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Output for a Purpose (not Acquisition) Archived Post 5.18.10

(originally posted 5/18/10)

It was a lot of fun.  :o)  A little background…this is the week that our seniors finish a year-long endeavor known as THE SENIOR PROJECT.  It culminates in all 120+ kids arranged with display boards explaining their research and results to the general public.  They are “on” for six hours, talking to strangers about their research and conclusions.  There are a lot of steps involved in being prepared and they are all about to tear their hair out before it’s done.

So yesterday, the day before the BIG EVENT, we had a Whiner Day to kick off Whiner Week.     I put about twenty-five “whining/complaining expressions” on the SmartBoard.  They each had about five minutes to create a mini-graffiti wall about the topic of their choice.   As seniors, they had a number of topics to choose from!    (I played some edgy rock in the background while they created)

Round one:

Each senior found a partner and stood face to face.  They showed their Whiner Wall to their partner.  Each student got sixty seconds to whine.    The partner had to respond to each complaint in Spanish with an “I know”  “Oh yeah”  “I agree”  “What a shame” etc.

Round two:  (you can change partners but my kids were just warming up so I let them keep their original partner)

Each senior took one giant step backwards.   They held up their Whiner Walls and had 45 seconds to whine again.  (of course, it had to be louder since now they were farther apart!)  They alternated with their partner using responses.

Round three:

Each senior took another giant step backwards.  This time they had 30 seconds to whine/complain…again…upping the volume.They alternated with their partner using responses.

Round four:

Each senior took another giant step backwards and AT THE SAME TIME whined and complained. for twenty seconds.  By this time, they were really comfortable and pretending to be really mad/upset…it got very very funny!

Round five:

Each senior chose a new partner and sat at at desk…face to face with the partner.   They alternated complaints……First one partner would whine one statement and the partner would respond.  Then the partner would whine one complaint and get a response.    They each complained 7 times.

Round six:

We repeated round five….except…..each time a student complained s/he would pound the desk with both fists.   Five complaints each.

Round seven:

We repeated round six…except…each time a student complained AND each time his/her partner responded, they would pound the desk with both hands.

By the end we were hysterical!  It was a great tension reliever for all of us.  :o)

Output?  Oh yes.  But sometimes you just have to let it out!!

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Output Myths #2 and #3 Post 5.6.10

(originally posted 5/6/10)

Output Myth #3:

The rate at which students begin to comprehend and produce a second language is totally dependent on teacher-controlled issues save three: student motivation, student work, student “ability”-level.    

Therefore:

If all of the students in the class are equally motivated,

(and teachers assume that they should be)

If all of the students in the class complete the same work,

(and teachers assume that they should have)

and

If all of the students in the class are perceived to have the same academic skill level,

(and teachers assume that students are either “teachable” or “not teachable”.)

then they will all accomplish/learn the same material at the same rate.

Therefore:

those who do as requested/planned will earn A’s and those who do not will earn F’s.

and

those who do as requested/planned and do NOT earn A’s are less intelligent than those who receive A’s,

and

students who have earned A’s will know more and be able to produce better language than students who have earned F’s.

Although I thought so for many years………………none of the above is true.

Myth #3:

Saying a word or phrase over and over and over again is the surest way to learn it.

I’d like to share a story from 2000 ( I think….) when I attended my first workshop with Susie Gross.  It was the end of day two and we had been working with a select group of words for about 16 hours.   For whatever reason, the group could NOT produce the phrase le vert d’eau (the glass of water …please excuse any sp/agreement errors…I haven’t used the phrase since…).

How hard could it be???????!!!!!!!!!!!  We were ALL experienced language teachers.  We had heard Susie use it over and over and over and over again.  Someone suggested that we had not “acquired” the word because we really hadn’t had to use it.  We needed to say it. Over and over and over and over.

Susie said, “NO.”   The room got very quiet.  “I don’t believe in that any longer.   I haven’t used it often enough, comprehensibly enough for you all.  That’s all.”   I didn’t believe her.  I don’t know if anyone in the room believed her.

