Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

TellCollab Seattle Day 1 – I’m On The Right Path With Lots of Stuff to Learn!

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I have journeyed to Seattle – a country away (okay a 2 1/2 hour drive)- to participate in the 2-day TellCollab workshop presented by the TELL Project. Excitement & trepidation all at once. Am I okay with what I do? What am I doing that others are doing? Am I on the same page as others? What are their concerns, hopes, frustrations? Are they like mine?

Day 1 began with a ‘meet’ of everyone attending (so glad to see fellow #langchat-er Catherine Ousselin & meet (in person!) Alyssa Villarreal) – who we are (name/language/where from) and what – in 3 words – we think effectiveness looks like in a language teacher. Three words – that’s it – Thomas Sauer knows his audience (we are language teachers – we like to and can talk!) and in confining us to 3 words we each get down to the essence of what we think ‘effective’ is. For me it is “Confident reflective communicators”.  It’s amazing to hear what everyone thinks and most of what they say I think “I could have said that”.

After some background on the Tell Project we are asked to look at a lesson and rate it for effectiveness. We look, listen and each silently rate. We report out and – not surprisingly – we have graded it from a 2/5 to a 5/5. Imagine – we are a group of ‘motivated’ teachers (we’re there at TellCollab aren’t we?) and we can’t agree on what effective is. I’m sensing though that I am not going to be “told” an answer….that I will have to find and develop an answer for myself (am I right?).

Our only ‘led’ session of the day for me is about looking at objectives. I learn that I am clear on my  ‘performance objectives’ for the end of the unit , even what the performance indicators will be to assess  but whoa …I’m not so consistent or great at each lesson objective. Three big ‘revelations’ for me: We then look at the ‘wording’ of those “I can…” statements. Oh I’m all about writing those. I can write them well I think…but maybe not…I see now that I will be revising many of them. Why?  They are either not ‘function’ oriented – ‘say’ and ‘write’ are not functions or they are not student friendly (Who actually uses the word ‘hobby’ these days asks Thomas!)  We look at a series of “I Can” and I’m getting a feel for how I can make them more ‘effective’ and meaningful (another post on this to come!).

Our breakout sessions are determined by our ‘post-it’ notes about what we want to learn. We are also encouraged to take charge of our learning. If a session isn’t hitting what we need we are to use our two feet to take us to one that is. This does not, surprisingly lead to people leaving from sessions willy-nilly. But it does allow us to change tables to really get to something we want to know if we want to – I like having that permission. I wanted to look at my own target language use in class. It’s something I don’t think I do well. Secretly, as someone who is not a native speaker, its something that I fear; that I don’t always think I CAN do well. I either run into something that I want to say that I am not sure of, or (yes) can’t,  or I ‘give’ too easily and revert to English in instructions.  I met teachers who hard-core refused to use any English. I met another who gave me hope – who talked about “how” she stayed in the TL even if her beginners asked questions in English. I learned that I am going to need to think my lessons through more closely for the language that I will need to use to instruct in. I realized that I can make use of my love of visuals in helping to facilitate staying in the TL. I have admitted my personal fear to myself (of not being ‘good enough’ in the TL) & through listening & learning have started to commit to ‘do more’ and have some ideas ‘how’ to get this done.

I’m not going to say I learned ‘oh my goodness this changes it/answers it all for me’ at both my afternoon tables. I’m also going to admit that in 1 table I could have two-footed it away and should have as it was moving in a direction that didn’t match my needs in that area.  But what did this all do for me? What were my end of day takeaways? It was interesting as teachers shared theirs that I kept thinking “I wrote/thought that too!” My ‘understandings for the day were:

  • I am on the way but not there yet – and that’s okay – I’m on the ‘road’….
  • We are all struggling to engage kids to use the TL
  • We are all trying to be “more effective” teachers but what that is is personal and unique to the teacher that we are
  • (And..I know what Thomas Sauer sounds like….I’ve spent a day hearing him actually speak – not type 140 character thoughts!)

What a feeling of empowerment and validation to be in a room with a group questing to be more effective but not thinking in any way that they have the exclusive answer on ‘how’ to be. End of day 1……! Looking forward to Day 2!!!

Colleen

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