I really wanted to title this post: You do you*, but I felt that my last slogan title may have been too click baity. I didn’t want ALL of my titles to be misleading or become too reliant on the pop culture (which I love.) Without much more ado, I want to encourage you to recognize what is possible within your own teaching while appreciating your progress… with some caveats!
There are a lot of trends in world language teaching. Many teachers are ditching textbooks, ditching homework, ditching desks, ditching bellringers, ditching traditional assessments, and the list goes on. You cannot do all of this and stay sane! If you had told me when I started teaching that I would be ditching textbooks and bellringers, I wouldn’t have believed you. But even as I continue to evolve as a teacher, I do not see myself going deskless… at least not any time soon. Technology is a big part of my class, and it is annoying to use a computer without a desk. Right now, it isn’t in the cards for me.
However, I felt the same way when I read Sara-Elizabeth’s post about primacy and recency- which eventually lead to my ditching of bellringers. She posted it a good three years before I decided to switch how I ran my classroom. I stuck with bellringers, and they worked for me… until I reached a point that they weren’t working for me. If you still love bellringers and they work for you, keep them! I promise that I do not think of anyone as a bad teacher if they have a bellringer at the beginning of their class- I doubt anyone does! All I ask (and my asterisk here) is that you consider the alternative. Maybe a month, three months (or in my case three years), it will make sense for you. That is what reading blogs does for me. It gives me a way to look at others’ classrooms, reflect and decide how it works for me.
I could wax poetic about some of the other things I didn’t think I would do: Twitter (I always forgot to use #langchat on my first few Thursday night chats), or even teach a blended class (I don’t think I knew what that meant and did not like the online classes that I saw) etc, but I think you know your own list of ideas that you didn’t think you would ever do. As I said before, you have to do what makes YOU and YOUR STUDENTS comfortable… with a few additions. I believe that there are a few tenets that all teachers should follow to truly be reflective practitioners:
- Connect to someone! It doesn’t have to be through Twitter or blogs (although if you are reading mine, I assume that you believe in PD via blogs!) Connect through Facebook. I have ended up with some great ideas through the recent Facebook groups that I have joined. Or- meet up with another teacher for coffee in your building. Talk to a teacher that doesn’t teach world languages. Meet up with someone else in your district or another local district. The point is to get out and talk to someone else about FL teaching or best teaching practices in general.
- Reflect on what you are doing. You may not reflect every day, but reflect more often than is required by your school. After you finish each unit perhaps, think about what works and what doesn’t work. Think of at least one small tweak that you could change for the next year.
- Even though you don’t have to make HUGE changes, use your reflections to try a small change (my personal favorite!) Try ditching the bellringer once or twice in a week to see what happens. Try throwing away part of the textbook unit that you hate to teach before throwing out the whole book. (Camping unit, I am looking at you still! Also- all that airport vocabulary… no one needs to memorize the word in Spanish for oxygen mask.) Try Free Voluntary Reading for five minutes at the beginning of class with some of Mike Peto’s tips. If you always try structured input, give one word images a try a few times. For me, this is how bigger changes happen. Two years ago, I managed to use an interpersonal bootcamp twice. Last year, I used it much more because it was successful the previous times.
- When you do make changes, make sure you change it because it isn’t working for you and your students and make sure you base it in research. You are the teacher, and you are the expert on your classes. You can see what is working for you and what isn’t. Make sure that your changes are based on research based practices. I love blogs such as Sara-Elizabeth’s and Gianfranco’s blog which base much of their study on research.
Most teachers do this! They connect with other teachers, reflect and make small changes based on research. After that- you do you! If the textbook still works for you or you are not in a place to tackle that beast, don’t! If you are like me, and you are pretty happy to keep your desks/tables, keep them in place! As long as you continue to connect and make small changes, the rest will fall into place. Too many teachers try too much and then revert back to their comfort zone or give up on teaching. I believe that you can have a balance and still find your way. I hope that my blog helps you find your way without feeling like you must teach or be like me. My ultimate goal is to let you know what worked for me, what I have learned and things I am pondering.