Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

“It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” – Why Am I Even Busier In My 20th Year…?

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It’s been 20 years of teaching for me this year. 20 years since I left a private sector job and completed my education degree. Wow. I’m not sure what vision I had of the type of teacher I would be back then – but I know the type of teacher that I am now. And that is a teacher who is more involved in ‘changing/altering’ my curriculum than I ever was at the start of my career…so why is it just as busy/busier for me now? I think it’s because I AM in my 20th year…and (for me) here’s why:

Experience to Be Able To Innovate – For me this is not about being an experienced teacher. No, this is about having the experience that allows you to innovate. Early in my career it is all about ‘survival’. Really – with new courses (sometimes every year) it is all about covering a basic set of skills. There’s not a long time to reflect on what is being done – to have the experience to see the ‘long range’ view of what we are teaching. But now, I do. I can improvise, edit and alter my lessons on a daily basis because I ‘know’ where the group of students should be heading in their language learning. Because I ‘know’ what has worked before, and more importantly what isn’t having the impact that I want it to have, I am not constrained as I was earlier in my career by just getting something ready. This gives me the freedom to move away from a stock/standard program and towards more open, freer and relevant content for my students. If I was earlier in my career I don’t think I would have this ability. And this shift takes more of my time…

A Shift From Teaching To More ‘Coaching’ – When I started I would tell you that I ‘teach Japanese’. But these days I will tell you that I teach ‘using Japanese’. I realized at the start of my career I was teaching more about the language than ‘in’ the language. In this shift I am making there isn’t a lot of room for a textbook. Instead I am creating more stories myself to make the learning more relevant – and this gives me that ability to include the language that my students want/need instead of having the textbook tell them what they should be learning. I am trying to find authentic resources for the students to learn from/with. I’m also working to provide more formative assessment to my students to assist them in their learning and more criteria-based rubrics to have them really understand where they are in that learning. More resources for them to use..more things that I need to provide support with. And this shift takes more of my time…

A “Leadership Group” That Leads Me On – Yes #langchat – I’m talking about you. Last week – as I was thinking about this post, I joking wrote a tweet in which I added the #curseyoulangchat hashtag. And I mean it. I mean it with much much love. I used to be in a textbook/workbook bubble. I used to be the ‘teacher’ on the stage – and marched my students through technical grammar lessons to ‘learn’ their language. And then one day I stumbled on #langchat. It opened my eyes to opportunities, challenged me to really look at my teaching and generally helped me to push myself in a new direction. #Langchat for me is not about being told that I’m not a ‘good teacher’ (I know I am). #Langchat is about opening my eyes to new opportunities/methods/strategies that – for all the time they take – make my teaching better for my students. My ‘old’ lessons are no longer what I want to teach. My old style of ‘textbook/workbook’ was no longer what I wanted. #Langchat colleagues showed me different possibilities and, most importantly, helped me/applauded me/supported me (and continue to do so) as I make changes. And this shift takes time…

Thank you Yogi Berra for your insight…it’s true that “It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over”.

I have 7 years until I retire and I suspect I’ll be as pressed for time then as I am now!


One Comment

  1. Colleen ..I enjoyed very much reading your blog this morning!

    I will share with others your passion and innovative planning with technology to make changes in your teaching that impact student learning and how kids learn.

    You are leading many teachers and educators in re-thinking how they approaching teaching and learning.

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