It may be because I am finishing up 10 years of teaching, but I have started to become sentimental and thankful for everyone who made me into the teacher that I am today. For awhile, I wanted to start with my mentor teacher and hopefully include some advice that will inspire others who are mentor teachers.
My mentor teacher was Rebecca Smith at Fluvanna County High School. We taught Spanish 3 for a semester. I was even luckier because it was a 4×4 block, so I was able to see a whole “year” so to speak in a semester. She was also pregnant, so I was able to finish out the semester with the students too. (And she would always bring me the best breakfast biscuits… but that was a side perk!)
She was such a wonderful mentor teacher because she always made everyone feel important. She would take the time to bond with me and with all of her students. Throughout the whole process, she validated my ideas and she would try them out even though I was still in college, and she had been teaching a long time. I would tell her things that I had noticed, and she would answer all of my questions.
Rebecca inspired me to demonstrate my passions to the students. That semester, we took all of the students on a field trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and to a Spanish restaurant in Richmond. To this day, I remember how excited the students were to try all of the new foods. When we got back, another student declared that she too would major in art history. If I wasn’t already, I was hooked on field trips! At the end of the year, the students all signed a Picasso book for me that is still on my bookshelf to this day.
Finally, she was always innovative and a model of what a good teacher is. She was the one who I first saw use Play-doh in the classroom. She had presented on how to use stations. We would discuss what I had learned and what she had practiced. She was always willing to try something new. She still brings in amazing community members today. She brought in a local Hispanic dance troupe to her school through grants. To this day, I am thankful and remember her amazing guidance as my first mentor teacher.
As I mentioned on Friday, my friend Matt Frattali has a series on YouTube called Friend Friday where he talks to different educators every week. Jonathan mentioned two weeks ago that he goes on an appreciation walk. I loved that idea and decided to implement it this week- with a little spin!
Last year, I was fortunate to teach my blended class in with my Latin friend Kristin who made the awesome bulletin board on my blog. She was great to bounce ideas off of and just talk to about life. Now that I don’t get to teach in her room, I don’t see her as much. She was my perfect partner in crime for this appreciation walk!
During the walk, we talked about positive things that were happening in our classes. She is implementing a new Latin curriculum with more talking, and her students were reacting very positively to it! I am excited about my new proficiency based curriculum and being able to continually increase my use of comprehensible input.
Then, we talked to all of the other teachers we ran into. We offered a piece of chocolate and asked them to share their best part of their week. It ranged from the weather, to the insights of 7th graders to a new video up on our website! Our walk only took half of a class, so you could easily implement this in your day and still have time to plan! And I bet you will be much more productive after your walk and fresh air. What was the best part of your week?
I think I will blame it on the earlier Spring Break/Easter combination, but this has seemed like a very long May! The rain has NOT helped one bit, and I am tired of being cold and wet. Here are some of my May confessions (even though we have classes until June 10) inspired by Allison!
- A fellow teacher noticed that at school it isn’t a race to the end, but it is sprint marathon after sprint marathon. I agree, and I pretty much cannot run a 5k currently.
- I have to say that I am pretty good at grading tests/quizzes the first go round… but make-up tests/quizzes! Oh the make-ups! They always end up being pushed to the next day.
- I have been inspired by creating a telenovela unit, but normally the end of the year doesn’t get revamped as often as the rest of the year.
- On Fridays, I organize my desk because I teach all 5 classes that day and by the end of the day, I can pretty much only shuffle papers and throw away papers. Last Friday, I put my small computer charger to carry around to my different classrooms on my bookshelf. This WHOLE past week, I thought I lost it. Finally, this Friday, I found it. On my bookshelf. In plain sight.
- Speaking of organization, I just throw worksheets into binders by class somewhat divided by topic. And then wonder why it takes me so long to find these activities later.
- Obviously, my summer plans revolve around organization in general.
- In general, I am not one of those teachers who knows exactly how many students I have. I always make extra copies of EVERYTHING. (That is why I have to throw away so many papers by the end of the week.)
- I am secretly jealous of people who carry around water bottles and drink a ton of water every day. That is always my goal, but it is never me!
- Blogging keeps me current and sane…
- But! There were some things that I blogged about and planned to do, but I didn’t even get to this year… I am looking at you selfie stick lesson!
As I sit here ready to go to the Freshman Dinner for the 9th grade, I have been reflecting this week on what they never tell you before you become a teacher. I became a teacher because I wanted to spice up the way students learned a language. I was living in Spain thinking about how wonderful it is and wanting students to experience it. I really did not think about how much working with students would affect me.
Even though I started working with students, they were still abstract to me. I was not a babysitter, and I really did not have a lot of experience working with children. I wanted to teach Spanish because I loved Spanish. While that in and of itself is good, that is not why I keep teaching.