And she began another story…which I don’t remember at all…except that I do remember her somehow inserting “le vert d’eau” in there a bazillion times.    Finally…….it clicked.   And le vert d’eau was in our lexicon.  Just like that.  And it was still there the next morning.  And it’s still there a decade later.  And I definitely don’t go around saying it out loud.  At all.

Then there is the word “escaparate”  (shop window).   I learned it in grade 9.   I never said it out loud once in high school (although I really wanted to tee hee it’s a fun word…escaparate!  like pamplemousse!!  ).   I never used it in college.  Then, when I was in Spain for a semester….there it was..in my brain…totally ready to use!!!  Too bad I couldn’t remember a single one of the question words…..which I KNOW I had to use over and over again in high school and college.  In context.   Still couldn’t remember them….

Still….I spent many years creating activities which gave students plenty of opportunities to say things in Spanish.   Games and role-plays and projects and skits and all kinds of well-conceived, well-written, well-rubricked, totally ineffective activities…..that did not help students to acquire any kind of language for the long run.with love,

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Output Myth #1 Archived Post 5.5.10

(originally posted 5/5/10)

I normally do not “attack” any kind of language program.  It’s not something I am usually comfortable with.  However….one of the enormous frustrations of teachers is their students’ inability to speak and / or write with confidence and fluency.    I do believe that traditional second-language instruction attitudes are to blame.   This conversation  on Ben’s blog got me thinking again…..I wrote a fairly long response there, but would like to rewrite and break it down here…I started with the first myth I think exist and I broke it down.  In italics are the teacher’s words/thoughts/etc. when the myth starts to disintegrate into reality….

The Output Myths  (and their implications) of a non-Comprehesion-based Program

  1.    A student learns to comprehend and to produce language at the same rate.
  • Students are given a list of targeted vocabulary and grammatical structures for each unit.  The end-of-unit-evaluations will require students to comprehend written and spoken material using this vocabulary.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will also be expected to produce, with few to no errors, in speech and in writing, in contextually-appropriate, but contrived, situations.

Why do they have to stop and think about what to say?  We wrote these in dialogues and practiced them in skits.  Why can’t they just spit it out?They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Teachers know exactly how long it should take for students to master these items.

I have 9 units to complete in 10 months.   If I subtract time for review, testing and vacations that comes down to three weeks per unit.  They’ll have to study.

  • Teachers will plan instruction, practice and evaluation according to this knowledge.

If we can’t get to everything in class, then I’ll just have to assign it for homework.  They’d better put in the time and study.

  • Students who do not succeed in mastering these items, in the alloted time frame,  are considered responsible for their failure to do so.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will be expected to be able to recognize and to produce this list of items at all times once the unit is completed (even those who were unsuccessful during the unit.)

We studied this material for almost a month in ninth grade!   They should know it by now!!

Sound familiar???????????  These italicized thoughts/comments are so much a part of the “My Kids Won’t Do Work” litany that they seem NORMAL for people to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s just not right.

For those of you who are wondering……that is why I am so drawn to CI programs.    There is no place for these complaints because the system is simply different.   And it works.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Windows and Doors Archived Post 4.29.10

(originally posted 4/29/10)

At one point I considered naming this website “Wide Open Windows”.    I love the idea of flinging the windows open and changing the view, the perspective, the very air inside of a room with one movement.   In truth, there are many little steps that take place before windows, or doors, open….and we are often not aware of them at all.  So, when the light and air come peeking, or rushing, in it truly takes us by surprise…..and oh did I see that happen this week!!

