Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Musings On Multiple Intelligences

I have a pet peeve I need to discuss. I get really annoyed when I hear people refer to kids as “stupid,” “dumb,” “not that smart,” or any variation of the above.

Occasionally I hear people express this belief about students, and I wonder how they so easily wield such condemning words with a clear conscience.

I was corrupted early on in my teaching career when I heard about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory and it resonated strongly with what I already believed about human beings and their intelligence and/or potential. (Gardner is a Harvard professor who is recognized as "one of the most influential public intellectuals” in the world. I personally think it behooves those of us in education to follow his research whether we agree with it or not, because he is initiating conversations that we need to participate in. He has a new book out called Five Minds for the Future, outlining his theory about the types of minds that will flourish in the coming decades—those he calls the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind. Check out www.howardgardner.com.)

Teachers sometimes roll their eyes when you bring up multiple intelligences, I suppose because they feel that drum has already been beaten too much, and they fear that it implies yet another layer of work for us in an already-tough-to-keep-up-with job.

It is true that some teachers work at incorporating all eight or nine intelligences into each and every lesson plan. (I say eight or nine intelligences because it depends upon whether you admit spiritual intelligence into the fold. Personally, I say admit them all, and find others. The more ways I can see intelligence and potential in my students, the better I feel about my practice, the better I instill confidence in them, and the better they learn.)

Incorporating all the intelligences would mean every lesson would include something musical, something mathematical, and so on.

I find that type of planning to be mostly too much work for too little gain, but the multiple intelligences theory helps me immensely in my thinking, in my perception of my students, and in my refusal to view any of them as “dumb” or “slow.” I’ve had students who took a long, long time to acquire any usable Spanish, but who could draw amazing artwork or play beautiful guitar music. I don’t feel comfortable labeling such a kid as stupid, because it’s obviously not true.

Someone will say, yeah, but I know people who display no talent for anything at all. My response to that is their potential hasn’t been tapped yet. Maybe nothing difficult has ever been demanded of them, so they haven’t had a chance to show what they would be able to do if given the opportunity to grow in a certain area. Or nothing has piqued their interest yet. As a teacher, I consider it my job to at least attempt to do those two things—challenge students to reach their potential without discouraging them, and pique their interest without assuming all people will love learning a new language.

So, what to do about multiple intelligences in your instruction, on a practical level?

· Believe they exist, look for them in your students

· Bring them out through praise and encouragement

· Vary your planned activities in class

· Allow students to show what they know through various means (not just on the district’s “common assessments”)

I believe that teachers who actively approach their practice from this mindset will feel better about their teaching as well as notice gains in student learning that are well worth the effort.

Just my 2 cents.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Affectionate Whining

I realized something very important about my students’ communication style, in April 2011 or so, about whining. Whining, the bane of my existence as a teacher.

I really hate it when they whine. It makes me feel I’ve let them down, that I have planned a crappy lesson, that they hate my class, that nothing I ever do is good enough, and that I’ve failed. Plus, it’s just annoying.

I have this kid Tanner. I’ve taught him for two years straight now, in Spanish 1 and 2, and now I have him in Spanish 3. I absolutely love this kid, and by now I know him well enough to know he loves me and my class too. In Spanish 2 last year, he whined almost every single day. He did it at the beginning of class, as soon as he walked in. “Mrs. Waltman, do we have to do anything today? Can we just have an easy day? I don’t want to do any work today.”

I would say, “Yes, we have to do some work today.”

He would set his stuff down, and then usually ask me if he could go to the bathroom or go get something to eat before the bell rang. Which struck me as kind of humorous, because the bell hadn’t rung, and he could obviously do whatever he wanted until it did. But he asked first, and he had a big smile on his face.

So it hit me along about April this past spring…Tanner was whining because he loved me and he knew I loved him. He actually wasn’t complaining; in fact, it was affectionate on his part. It was sort of a game we played, and he didn’t become combative when I said, “Yes, we have to work today.” He happily accepted whatever I gave him to do in class and he did his work.

Once I realized this, I realized most other students’ whining is exactly the same thing – affection. Suddenly I not only didn’t mind the whining as much, it became sort of amusing. Like I said, it’s a game we play.

Remember those old Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons (I think that’s who it was) where the coyotes would “clock in” at “work” in the morning, carrying their lunch pails, then chase the roadrunners who also had just clocked in? They’d chase and chase, and then at the end of the day, get back in line, clock out, and say things like, “Have a good evening, Jim” to each other as they left?

