Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

My word for 2014….”Opportunity”


Brass Doorknob As my #langchat colleagues discussed their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ for 2014, I noticed that many chose a ‘word’ for their year. I have been thinking a lot about my work this year. I have been trying to balance my quest for ‘better’ with my ‘chances’ to incorporate new things. At times, given the creativity and expertise of the #langchat PLN, it can feel like I am never ‘good enough’ at what I am doing.

I tossed around a lot of words in trying to find my 2014 mantra. “Perservere” , “engage”, “incorporate”, “improve” and more. Many of them seemed to be, to me, negative and imply that I was somehow falling short in the classroom.  None of them seemed particularly to be about my students.  So I looked around again – for a word that would give me hope, allow me to try (and occasionally fail) and be, honestly, ‘do-able’

Opportunity. That’s it. The word. It’s my goal for the year. What kind of opportunities am I looking for?

My students will increasingly have the opportunity to ‘choose’ how they demonstrate knowledge. They will also continue to have the opportunity to hand in work on-line – and have it marked and returned in the same format. I will continue to give them the opportunity to stretch their knowledge by challenging them to communicate – where the Target Language is the tool that is used to accomplish a task, solve a problem etc.

More specifically I will continue to seek the opportunities to substitute the “authentic” for the “not as authentic” materials when I can. Japanese as a second language, with 3 orthographies that includes more than 1800 Chinese characters (if you are a fluent reader) has its particular challenges.  But I do know that language can be experienced visually and orally – with just as much impact as text brings.  I will find opportunities to interact more with these real materials in my classroom – from commercials, to songs, to anime clips and drama scenes. Authentic doesn’t mean ‘must be able to read/understand it all” – it means derived from a realistic source.

Having such an awesome PLN can be intimidating at times and bring up self-doubt as to the job that I am doing. There are so many amazing teachers that share their ideas and, at times, I feel that I am inadequate to be a part of their PLN. So – Opportunity. For me, in my life I will see that new ways, new units and new technologies are great opportunities but not ‘must be done this minute’ necessities. That is,  with my limited time, and an actual personal life, I can’t be reinventing everything all the time.

A new year brings with it all sorts of opportunities. I’m going to take them where I can find them…





  1. I LOVE this! I remember being torn between a sense of overwhelming failure and absolute inspiration when I first started participating in #Langchat! It lasted maybe 2 years before I felt like I had any kind of leg to stand on with my own research and experience. Everything I have seen from you has been positive and inspiring, and that may actually be part of the shift I felt myself! It is so easy to beat ourselves up, but to look for opportunities is the BEST way to keep growing!

    PS I really hope I get to see your session at ACTFL next year!

  2. This was beautifully written and so inspirational. You are an amazing educator because you choose to examine your beliefs and practices and change what you do and how you think. That is the power in our PLN. We share our experiences and ideas and help each other grow. We encourage and challenge each other and from that network we all get better. You are an integral part of that. Never doubt yourself. You are great because you question things, seek information and continually strive to be better. AND you are an amazing encourager. I can speak for the #langchat PLN when I say we are all better because of your contributions to us!

  3. Thanks Laura for such an encouraging response to the post. It hit just the right note for me and I was surprised to hear of your reaction – it so mirrors mine! I think we all suffer a bit from the ‘imposter syndrome’ (someone is going to find out that I actually have days/lessons where it all goes wrong or goes over like a lead balloon!). And yet – it is an unbelievably supportive and encouraging group that inspires me to be a better teacher every day. Maybe how to flourish in your PLN will be a possible ACTFL session one day?! I am so stoked to be going to Texas and actually meeting with people I follow and learn with daily – like you!! Hopefully our #langchat session about the power of joining a PLN will be accepted. (Your comments give me an idea to briefly touch on the ‘new to #langchat’ syndrome (and I’m going to credit you for the “torn between a sense of overwhelming failure and absolute inspiration” characterisation) See you in Texas – face to face!

  4. Amy – Thank you for your wonderfully kind and supportive words. I think so many teachers toil away in rooms, feeling like it all falls on ‘their shoulders’, and that they are quite alone in what they do. If they could only realize that there is a great group out there in the PLN – of people who are not just those we follow – but those who are ‘tomodachi’ (my TL word for “amiga”) – who share with us, celebrate with us, challenge us and most importantly laugh with us. I so am looking forward to going to ACTFL2014 – and meeting up with these great people – you among them. Gracias again for taking the time to, once again, encourage a teacher to learn and grow!

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