Earlier this week I wrote a blog  about getting past adolescent armor.    Here is a piece from it:

“I never really know what will be the key that opens a student up.  Sometimes it is something that we do in class: a story, a poem, a movie, a song, a current event.  Other times it is casual observance of a tshirt design, a new pair of shoes, a sketch on the front of a book cover.   Occasionally it is an item in my classroom…this year the fans that I brought back from Spain have opened up many doors of conversation.  Rarely, if ever, am I the one that opens the door.  It is almost always the student who shows me, if only for a tiny instant, a glimpse beyond the armor. ”

Sure enough, since I wrote that two different students reached out and turned the handle on the door….even if just a bit.   One of them is a young man who has planned all year to drop out at age 16.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn 16 this year.     So, for him, this year has been one long vacuum.   He is one of those students who will literally just sit….and do absolutely nothing.   His teachers, parents and counselors have been trying to sell him the merits of at least working for a GED….but he hasn’t shown much interest…only disdain.    In Spanish 1 we have been watching Selena and for one period we did a webquest about the singer.   I was surprised to see that he had logged in to a website and was reading.   Halfway through the period he starts waving his hand wildly and called me over.  “Hey Profe!”  This in itself is unusual.  :o)  “Did you know that Selena got a GED diploma?  That’s cool.  There she was, getting rich and famous and all and she still decided to do it.”     Oh yes, very cool.

The second student shouldn’t really be in my Spanish 1 class.   He was only in the 8th grade program for a few months before he wa pulled out to prepare for the grade 8 ELA tests….so….he had about 10 weeks of Spanish while the rest of my students had 40 weeks before they started class with me this year.    One of his best friends in class is another student like the one I described above.    The other left the district about two months ago.   This kid tries very hard to be invisible in my room.   He doesn’t offer eyes to teach to, conversation to interact with or even a response some days.   He also called me over to show me something during the webquest, however, it was not anything on the monitor.    He pulled the barrel of a paintball gun out of his backpack.   (It’s a plastic tube, but I have two paintball-playing sons so I recognized it)  He wanted to show me how he had “painted” the piece with black and green Sharpies to make it look camouflaged.   We chatted about paintball for a minute, then he got to work on the webquest.

Two students who prefer not to engage.  Two students who try hard not to get involved.  Two students offering me a connection.  A few years ago I would have dismissed those moments as meaningless.   A few years ago I didn’t understand the amount of work and effort (on their part) that it took to get to that tiny first step.   A few years ago I had no idea of the power of an interaction initiated by a student.  A few years ago I thought it was attitude rather than armor.  A few years ago I would have missed two opportunities.  Open doors.  Open windows.  I’ll take them.  I’m glad that I had written about them earlier this week, or I might have missed these two moments.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

What You See Part 2 …Archived Post 4.27.10

(originally posted 4/27/10)

He was an athlete, a talented one.  He had a wise-ass attitude towards most adults, particularly those in authority.  He attended school often enough to stay eligible to play sports, but not any more than he needed to.   He smoked a lot of pot.   He didn’t hand work in on time…when he did it.  He was not voted most likely to succeed.

He now owns a highly-successful construction firm.  He bought his first house the summer he graduated from high school.  He owns a number of rental properties.  He stopped smoking pot when he saw how his pot-smoking employees made a mess of things.  He often hires men that are on parole or probation and gives them a second chance at life.  He is a devoted and responsible dad.   I’d say he is a success.

She was the snottiest student most teachers had ever encountered.  She had a small but very loyal group of friends.  She absolutely refused to work with anyone else…ever.    She was condescending.   She had a look that could flatten you.   She always gave the impression that she was smarter, prettier, better than everyone else….and that you had better treat her that way.   She questioned every grade.    She quietly insulted people.   She was not voted most likely to succeed.

She is now pursuing a Ph.D at one of the most prestigious universities in America.   She spends enormous amounts of her spare time advocating for the poor in Rwanda.   She travels to Africa and back several times a year, even volunteering to live in huts and use outhouses.    She raises money to help young men combat hunger and poor nutrition.  She makes presentations in churches and schools about her mission.  I’d say that she is a success.

 

He was a kid who made friends easily.  Maybe too easily.   It was often difficult for him to be quiet in class when the teacher was speaking.  He spent a lot of time checking with his friends to make sure that they were getting the information.  He hated to read….in fact, he didn’t really start reading until the summer between third and fourth grade.    He got bored easily.   He often got in trouble for defending a friend if a teacher was mean or sarcastic.   He missed enormous amounts of school when he developed a severe anxiety disorder.    He was not even considered likely to succeed.

