Investing

Teachers are not the best-paid professionals in the United States, but some of the perks can sure make a difference in our attitudes.  I feel like my school district is getting a lot right.

I’m glad to say that our administrators back off and allow us to do our jobs.  Our school is also great when it comes to investing in staff.  I’m talking about professional development.  I feel that my school excels in investing in its teachers because there are no hard limits placed on PD days; we can make a case for an important conference just about any time.  That matters a lot to me and my colleagues.  I make an effort not to overuse professional development days.  That being said, I also do not hesitate to mention opportunities featuring skilled teachers/speakers that I need to attend to improve my own skills.

I’m fortunate to be able to hone my skills and learn from masters.  When a school district invests in its teachers, students reap the rewards.

 

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Rap

We (parents and teachers) know how special our students are. We know their personalities and can appreciate them as they are while we do our best to teach and nurture them.

I had way too much free time this weekend. I ended up writing a rap song for my seventh graders.  Yes, a rap. I decided my kids needed a little bit of comedy, so I actually performed the song and allowed them to video me—something I never do! I worked in every kid’s name, so it was specific to them.

They seemed quite happy, and I even heard from some of the parents about the rap. I’m glad I made my kids smile. For now, though, it’s back to work!

If you’d like to see my version of crazy, a student put it on Youtube with the title “Crazy teacher went Eminem.”

Plan!

I am excited for class tomorrow because I have a PLAN.  I have been writing a story to use that meshes well with comprehensible input.  I have thrown in some of the Sweet 16 vocabulary that my students already know along with some solid descriptions of our characters…I am ready!

Students will be drawing and coloring…yep, coloring!  Hay un hombre delgado y bajo.  Lleva pantalones negros….

New Books, New Plan

I was working in my classroom today, looking at my new Spanish novels and checking the new scope and sequence.  I have big plans, so I hope I can get this all pulled together. I cannot be the only teacher with this dream.  We, meaning teachers in my ESU (Educational Service Unit), are making a concerted effort to increase fluency using comprehensible input.

We all start a new school year with high hopes, but sometimes we get discouraged before Christmas. Let’s make a pact not to give up too soon this time.  Fluency is too important, even if we have trouble convincing parents and students of this.  I am lucky that I have the freedom to do what I know is right based on research.  Many teachers are not so lucky, so I do feel blessed.

I promise not to give up this year, no matter how challenging it gets.  My students deserve my best efforts, and I want them to experience that feeling of satisfaction that comes from learning more than they thought they could.

Feedback!

This school year has been different from last year in various ways.  The main thing I have changed is my way of teaching.  I threw out my book and have been concentrating on giving students tons of comprehensible input.  They were a bit scared at first—and so was I, to be honest.  They didn’t know what to expect without a book.

I am feeling much less apprehensive as I practice using a lot more Spanish in class.  I explained the goal to the students (90% or more in Spanish) because it shouldn’t be a secret.  I have had students share their feelings about comprehensible input lately.

One student said speaking Spanish is “becoming second nature” to her.  Another told me he thinks we are meeting the goal of 90% Spanish in class.  He also shared that he is understanding almost everything!  I of course, am thrilled that my students are learning and happy.

I can’t wait to see how much the students learn (and retain) by the end of the year!  Every positive comment from them encourages me more.  For more information about comprehensible input, visit Martina Bex.

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Skills

I had some time to sit and drink coffee while one of our dogs was having a dental yesterday. Chance ended up minus 13 teeth by the time the morning was over!  He’s recovering well, by the way. 

I was in a tiny town in rural Nebraska at the local gas station.  In spite of that, I was able to use not only English, but Spanish and ASL—American Sign Language!

People often give me weird looks when I say I love languages, but I truly value learning something just because it’s interesting and I can.

I was—and still am—so thrilled that I had the knowledge to communicate in ASL.  So few people in this area study it.  How lonely life must be for that kind, deaf fellow in that tiny town.  His uncle sat with us at the small, round table. He was surprised and happy when I started signing with his nephew.  I was sad that so few people ever tried.  

The next time someone gives you a strange look when you mention an uncommon interest you are passionate about, don’t let it bother you.  Your passion may lead to something wonderful.  Learning for the love of knowledge feels amazing.  Using what you have learned is truly priceless when you can make another feel less alone.

Planning

For all of those people who don’t know how teachers roll, let me give you a bit of insight.  After the initial rejoicing at the end of the school year, many of us use our vacation time to attend workshops or take classes to improve our practice.  Those workshops may last one or two days, depending on the topic, but the thinking process lasts a lot longer.  Putting all of the learning and thinking together to create classroom activities takes even more of our vacation time.

That’s been my experience, especially after the Martina Bex Comprehensible Input workshop last week in Lincoln.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I spent this week rehashing and rereading the handouts she provided for us.  Now I’m almost ready to start choosing vocabulary to use in my own stories.  Then comes the actual writing process.  I’m sure I’ll have a few false starts, but the results will be worth the time.

For more information about Martina Bex, visit her at https://martinabex.com/.

 

Meeting Martina

Before I begin, let me tell you that I wanted to call this blog post “My Brain is Full,” but I felt that was too long, and I like alliteration, so I went with the current title.

If you teach (especially foreign language), you probably already know which Martina—Martina Bex.  I have spent considerable time exploring her blog https://martinabex.com/ otherwise known as The Comprehensible Classroom.  She discusses the advantages of using CI (Comprehensible Input) when teaching.  After all, if the students have no understanding of what the teacher is saying, why bother?

Martina spent two brain-filling days with over 100 educators from Nebraska and surrounding areas.  (One teacher drove from Arkansas to take this training!)  The part that really blew me away was that we teachers didn’t have to pay to attend!  That never happens!  This time, however, it sure did, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Janine Theiler of the Nebraska Department of Education.  She had support people like Jessica and Jami who saved my bacon when I thought I was lost.  They made sure everything went smoothly so we teachers could learn and improve our practice in the classroom.

I was thrilled to get a copy of Martina’s presentation in addition to the handouts provided.  I will use them to create plans of my own as I work toward CI in my own classes.  Now I have the framework necessary to push students toward proficiency!

It was a pleasure to meet Martina.  She’s very approachable and thoughtfully replies to questions.  I took the picture below on a break from the session on the second day.  I asked Martina, “What makes you happy?”  Her response: “My children!”

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For more information about Comprehensible Input, the research behind it and strategies for implementation, please visit https://martinabex.com/.