Each day, I wake up, and I realize how blessed I am to work with these students. They are pretty amazing. They are kind. They are funny. They are creative. They are learning. They ask interesting questions. They all look at the world in a different light. I enjoy our conversations each day. I want to teach ALL of them. I am sad when they move on to another teacher, but I am excited to get to teach some more students and get to know them better. When they tell me that they wish I was their teacher, I sincerely do as well.
When I was studying to become a teacher, I did not realize that I would want the best for each of my students. If they are upset, I am upset too. I get frustrated when my students are not treated well by life or by others. When they succeed, I am so proud. I cannot express the joy I feel to watch students perform at a pep rally, game or musical. I am happy for the rest of the day to see my students doing something so well. It has been a blessing to be let into their lives. I am so thankful to the parents for letting me teach their children.
To future teachers, I hope that you definitely learn everything that you can while you are studying, but I hope that you remember that the best part is on the other side- and that is the relationships that you will build with all of your students. Even though I have tried to capture it here, I do not think that I cannot adequately do so. This is what I remember on the long, frustrating days. This is why I teach.
As I have said before, this year, I have started sharing a room. It is definitely a change. Plus, the question remains do you stay in the room when the other teacher is teaching? (Is it just me? Do other people have that question?) At this point, I do stay in the room for the most part. I teach in three different rooms, so it is nice to just be at my desk without having to pack everything up AGAIN and try to remember what I need ANOTHER TIME.
I have to say, it is a really great thing. I teach differently from the other teacher in my room; we do teach Spanish II together though. He is really great at explaining vocabulary in Spanish on the spot. I have to plan it out, but I am getting better! He is also really good at asking questions of students on the spot. I am again a planner with this. It is really nice to watch another teacher even if you will not do everything alike.
The other day, we were discussing how I used Voicethread for my speaking assessment. He asked if I thought about Google Voice. Um, hello! I had set up an account awhile ago, but it is something that I just don’t think about. He is going to use it with his class. It may solve all of my problems that I was having after my speaking assessment.
Even though we have worked together, this is the first time that we have truly collaborated. I am aware that this is not the situation for everyone, but I would like to suggest that more teachers share rooms more often. And if you are, try to think about what you can get out of sharing a classroom with someone. What is the best part of sharing a room with someone for you?
I am feeling reflective this weekend, and I wanted to participate in Laura‘s amazing sentence starter activity.
- I am a good teacher because: I collaborate, and I have hobbies. I think it is so important to collaborate and share with other teachers, and I am happy to use their ideas as well. I also love getting feedback and have invited numerous teachers into my classroom. Also, I think it is so important to have hobbies and a life outside of the classroom. I make time to cook and go to yoga class. This helps me to be calmer in the classroom.
- If I weren’t a teacher, I would be: an art museum curator! I studied art history, and I loved it. I love being in museums and want to be a docent when I retire. I can’t wait for my son to go to art museums with me this summer- and in DC, they are all free!
- My teaching style is: varied. I like to use different activities and try different ones. While I start class the same way, each of my classes are different. I feel that this keeps the students and me interested. (You may be able to tell from my blog style!)
- My classroom is: a portable. (We call them learning cottages.) It is the nicest one that I have seen. I have lots of windows and control the heat/AC, but when it is freezing in the winter, I hate walking to it!
- My lesson plans are: always written down, but probably on a sticky note. I need to organize my system more, so I save time each year. But I like changing things up each time. (See question 3!)
- One of my teaching goals is: to continue to move away from the textbook. I am in a weird place now because I use the textbook, and my students have to buy it. I want to make it worth their money, but at the same time, I find myself moving farther away from it.
- The toughest part of teaching is: wanting to create, create, create but not always feeling creative- or not having the time. I love when I come up with a good story. I steal a lot of Martina’s stories. Sometimes I want to create a good story… and I just can’t. Or I keep trying to find inspiration… and it is time to go home. (And the after school meetings! Oh those meetings…)
- The thing I love most about teaching is: my students. I love watching them transform and learn throughout the year. Since I teach at a 2-12 school, it is wonderful to continue to see them throughout the following years. They make me laugh and keep me on my toes.
- A common misconception about (Spanish) teaching: is that you can give students SO MUCH material, and they will be able to retain it and use it well. I am looking at you ridiculously long vocabulary list! I want to prepare my students for the following year, but I also get frustrated because it is so much material to get through. (I stole the Spanish from Señor Fernie!)
- The most important thing that I have learned since I started teaching is: keep trying to improve a little every day. You don’t have to conquer the world (or the Spanish language), but try something new every day. This will help you improve as a teacher. (And know that some days, you just won’t- but the next day is a new day!) I feel that I have done this with speaking Spanish in the class. It was always one of my goals, and slowly but surely feel that I am increasing my time in the TL and how much my students understand.
Join into Laura’s post!