He is now a prolific reader and owns a library’s worth of books.   He’s won awards for playwriting.   He’s a sophomore in college majoring in business and creative writing…but he really has the heart of a teacher.   He has maintained his friends from high school and has added a new crew as well.   He carries a B+ average and has helped several friends get enrolled at the local community college….kids who were told that they would never be “college material.”   I’d say that he is a success.

She was raised by a dad who was a drug addict and left to fend for herself even as a preschooler.   She was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment in her junior year of high school.    She had to redo the entire year.   She didn’t have running water.   She rarely had new clothes, a real haircut or a vacation.   She had few friends in school.    She wore caution tape for a belt.     She was considered far from likely to succeed.

She is graduating from a top-notch four year college with a double major in psychology and philosophy.    She has worked with professors at Brown and Harvard.   She works with young women who are trying to get off of the streets.    She spent a summer as a camp counselor for young people with a myriad of social and psychological problems.   She gave her brother a computer as a high school graduation present.     She has been accepted by the University of Edinburgh (in Scotland, among other schools) for a Master’s program in Philosophy.    She has an entire group of friends whom she will miss dearly….and will most certainly miss her.   I’d say that she is a success.

I could go on and on.   One has traveled the world, earned a Master’s degree in Biology, routinely supports family members in need and hopes someday to become an MD.    One is working his way through college to earn a degree in Italian.  One is a wonderful family man in South Dakota, an active and amazing part of his community.   One is a gifted musician, producing her own CD’s, appearing in cafe’s around the city, working with the developmentally disabled and in a loving relationship with a dear man and two miniature dachsunds.   One is a loving, hard-working single teen mom working her way through college…..without the help of her mother.   One is a soldier stationed in Germany.   None of them were considered “a success” in high school.    They are all real, wonderful, amazing people.

Don’t let adolescent challenges, armor, attitudes and family situations fool you.   What you see is rarely what you get.

 

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

What You See Part 1 Archived Post…4.26.10

(originally posted 4/26/10)

(Please remember that I am working out my thoughts as I write…not necessarily preaching a sermon!!!)

A number of years ago I wrote a piece for the moretprs list about kids with “attitude.”   Lots of things have changed in a decade, but the fact that adolescents often have “attitude” has not.  This piece talks about what you see….so I will start with it:

******************************************************************************************************

UNDERSTANDING STUDENTS WITH “ATTITUDE”

Okay ladies and gentlemen…here it is..

We are a threat to hair flippers.

It is a well-developed protection mechanism designed to preserve a lifestyle which focuses on these young ladies’ social strengths…beauty and social position.  Hair flipping is an art and a well-practiced communication device.  It says:

DON’T THREATEN MY WORLD.

Other students have this protection mechanism as well.  Each group has its own:  The Swagger and Swearers, The Smell like Smoke Shufflers, The Eyebrow Raisers,  The Can’t Stop Gigglingers, The Smart Remarkers,The Grunters, The I Still Love Last Year’s Teacherers,  The Eye Rollers, The Incessant Whisperers, and among others..another one of our favorites…The Great Sarcastic Remarkers.

These devices are automatic…particularly at the beginning of the school year when you don’t know them, they don’t know you , and the class doesn’t know each other.  The mechanism says clearly:

THIS IS WHAT I AM COMFORTABLE DOING AND BEING IN FRONT OF OTHERS.  READ MY MECHANISM!!

In our position as language teachers we ask them almost immediately to do things WAY outside of their comfort zone.  It is very very threatening..  It is threatening because:

THEY ARE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. (to them a mistake is NOT always doing something wrong..sometimes it is doing the wrong thing)

THEY DON’T KNOW THEY CAN TRUST US.

THEY WANT TO CONTROL WHAT OTHERS THINK OF THEM.