I see classroom interactions these days as very similar to that cartoon. Students clock in when they enter my classroom, and they perform their “job” which is to see if they can get away with something, show resistance to doing work, etc. They clock out as they leave, with a no-hard-feelings “Bye, Mrs. Waltman.”

It’s really nothing personal.

By the way, this year, Tanner isn’t whining anymore. He’s grown out of it I guess. But I’m thankful he had that constant routine going last year, because it taught me something, and now I can handle the three or four other kids who are still doing it.

I would say that if you are getting some whining, watch their faces. Are they truly upset and “oppressed,” or looking around at their friends and hiding a mischievous little smile? When you say Yes, they really do have to take the Midterm today (that was Thursday’s whine this past week,) do they settle down and get to work, or flat-out refuse to do what you ask?

I used to handle whining pretty effectively by simply ignoring it, but with today’s relationship-oriented, self-advocating kids, some of them won’t give up until they get a response out of you. So now I do respond to it more often than I ignore it, smiling and insisting gently but firmly that they do what I said. (“Yes, we have to take the Midterm today. Don’t stress out you guys; it isn’t that hard, you’re totally ready for it, and it will be fine.” No tension in the room; they settled down and got to work. And did great, I might add.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Students Who Just Aren't Getting It?

What to do about students who seem not to be “getting it?” And what about teaching grammar?

I received the following two-part question this week from a friend of mine:

So how do you help failing kids who just don't get it (a very small few)? I tend to feel like --oh well, !!! If they were there and still after all the circling...I have some kids who struggle with vocab and reading in English, much less Spanish!

Also, with level 2 I am finding I am really teaching them how to do verb chart for present tense because without the concept (which I didn't touch in level 1) or conjugating, they can't really learn any grammar.

My response:

Those few that seem lost no matter how many times you go over it...well, I keep having patience as best I can hoping they are learning at least something. I can usually tell that they are picking up at least a bit of language when I have them write 10-minute essays, even if they are bombing all the quizzes and tests, and then that makes me feel better about it. I don't think there is anything you can do except to keep teaching the best you can and wait for them to bloom. I have had students recently - two boys immediately come to mind - who seemed at first not to be picking up anything. One of them was miserably bombing every quiz and test and could barely write two sentences on a 10-min essay, but I just kept encouraging him. By the end of Spanish 1, he could write 4-5 sentences and was able to tell me the basic skeleton of a story in Spanish for the final, so honestly, I counted that as gain. (This kid was on an IEP too.) The other guy was just very slow acquiring Spanish. After struggling through Spanish 1, he took Spanish 2 and that was when I saw him start to show more language growth. In level 2 he usually managed to get 80-85 words on 10-minute essays, and over time that writing looked more and more like real Spanish :-). I think patience is key and just hanging in there. You might talk to them (if you haven't already) and ask them what is making Spanish hard for them, what would help them learn it better, etc.

Grammar, yes. We are teaching some conjugating in level 1, and quite a bit of explicit grammar in level 2. I'm not sure it is producing much growth in terms of language production, but it seems to satisfy our departmental desire to see them doing grammar. :-) My main mode of instruction is still stories to deliver comprehensible input.


She followed up by asking me when I start 10-minute essays in level 1. My response:

I start 10-minute essays in Spanish 1 the first day. Of course, that first day they can usually only make a list of words, but it sets up that expectation (of writing essays and getting a certain number of words.) I have them write another after about 6 weeks. At that point, they can usually do paragraphs composed of very basic sentences. I put up a stick figure drawing and have them write a story about it. For me, this is a very useful assessment technique that shows you what language they have acquired enough to produce on paper. No dictionaries, 10 minutes to write just off the top of your head. I do let them ask me for individual words as they write, but only some kids take me up on that, and you can tell that they are writing pretty fluently with or without your help usually. If you haven't done it, try it! Your kids might surprise you in what they can put down. The first time might be a little slow going until they get used to the idea, but over time they really do see improvement and you will too.

My own favored approach with struggling kids is to keep encouraging, keep helping, keep trying to show them that a) I expect them to learn Spanish, and b) I believe that they can learn Spanish. Everyone acquires at different rates, and I’ve seen over and over that kids who start out slow can still make progress. I admit, I do get discouraged at times with certain ones, but I try not to ever let it show.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"High Expectations" and My Perfectionism

Okay, so the school year began three weeks ago, and this is the first weekend I feel I can even remotely catch my breath.

