any age.

This way it is visible whenever needed and it makes asking questions, personalizing discussions and co-creating stories so much easier!!

Look below for some examples. These are from this year’s Comprehensible Online presentation. Any questions?  Just ask!!

With love,

Laurie

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