Deactivating these mechanisms takes love and time.  Be yourself.  Love them. Push gently.  Be patient.  Show them that you are proud of your weird and wonderful and individual self.   They will see you as a role  model…even if they have to be out of their teens before they begin to emulate you.

LOVE AND TIME.

Stuff we all need.

*********************************************************************

I wrote this just as I was beginning my TPRS journey and it resonates even more with me today.  Personalization is so central to TPRS…yet our students often work very hard to cover and protect what is really important to them.  How do we combat that?

First, we accept that they have reasons for their cover.  It really doesn’t matter if we like those reasons or not…what matters is that we acknowledge who/what walks in our door.  How? By treating them as real, regular people…regardless of their hair color, hair cut, number (or location) of piercings, choice of music, addiction to video games etc.

(now…that doesn’t mean that I am advocating the acceptance of foul language, degrading t shirts, pants on the ground et.al)

One of the requirements in my room is that we treat others AS IF they are intelligent, interesting, capable and important.  It is as hard for me, some days, to remember that as it is for my students.  Frankly, they don’t always act intelligent, interesting, capable and important.  I have some students who make an extreme effort NOT to appear to be any of those things….

However, treating them AS IF they are really does work.  In time, using patience, and understanding that they may ultimately work hardest to keep their “cover” in place…but it does work.

It has been much easier to do since I took Susie Gross’ advice to “teach to the eyes” to heart.  It takes them a while to get used to being taught to that way…because it is harder to maintain a cover that way.   But it works….and the cover starts to melt…or at the very least to transform so that it more closely resembles the heart of the adolescent within…and less like the suit of armor that protects it.

I’ve also learned to open my eyes outside of the classroom.  It is amazing how different some students can be outside of my four walls.  I’ve seen spiky-haired, black-rimmed-eyed giants play piggy-back with their younger siblings.  I might see an exquisite water-color displayed that was created by a lineman.  I have had extremely well-coiffed young ladies who can dismantle a four-wheeler…and reassemble it.  I have seen tiny fairy-like creatures kick and run like wildfire on the playing field.  I am constantly surprised by the many facets of students’ interests, abilities and personalities.

I never really know what will be the key that opens a student up.  Sometimes it is something that we do in class: a story, a poem, a movie, a song, a current event.  Other times it is casual observance of a tshirt design, a new pair of shoes, a sketch on the front of a book cover.   Occasionally it is an item in my classroom…this year the fans that I brought back from Spain have opened up many doors of conversation.  Rarely, if ever, am I the one that opens the door.  It is almost always the student who shows me, if only for a tiny instant, a glimpse beyond the armor.

It is my job to be open, ready and PAYING ATTENTION…so that I do not miss it.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Love The Ones You’re With Archived Post …4.24.10

(originally posted 4/24/10)

There is a difference between going in to school every day to teach students who should appreciate us and don’t and going in each day to teach students who don’t appreciate education but have the potential to.

The difference is in the emotional weight of the perspective.   The difference is in the expectations.

When we perceive ourselves as going in every day to teach students who SHOULD appreciate an education, SHOULD  understand the power inherent in knowledge, SHOULD see the value of the work that develops skills, SHOULD thank us for choosing this career and working hard at it, we are placing OUR values and expectations on our students.     When, invariably, our low-achieving students fail to live up to those expectations there is a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger.

So why do they fail?   Because we are teaching the students we think that we SHOULD have….rather than teaching the students we DO have.

Frankly, the students we think that we SHOULD have do not exist.  I don’t care if you teach in an urban, rural or suburban setting.  It doesn’t matter if you teach 40 kids in a class or 14.  If we don’t get to know these students that we have right now, we do not know whom we are teaching.

What I often hear sounds something like this….

These kids don’t know the meaning of work.

These kids don’t do homework.

And so on.

What those folks (and I myself have been one) are REALLY saying is this….

These kids don’t know the meaning of work….AND THEY SHOULD…(like the kids I used to have, like last year’s group, like when I first started teaching, like I did, like my own children would etc. etc.)