Biggest triumph so far? My level 3 students and I are making up some hilarious stories together and having a blast doing it. They definitely buy into this game of Stories-To-Learn-Vocab now, after two years with me. They are doing the gestures and coming up with crazy, fun stuff. I was going to just draw stick figures on the board and not make them get up and act this year, but they are begging to act things out now. What a switch from year 1 when I had to coerce them into acting.

Biggest struggle so far? My head. I'm obsessed with how my classes are going, for better or worse. I want to speak Spanish more. I want them to speak Spanish more. I want every single moment of every class to be incredible. I want everything I do to go over like gangbusters, to be awesome, to be the most perfect thing anyone's ever seen in a Spanish class. Guess how realistic that is?

"This is level 3," I keep telling myself. "I should be speaking Spanish 95% of the time!" Or, "They're in level 3 and they STILL don't get preterit/imperfect!" Or, "They should know more vocab by now." Or, "I have to get to such-and-such grammar point ASAP!!! We're already behind!"

Incidentally, I'm way harder (in my head) on myself and my students in my level 3 classes, because I've had these kids for two years. The Level 4/AP Spanish class is more relaxed for me psychologically because I didn't teach these kids and don't know them, so my expectations for them are more flexible. Odd, too, since that class has this hellishly difficult exam coming up in May, which will clearly delineate the quality of my teaching for all to see.

I have had to spend some time this past week talking myself down a bit, because I store all my stress in my back, and it's been extremely painful and stiff lately. It's okay if I don't get to every single grammar point, every project, and every piece of literature I had planned and (gasp!) published in my syllabus. (It's in the syllabus, so obviously I MUST do it ALL!) Who sets these bizarre expectations for me? I'm suddenly the "lead" Spanish teacher in my department now, so...no one! No one but me. Come to find out, I'm a taskmaster, and I have to stop it.

So the 3's need more work in preterit and imperfect. Guess what? So do I, and I've been studying Spanish for years and years. That's no big catastrophe. We just keep teaching it until they get it.

I have to do the subjunctive this year, along with about 4 other tenses I sometimes don't remember the names of. I'm intimidated; I'll be honest with you. But I know I'm a good teacher, and I never give up on anyone. I'll keep teaching them (and myself) until we all get it.

Does anyone else out there struggle with perfectionism in their teaching? How do you deal?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Epiphany About Backtalk - Continued

So after I realized that all teachers in my building, regardless of strictness level, get what I would call “backtalk,” it changed my perspective on my students, and I decided to stop being upset at their communication style and instead focus on how best to teach these students as they are.

I learned a life-changing concept a few years ago while attending the ASCD conference in New Orleans. A speaker named Jerry Patterson did a session on Resilient School Leadership (he’s got an excellent book out on this topic.)

The basic concept he taught us was this: To be a resilient school leader, you’ve got to be a realistic optimist (as opposed to an unrealistic optimist, or a realistic or unrealistic pessimist.) A realistic optimist understands the reality, but still believes we can work within that reality to make progress.

A realistic optimist might frame a classroom “backtalk” situation this way:

We’ve got what some would consider entitled, self-important and self-advocating students in this school. That’s not the problem; that’s the reality. Given the REALITY that I’m teaching high-socio-economic kids who have an abrupt, challenging communication style, how can I still make progress (i.e. teach them Spanish and enjoy doing it?)

I’ve watched some teachers in my building go head-to-head with our kids and try to break them down. It doesn’t work. You’re not going to change their basic makeup, the way they were raised. (And, you’ll probably just anger their parents. In my district, the parents rule.) These kids have been trained from birth to stand up to adults, to consider themselves equals. A lot of Generation X and Y parents, no matter the economic status, allow their kids to participate in/dominate/interrupt adult conversation, to make demands on the adults.

What does this reinforce to the kid? “I’m equal to the adults, and I have the right to insist on my needs and get my way.” I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing—low-socio-economic kids raised in poor communities can feel scared and intimidated when they need to advocate for themselves with authorities and institutions because they haven’t been raised to interact with adults on equal footing.

(Malcolm Gladwell has a great discussion on this topic in Outliers, by the way. His observation is that high-socio-economic kids are in many ways better prepared to deal with society and succeed in life because of their skill in self-advocating.)

