Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
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
(**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.)
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.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
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.
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.