These kids don’t do homework…AND THEY SHOULD…(like they would if they were smarter, like they would if their parents gave a damn, like they would if they had had me for a teacher last year etc.)

One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to teach the students we have…not the ones we wish we had.

But unless we stop comparing our students to who we think that they should be, we cannot truly get to know, love and teach the students that we have.

I know that you may not agree with me….but think back to my original post

This is an idea I think it is worthwhile to consider.   Who knows how powerful it could be?   Sometimes it takes just a little tiny turn of the handle to open the door…….

With love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Cleaning House Can Get Ugly Archived Post …4.23.10

(originally posted 4/23/10)

This week I have been cleaning, really really cleaning, out my house in preparation for a move.   It’s not the kind of change we often volunteer for because we know how much needs to be done.   Change is not for the faint of heart.  j

In order to get to a new place, I have had to empty out the old one…or at least get it ready to empty out.   I had to dig deep into the deep dark places that I have resisted looking at and have become good at avoiding.

I had hoped to move earlier, but this delay has had it’s benefits.  I’ve been able to sort through some things, many things actually, and determine their value to me.   (Is this really important enough to take up space in a new place?)

It has become a question that I am asking myself about my teaching as well.   Change is a process and the fact that I started a CI journey ten years ago does not mean that I have arrived at the end of it.    So I have looked at a few things to get rid of….and as usual….a few new ideas have crept in to take their place.

Ideas to Let Go Of….

  • Language must be learned academically.
  • Memorizing the rules and the exceptions to the rules is the PRIMARY prerequisite for success. (i.e. Only “bright” students can learn a language because memorizing rules and vocabulary is required.)
  • The amount of homework assigned and completed has a direct correlation to the ability of the student to be successful.
  • The older students are, the less desire and ability they have to be independent learners.
  • Students and parents do not see an immediate benefit to studying languages and cultures because they are uneducated or inexperienced.
  • Students have been taught by parents and by society to understand that education is a vital and important investment in themselves and their futures.
  • Students who do not invest themselves in school work are making an irrevocably bad decision and should be blamed for their own failures.
  • Students should be expected to rise above a negative situation outside of the classroom. Those who do not have their priorities “messed up.”

Ideas to Try Out…

  • Language is acquired through an intellectual, social and/or emotional interaction via Comprehensible Input.
  • Rules can be identified and utilized when students have a) enough language or b) a natural interest.
  • ANY student can acquire a language.
  • The main reason to memorize rules/exceptions is to perform well on tests required by an external system.
  • Many students who are high school age or younger do not achieve large gains in language acquisition by completing regularly scheduled homework activities.
  • All human beings are naturally independent learners.  Our students teach themselves all the time.    Students who are interested and motivated will continue acquiring language outside of the classroom experience.
  • Students and parents who experience success will be motivated to continue with language study.
  • Students who compare and contrast their personal experiences with the cultural and personal experiences of others are very interested in these topics.
  • MANY children are not raised to see any value in an education.    Some have received no instruction about schooling, others are influenced by their caregivers’ negative experiences and still others are directly instructed that education, particularly past the secondary level has little to no value.     They have also been raised to believe that teachers value education because they want to keep their jobs.  Their suspicion of schools, and of us, is understandable given these circumstances.
  • Students often lack the maturity to prioritize more than two items at any given time.   The item with the most immediate value often is perceived as the item having the most value.

with love,
Laurie

P.S.  Look for more thoughts later on this week…these need to be taken apart….
All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Soulmates Part 2 Archived Post …3.28.10

(originally posted 3/28/10)

Many times our Teaching Soulmates are not located in our own buildings or even in our own districts.   In this day and age, there are so many ways to find and keep in touch with the people who will keep us going.

Locally, look towards your Language Teachers’ Associations.  Several of my closest friends in the world, and my almas gemelas, came from WAFFLE (Wayne-Finger Lakes Foreign Language Educators) and our association with NYSAFLT (New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers).    NYSAFLT conferences have connected me with other kindred souls.