So after years of this kind of training (being allowed to interrupt/challenge the adults)—what makes us think we’re going to change the kid’s basic psychological makeup in 90 minutes every other day of Spanish class?

Furthermore, is that even my goal? To “make” all the kids act more respectfully, defer meekly to adults?

Do I have time or energy to attempt serious behavior modification as well as teach Spanish? My personal answer to that is no, for three reasons:

a) I don’t think it’s possible to modify their deeply ingrained beliefs and ways of being.

b) If it is possible, it’s going to take a lot more work and time than I can dedicate.

And c) I actually don’t think it’s necessary.

What I need to focus on is teaching them as they are. I just need to understand the reality and work with the kid’s psychology enough to teach them Spanish and enjoy doing it, because that is my real goal here.

The biggest step in the right direction for me was realizing that my students aren’t actually trying to be disrespectful in the way they communicate with me. Then I could feel better about my relationship with them, and truly begin to enjoy teaching them for who they are. That has made all the difference in the world in my classroom.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Epiphany About Backtalk

Fall 2009 I went back to the high school classroom after working as the ELL Coordinator for my school district for 4 years.

Boy was I in for a shocker.

As the fall semester got underway, I noticed pretty quickly that a lot of my tried-and-true classroom organization and management routines were not working as smoothly as I expected, and my lesson design didn’t seem as engaging as it used to be. Was it me, or them? Maybe I just wasn’t establishing the routines or teaching the lessons with confidence (sometimes that is the problem.) I kept at it the entire fall semester, trying to make my “old” ways (I mean geez, they weren’t that old!) work, but there was a missing key. My students didn’t seem all that engaged a lot of the time. They were often disrespectful, loud, uncooperative. They actually…gasp…backtalked me a little. I wasn’t used to that happening in the past.

Panic set in. I must be washed up, I thought. Time to look for a new career.

Spring 2010 semester started, and I rolled out new rules with stricter consequences. It worked pretty well for about 9 weeks, and then I somehow allowed the rules to start slipping. Soon we were basically back to the too-rowdy atmosphere in some of my classes that I had in the fall, and the bored stare in others. Again I was floundering for answers, feeling like a failure.

Then I had a simple epiphany, just before Spring Break 2010, that made a world of difference.

I was an assistant proctor for state testing that week. The third morning of testing, the test proctor, a seasoned, expert teacher and one of the strictest teachers in our building, told a kid to take off his hat as he entered the testing room. Now, she had already established herself as the definite pack leader under no uncertain terms. I’d been watching how she worked for two days. She brooked no argument on anything—cell phones, snacks, breaks, etc.

So the kid walked in with a beanie on his head, and the teacher said, “Ryan, you know you can’t wear hats in the building. Take it off.”*

He said, “Aw, do I have to?”

The teacher said, “Yes. You have to.”

Ryan took off the hat, and things proceeded as normal with no hard feelings on either side.

I was sitting in the corner grading papers and didn’t look up, but their exchange lingered in my mind for a moment.

Suddenly, it hit me what just happened. The strictest teacher in our building—well, by far the strictest one I’d seen—just got backtalked by this kid. (To me, challenging her with “Do I have to?” is backtalk because of the way I was raised.)

Her reaction? Insist that he do what she said, but without heightened emotion or a show of anger.

The epiphany was this:

The strictest teacher in this building gets backtalked too, and it isn’t for lack of establishing strict rules.

So when they “backtalk” me, it isn’t because they personally disrespect me, specifically, or because I have failed to establish strict enough control.

That is simply how these kids, these days, communicate.

In high school, I never would have felt comfortable challenging this teacher if she’d told me to do something. But Ryan felt completely comfortable, and so do about 85-90% of the students at my school.

It’s not disrespect in their minds; it’s standard procedure. It’s a communication style. It has a lot to do with the district’s high socio-economic community, but I’ve seen poorer kids here do the same thing simply because it’s the norm in their environment.

Suddenly I realized I needed to ponder the reality of how these students, here and now, act and react. That reality is different from teaching high school in Oklahoma 10 years ago, in some subtle but extremely important ways that have implications for my daily classroom interactions.

More on this concept in the next post.

*Anytime I talk about students on this blog, their names have been changed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Teaching Level 3 and 4/AP Next Year, By The Way

At the end of Spring 2011 I asked for Spanish Levels 3 and 4/AP next year and got them. That means...I've got to write new stories and lesson plans for those levels, because I honestly don't know a better way for them to retain the vocab and be able to use it in context than by hearing and reading stories.

