Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

#Teach2Teach Question 1…

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MP900341413My #langchat amiga Amy Lenord (and if you aren’t following @alenord and her blog you need to!) has started a new project/hashtag. To quote from her first post:

I am so excited to start my #Teach2Teach series which is a collaboration project I am doing with Karen Tharrington, Foreign Language Education Program Coordinator at North Carolina State University. She and I met for the first time at ACTFL 2014 and came up with the idea for her Methods students to send their most pressing questions to me so that an experienced classroom teacher can answer them.  On that note, here we go! My first official #Teach2Teach post will be answering Garrett’s question. Here’s what he asked: 
“How do all these teachers balance the workload between teaching and planning?  Now that I am getting ready to perform all this work, I am beginning to wonder how anyone manages it at all.”

Amy’s answer is right on the mark – and I wanted to add a couple of comments of my own…

Amy has touched on many of the key things that teachers do to try to ‘plan’ effectively and maintain that balance. I would really second her stress of a ‘calendar’. I plan and keep my lessons in Evernote (I like the accessibility and my journey is documented here) but also need to have a paper copy of my overall unit/year plan. It’s my road map and I like having the ‘big picture’ to plan timing and length of what I am doing. I remember that when I first started teaching I tended to underestimate the time students would take doing something so I was constantly revising my timelines. Amy is right that this is the number 1 challenge that we as teachers face – balancing prepping with teaching (and occasionally life!)

If I can add 3 things to what Amy has written about they are..

1)    KNOW IT’S THE REALITY: It will be all-consuming at the start. I found that I was planning, teaching, reworking, planning, teaching like a hamster running on a wheel at the start. It will be this way – and its important to accept that it is. Trust that you will find more time later on when you are not planning or teaching but actually living. HOWEVER, the reality is as you start teaching that your assignment may change year to year…so be kind to yourself and sometimes what you have is okay…

2)     ACCEPT IT: This is a reality for all teachers so at some point you have to accept that you will not be hitting it out of the park for every lesson. I remember my practice teaching and being on the phone with my Dad (a veteran teacher) freaking out because I didn’t have an ‘amazing’ lesson for the next day. He knew his daughter well – got me to breathe and asked ‘will it work and will they be moving forward to meeting learning outcomes?’ When I squeaked out a ‘yes’ he said ‘you can overplan all the time- go to bed and be fresh for tomorrow’. So sometimes you will have a lesson that’s ‘good enough’ and sometimes that’s fine.

3)    YOU WILL PROBABLY NEVER FIND THAT PERFECT BALANCE: I have to tell you that the planning time isn’t going to be over soon. Once you get through your first couple of years – years spent in survival – you will hopefully start to reflect on your lessons/units and I’m here to tell you that you will want to change them. I used to think I could have a nice orderly book/binder and be ‘all planned’. You can’t be. As you evolve as a teacher you will change, grow, alter your outlook. You will probably not be satisfied with how you are doing things now…and will need to spend time planning changes. If/when you do – make sure you do them incrementally. I’m in my 20th year of teaching and I’m still taking time to plan new units, new approaches to old units etc. My husband keeps saying ‘don’t you have it all set yet?’ and my answer is always ‘no’.

Looking forward to Question 2!



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