If you haven’t yet been involved with a listserv, there is always FLTEACH  and the moretprs list through Yahoo groups.  At www.moretprs.net you can find a bulletin board-type of forum and all kinds of people to chat with about teaching and life.  How do you find a teaching soulmate here?  By reading posts.  And no, you don’t have to have them all delivering messages to your inbox.  They all allow you to join and read posts on the site itself…without ever having to open a message.

Many people have soulmates on these lists…and have never even communicated with them.    Sometimes a frequent poster has a point of view or way of thinking that sparks your imagination.   You will find yourself drawn to reading his/her posts whenever you need a boost.

Sometimes “lurkers” will send a message ‘offlist” directly to a poster’s email, and an electronic exchange begins.   I have “met” several incredible individuals this way.   Then, of course, sometimes a friendship is sparked by a good old exchange of ideas on the list.  At the annual NYSAFLT, NECTFL, Central States, SWOCLT, ACTFL and other conferences, folks put dots or smileys on their nametags so that they can identify fellow listers (lurkers or not!!)

Some of the most powerful connections have come when someone writes to the group with a need, problem or concern and is rewarded with an outpouring messages, on and off-list, from other teachers.   We are here for each other in a way that is sometimes not possible in our own buildings.

Recently, websites and blogs have created another way to build a family/support system for teaching.  Check out the TPRS map for folks who have volunteered to be mentors!!

There has never been a better time to make a friend…

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Soulmates Archived Post…3.28.10

(originally posted 3/28/10)

Soulmates

Right now teachers are in a tough spot.   We are being flattened by the expectations and criticism of administration, parents, the state, the government, the media and the public.   What we really want to respond to is the needs of our students, but blindfolded, hand-tied and foot-bound by checklists and paperwork, we often feel trapped, immobilized, crushed.   The image I carry around is that of a car crushed into a little cube in the junkyard and treated like scrap, yet being expected to function as a limousine carrying important dignitaries.

It is exhausting, demeaning, frustrating and frankly, impossible.

What will keep us afloat, or drag us down, in these difficult times is each other.

It may be time to approach our interactions at school like we do our Facebook pages.   The folks that whine and complain, point out all of the difficulties and pull us down with them need a Delete button right now.   Not an Erase button….they are still our colleagues.   But a Delete button, that lets us go and visit them from time to time, when we want to……rather than listen to their obviously and continously negative status day after day.

What we need to do, and are rarely equipped to do, is to seek out our teaching soulmates.

We have to do it ourselves.  Although most schools have mentor programs, they are designed to match subject area teachers to assist with curriculum and alignment.   They are NOT designed to match teachers who will feed each other professionally with inspiration and a shared passion for teaching.  How do we do we find those people?

1)  Listen to the students.   Whom do they talk about with respect?    Are there teachers whose activities they are still talking about with enthusiasm when they get to your room?   These are teachers that you may want to get to know better as educational partners.

2)  Look around the building.  Who is displaying student work?  Who is inviting folks to observe student displays, inventions, competitions?

3)  Listen in on classes as you walk by.  I can promise you that incredible things are happening in your building.  We just rarely have the time to notice.  Pick one period a week where you take just 5 minutes and walk around the building and take it in.

4)  Think about the club advisers.  Who is doing cool stuff with the students?  Activities that resonate with your approach to education?

5)  When you are at a conference day at school, sit near people you think may think like you do in order to get to know them better.

In some buildings, it is actually AGAINST the school’s culture to display enthusiasm for learning new things and becoming a better teacher.    If that is the case in your school, believe me, you are not alone.  I have seen it in many places.  I also know that within those schools are deep pockets of dedicated teachers who, in their own corners of the world, are reading journals, keeping blogs, joining professional organizations and changing the world.

There is someone in your building that you can connect with as an “alma gemela” (twin soul!).   It may not be a teacher.  It may be a guidance counselor, a secretary, a custodian, a cafeteria worker, an SRP.   But I can promise you that fostering that professional friendship may keep you sane over the next few years….and be an incredible blessing in your life.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

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