My students agree, actually. They complained a bit about the stories in level 1, then in level 2 this past year did a complete about-face, telling me they remembered everything from level 1 because the stories really worked. They wanted to make sure I was still going to tell stories in class. My students are extremely blunt. They will not hold back in telling you exactly what they think, and they have opinions on everything. So when I got this feedback from them, it was really gratifying to have them recognize what worked for them in their learning and tell me so.

So this is my plan: 1) In both levels (3 and 4) to speak a LOT of Spanish, and to do a lot of free-form conversation activities. 2) To weave all the required vocab into stories that I will (deep breath) mostly make up with my classes on the spot. I have a good enough relationship with these students to feel comfortable "winging it" (especially the incoming threes, because I've taught them now for two years already,) accepting the fact that sometimes a spontaneous story falls flat. 4) To take the best of the spontaneous stories we make up and write a reading to go with it, which I'll have my own (native-speaking) Spanish tutors edit before I copy for the class to read. 5) To figure out more reading activities involving outside books and sources. This has been just too hard for me to do in levels 1 and 2, for two reasons: most of what you find (even in children's books) is just too hard for those levels, and I have an intense desire to recycle my target vocab in readings so that I know they'll really know the vocab. That's next to impossible unless you write your own readings, which is why I do it.

I plan to prepare something for publication and sale next summer, for level 3 especially. Not sure about level 4/AP (whether I'll have something ready to publish or not.) But I will keep anyone interested updated throughout the year, and share my stories and what I'm working on, so...keep in touch, especially if you are teaching levels 3 or 4 this next year...please! I'll need your good ideas too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Have You Noticed They Aren't That Kinesthetic Anymore?

Ten years ago our big push was kinesthetic learning because we had all these active, hands-on learners who needed to move around the room and get their hands on the material and do something with it in order to stay engaged for learning.

It was easy to do TPR (Total Physical Response) for days and days. It was easy to get actors for stories. You needed Kagan training to learn all the different ways to get kids up and moving.

I still believe in all those techniques and I still make my students get up out of their seats at least once or twice per 90-minute block.

But they aren’t into it like they used to be. They’d rather sit. I hear some people say how “lazy” kids are these days. I don’t find it helpful to ruminate on that thought, but I have recognized that these students are different, and rather than judging it or trying to change it, the important thing is to identify exactly how they are different so that we can use that in our teaching.

They aren’t kinesthetic anymore.

They’re relationship-oriented. (It’s Type 1 on the 4Mat wheel.)

They care about who likes them and who doesn’t like them. They are obsessed with it. Listen to them talk in the hallways. It’s all about which teachers like them and which teachers hate them.

If they think I don’t like them, they will resist everything I try to do like mad. It used to be that if a kid thought you weren’t crazy about them (in second language acquisition theory, anyway) it would raise the affective filter and hinder their learning a bit.

Now there is more at stake than that. Yes, they won’t learn as well, but I can also expect misery in the classroom as far as behavior problems, if they believe I don’t like them.

This year I made absolutely certain that whenever I had to get on to a student, I never, ever let them get the idea I didn’t like them or that I was even mad at them. I showed no anger, ever. My classroom management improved a hundredfold just with this one, simple change.

I know (believe me I know) how hard it is to NOT show anger or even slight perturbation when on the inside you’re seething. But personally, I won’t do it, now that I’ve seen the difference it makes. Not with these kids, these days. If I show anger I’ll pay for it for weeks, maybe months, in a damaged relationship.

My students think I’m the most patient person in the world. Little do they know…I’m just being selfish. J I want students learning Spanish and smooth classroom interactions, in that order. And with today’s kids, that means I’ve got to build relationships. I’ve got to convince them I like them, that I enjoy having them around, that I think they are cool.

It’s weird, too, because the more I’ve worked on convincing them of that, the more it is true. I really do like them, value them, and enjoy their company. We had a blast together this past year. And now they do whatever I ask (for the most part,) because they know I care about them and their learning more than anything else, and because for them, it’s all about relationship.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Makes Teaching So Hard (or Easy)?

In my opinion, these things make teaching hard:


Kids are forced to go to school, and they don’t always want to be there or in my class.

In today’s relaxed disciplinary climate, I can’t count on parents, other teachers, or principals to make sure kids are submissive and cooperative in my classroom. I can only count on myself and my own skill at managing the classroom and engaging them in my material.