Many people discuss the role of mommy bloggers and Pinterest. People say that it puts too much pressure on moms to fix a home cooked meal, maintain a perfectly organized house (and using homemade natural cleaners at that!) all while making sensory boxes for your child! It seems excessive. However, it made me think about the role of teacher bloggers. Many times, bloggers post their perfect lessons with their perfectly organized classroom. Their students appear to be engaged for the most part, and teachers never use *gasp* the textbook!!
In some ways, I feel that I fall victim to this. I rarely blog about my failures- for multiple reasons. One is because I want this to be a portfolio. You worry that people think less of you if you are constantly posting failures. Since my full name is attached to it, that makes it even more obvious for parents, students or future employers. (Although I know that my students probably do not read my blog!) I also feel that I figure people read my blog to get ideas that work- not ones that don’t.
Today I thought I would post some things that I wished I did better:
1. I still use the textbook. I mostly use it for warm up, homework and structure. I want to break away from it more, but I honestly believe that many of my students benefit from the structure it provides.
2. I want to write more stories and news articles in Spanish. This always appears on my to do list, but it gets pushed down each week.
3. I wish I figured out oral speaking tasks better. Some of the kids are motivated but others fall short, and it becomes teacher directed. Also if I am doing an oral assessment, I can’t figure out how to have the other kids working on a worthwhile task quietly.
4. I can’t seem to figure out how to put together an IPA, but it is one of my goals.
Do others agree? Do you feel pressure after reading blogs or are you just happy for the ideas? I’d love to start this discussion.
Do you know a teacher in your life in your family? Stumped on what to get her? Here are some of the items that I love receiving and some that are on my family wish list this year:
- I LOVE Sanuks! True story: I even played dodgeball in them at school. They are a little casual though. Now they have Sanuk ballet flats, so I can wear them to school every day!
- Anthropologie is my favorite store. They have a lot of great clothes to wear to school and around town. I always check out the sale items. A gift card is always great here. I also get a lot of my teacher clothes at Loft or J Crew Factory. (Plus at Loft and J Crew, they have a teacher discount!) Those would work too especially if you do not have an Anthropologie close to you.
- Slow cookers are great for long work days. This new version has the ability to brown the meat first. Dishes taste much better after browning. Make sure the teacher in your life really loves to cook though! I love getting kitchen gifts, but not everyone feels that way.
- The Curly Girl wall calendar is always my gift to myself. I even cut pictures out and hang them in my class the next year.
- Colorful pens are always fun and a good stocking stuffer. They are more expensive than you think! (Or you could go with the classic lottery ticket in hopes of winning it big!)
- If I was going to add a book to my list (which I am not because I still have a book to read from last Christmas!) I would add Death at Chateau Bremont. I am a sucker for a good mystery! I love all of Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country Mysteries. They take place in Virginia, too.
What did I miss? What is on your holiday wish list?
As I am preparing for a new school year, it is so important to take time out to get your home and self ready for school. The first month is so hectic, and you are exhausted! Here are some ways that I get ready for school to start:
-I emptied the pantry, fridge, and freezer of everything that had expired. My husband’s nose is pretty good when I need to get rid of something stinky, but there are a few things that don’t smell and just sit there… and sit there.
-I do all of my laundry. I hate laundry. I am notorious for continually starting the dryer until I remember to take the clothes out in time. (I may be currently doing this while writing this post!) It is so helpful to have all of your laundry done before it becomes a huge mound in the laundry basket… or baskets in my case.
-The one thing that I am really good at is shopping for the meals a week in advance. Sometimes, I am even so good, I prepare some of them on Sunday. These are my favorite go to recipes for my hectic life:
Hopefully this helps you get back into the swing of school life! And thanks for sticking with me through the very long tour of my cooking life.
I haven’t blogged on Sunday recently, but I recently saw this post from We Are Teachers about the Top Ten List for teachers to do this summer. It is great- especially the Target one! Here is my top ten for the summer:
1. Go to the beach! I grew up by the beach, and this is a necessity for me. (You can sub the pool though!)
2. Go out to lunch (and have a glass of wine if that suits you!) I am always jealous of people who have work lunches when sometimes I barely have time to use the bathroom during my lunch break. I sit with my students which is great, but it means I must be in lunch every day. Having a leisurely lunch is so amazing.
3. Visit a museum or zoo. I love being able to take the metro into DC and visit all of the museums that I want to go to during the year.
4. Consider a professional development that is not specifically tailored to your discipline. I loved taking an art PD recently.
5. Stay up past 9:30 pm! (Is this just me?!)
6. Go to the doctor/dentist/hair stylist. (Is this just me still?!)
7. Take a nap… or lots of naps! I am very lucky that my baby is a good napper, and he takes after his mother.
8. Go to a farmer’s market… a lot! Is there anything better than good summer produce?
9. Catch up on my non-teaching blogs- How Sweet Eats, Young House Love- you are calling my name!
10. Go back to yoga and try that barre class that everyone is talking about- it is finally not 30 minutes away from me!
What is on your list? Is summer already here for you? …wait, don’t answer that last one!