Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

July 26, 2017
by leesensei
0 comments

“I see the Path…But Am Lost At The Starting Line!” (So Here’s How I’m Going to Get Going!)

One of the best things for my teaching that I did last year was attend the #tellcollab held in Seattle. It was inspiring, chock full of resources & a huge ‘rethink’ for me. Day 1 told me I was moving in the right direction….Day 2 gave me lots to consider..and brought a huge revelation about using proficiency levels. Then I returned to work and promptly took 5 months off on a pre-planned self-funded leave.

As I start to think about my return I consider the changes that I want to make. And I am – as I tweeted earlier this month – almost paralyzed by what I COULD (and probably SHOULD) be doing…. It’s overwhelming to be honest. I have received so much input that, ironically, I don’t know where to begin. This is on top of changes to my provincial curriculum that are required next year as well. What to do? How to proceed? Well I decided to start small…slowly…and for maximum impact/minimum stress… So to change & survive I will:

DAILY LEARNING INTENTIONS for EVERY COURSE:  It’s amazing to me that students in my Yr3 & 4 often enter class and ask ‘What are we doing today?’ (TL of course). They like to know what class will focus on. In the past I’ve laid it out based upon ‘activities’ (eg. reading, convo circles…) but I realized that I was only listing actions and not WHY we are doing them! I really liked the daily learning intentions idea from #tellcollab. Not only will students know the ‘why’ of what we are doing but..I will have to face up to lessons that really serve no purpose.

PROFICIENCY TARGETS/FOCUS ON PATH – YEAR 1 & 2 ONLY: I’ll be implementing the proficiency path with my Yr 1 & 2 only. These are my newest students – the ones at or near the start of the path. They will be the ones to have the full ‘explanation’ (baptism?) into proficiency (and thank you to Meredith for her sharing of how she introduces it). My Yr1&2’s, as they proceed in learning, will ‘see’ themselves moving from Novice…to Intermediate lower levels to….a real positive path of progression.  I’m not ‘abandoning’ my senior grades but I am making the choice to ‘finish out’ with them without a firm focus on proficiency. It’s a choice based upon reading & learning I’ve done around levels says that ‘intermediate’ is loooong stage. To maintain enthusiasm & a focus on goals will be harder if my students ‘start’ somewhere in the Intermediate range. I don’t know that they will appreciate even subtle moves within one main descriptor. And, I do a lot to be ‘proficient teacher’ already with them – they will know where they sit in meeting expectations. And for the sake of my sanity that’s enough.

ONE UNIT/ONE COURSE AT A TIME … – I’m not redoing everything…at once. That would kill me. And I believe it would prove more chaotic for my students. So, just as I am spiraling up the proficiency focus and like we ‘spiral’ up our vocabulary I will add new CI/new stuff I want to try in a calm way. It will allow me to get a real handle on working more closely with everything new. It will allow me to take time to reflect on what is happening and seek guidance for what isn’t/what I don’t get – hello #langchat peeps?!  My Yr 1 course is in Sem 2 this coming year, I hope to get more than 1 unit done in their course.

CONTINUE TO READ/ASK/TRY/LEARN/GET NEW IDEAS ….#langchat…and “Path to Proficiency“‘s bloggers….and….hopefully a return to another #tellcollab.

And finally when I get down, when “it” doesn’t work, when I think that I am losing my way…I will read & read Maris Hawkins’ post about being kind to myself about what I am doing…and how far down the path I already am!

C

 

August 11, 2014
by leesensei
8 Comments

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…Innovating and Keeping My Sanity…*

blueprint  If only there were 48 hours in the day!  I don’t know if you are like me but I suddenly looked at my classes one day and thought “yes I must change ’cause I can’t go on with one more lesson like I used to’. I don’t know if you are like me but I can get lost in planning, changing, altering and updating and the almost limitless possibilities/options/materials that are out there to explore. And then…life knocks and says ‘what about me?’. So with change a definite for me, I’ve had to really look at how I can best make changes and still maintain a life for me, with my husband, and actually get some sleep. What do I keep in mind? How do I alter what I do to be congruent with the ‘new’ me? There are several things I keep in mind…

Accept that it will take time – I could do it all at once, every course, every class, but would I actually be the teacher for my students that I want to be? The amount of energy that would take would probably lead me to be less energetic, supportive and open to what my students want. So my biggest thought is to accept that this is, of necessity, a gradual process. It would be great to move every course, every unit to what I want it to be, but it’s not realistic. Ultimately, for the change to be real, effective and lasting, I had to learn to give myself permission to take it slow. After all if I don’t have time to change, try to alter as needed then, long-term, my students won’t see a benefit.

“Test the change” via 1 unit – My goal has always been to innovate small – with idea that it will eventually become ‘big’. So, in accepting that lasting change takes time, I’ve tried just to work with 1 unit.  When I was adapting to using a tablet in class, and shifting my resources to digital, I started with 1 unit in my Year 3 course. Why? Well I was teaching 2 sections of it in the semester and, voila, I was altering 50% of my unit teaching at that time. The unit approach also allowed me to reflect on whatever I was trying, in this case new technology, and evaluate how it worked for me and my students.  Knowing that I just had to find things for that 1 unit also allowed me to develop a “template” for change, that I knew, down the road, would let me attach a course, and ultimately my program.

“Grow the Change” via 1 course – It had been, for me, 5 years since last I taught the Yr1 course when I took it up again last year. The students in Yr1 received the benefit of my ‘go-slow, innovate by unit’ strategy I’d be testing in my higher level courses. When it came to the Yr1’s I was ready, I knew the what I needed to do to ‘change’ past approaches, and I could apply what I had learned (via my #langchat PLN) to the course as a whole.  It wasn’t as daunting or time-consuming as I thought it would be because I ‘knew’ how to do it. Now I look at them and realize that they are my students who will grow my more choice-based, authentic resource, comprehensible input, ‘no workbook’ strategy in Yrs 2-4. So next year, as my new Yr 2’s I will be able to deliver what I have always thought my Yr2 course should be. Then, in Yr 3, I can do it again. By Year 4 – voila – a revamped program ready again for new innovations in my teaching.

The pressure to ‘change everything all at once’ is huge. I still feel it. But when I do I take a deep breath and remember that lasting change in my classes, just like in my life, is more real and has more impact made in measured and do-able steps. To all of my #langchat colleagues making big changes – go for it – and remember to take time for you in the process!

Colleen

*Credit to David Bowie (@DavidBowieReal) as writer for the lyric sampled

 

 

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