Too much of a teacher’s day is spent in front of students rather than preparing the lesson and regathering energy and focus. My ideal ratio would be 50/50. Smirk if you must, but teaching would be a completely different (and far more attractive) career if we taught for 3.5 hours and planned/collaborated/ regrouped for 3.5 hours a day. (I’d even go for 4 hours teaching, 3 hours planning/break.) We’d be more relaxed and creative in class, and you’d see less attrition in teaching. (The attrition numbers don’t lie. If this were a super-attractive career, people would be flocking to it, not away from it.)

Too much of a teacher’s day is spent on time-wasting, energy-sucking tasks like a) meetings that have no relative point or actual effect on anything; b) endless, redundant data entry (often into sub-par software programs that aren’t user friendly because they were created specifically for sale to school districts, who are often sold on fancy presentations and false promises. I could go on a major rant here, but I won’t. Not right now, anyway.) And c) sifting through unrelated emails and/or papers in my box at the front office.

And last, outside sources have various expectations of what I should be teaching, how I should teach it, and what the outcome should be for students. Those expectations may or may not line up with my own, and I often feel unnecessary pressure to meet others’ expectations.

So, what would make teaching easier?

Kids who want to be in my class and are engaged. They don’t automatically come that way, so this is up to me to create. (More on this in future posts.)

Classroom management strategies that I can actually make work for my particular teaching situation (this school/these students) and my personality. (More on this in future posts.)

Getting smarter about how I prepare so that prep work is at a relative minimum. A lot of this has to do with my organization strategies and literally where I store certain things in my room, to minimize unnecessary time/motion as I set up a lesson. (More on this in future posts.)

Saying no to unnecessary committees, meetings, and other time-wasters. In my opinion, one reason this remains such an “expectation” on teachers is that most of us try to accommodate and please our administrators in order to be seen as a team player, a valuable member of the staff, etc. I'm not a lazy person by a long shot, but I do have limited time and energy. I personally have chosen to focus my time and energy on my teaching in my own classroom, because the truth is, if I deliver the goods in terms of excellent teaching, happy students and parents, it doesn’t matter that I said no to the umpteen requests to join committees, cover others’ classes, etc., they’ll be reluctant to fire me (I say with rather brazen assurance.)
(**Okay, disclaimer about meetings: There are, of course, some meetings you should attend, like IEPs, RTIs, entire-staff meetings especially at the beginning of the year, etc. Also, if you are in your first year, my advice is be sure to attend everything that is expected of you but avoid taking on too many additional committees, clubs, etc. if possible.)

Coaching myself and my mentee(s) daily, if need be, that my true clients are my students/parents, not other teachers, the administration, the other high school, or anyone else. So the primary expectations I need to meet are those of my students/parents and of myself. (In my teaching situation, if the students are happy, the parents are happy, so that’s why I say “students/parents” as a unit.) 

If students are learning Spanish and enjoying it, my goals are met. If every student in my room makes progress on his or her own scale and feels good about taking Spanish, my goals are met. If 90-99% of them go on to take the next level of Spanish, my goals are met.

What would make teaching easier in your opinion?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why Teach?

Good teaching is hard to pull off. Let’s talk.

I’m licensed as a “Master Teacher” in the state of Colorado, and hold National Board Certification in World Languages Other than English. I’ve taught middle school, high school, and adults. I have 12 years experience in education, and from my second year of teaching, I’ve mentored and trained several other teachers.

And I’m still figuring out how to do my job.

I think teaching in public school is the hardest job on earth to do well. Just my opinion, based on personal experience and observation. Unlike some teachers, I've had a variety of other jobs. I've sold snowcones at carnivals, plowed wheat fields with a tractor, been in the Army, worked as a switchboard receptionist managing 40 incoming phone lines, worked in women’s clothing retail, supervised 10 teachers as the ELL coordinator for my school district, and written an online course for a university. Teaching in a public K-12 classroom is by far harder than any of those jobs.

Yet I choose to do it on purpose. Why?

I love the challenge, and when I actually pull off an excellent day of teaching, I feel like a million bucks.

Seeing students learn and enjoy it is incredibly fulfilling.

Summers off.

I know the average human could not step into my classroom and do what I do, and that makes me feel pleasantly smug.

The U.S. is in desperate need of good teachers.

My students give me so much love and joy. Usually.

I know that I am making a huge difference in a lot of young people’s lives. Hopefully mostly for the better.