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/.

 

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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/.

Coffee Karma

Ysabela and I had a fabulous visit to D. C. for the American History Film Project exhibition.  I was excited to have Doorja leading our tour since she was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic (in spite of the rain).  Ysabela learned a lot.  Martha was there to help navigate, so all bases were covered.

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Our weekend was fun, but then we had to get down to the business of making our way home again.  Our shuttle driver was late, but it turned out fine since ticket agents open the counter close to five in the morning.  Ysabela and I had stayed up all night so we wouldn’t oversleep, so we were in desperate need of coffee!  While I waited in line to check us in, Ysabela was playing on her phone in the waiting area.

The line moved rather quickly, and I looked over to catch Bela’s eye so she could join me.  I was surprised to see her chatting with “tall, dark and handsome.”  After I noticed him close to my daughter, my tired, squinty eyes zeroed in on his cup of coffee.  🙂  Where in the airport did he get that this early in the morning?!  My (flawed) plan was to clear security and then get a cup of java.  Seeing his cup made me realize the error of my ways.  Bela was happily chatting away to this young fellow, but I had the chance to ask about the coffee shop location.

He stood up quickly when I turned back to the line and asked Ysabela if we wanted coffee.  She reported later that she refused several times, but he insisted.  He put his coffee cup down near Bela, took off and said he’d be back.

I was approaching the counter when I turned to see this young man with a cup in each hand heading my way!  I couldn’t believe it when he refused payment for the coffees!  I tried three times, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He said something like, “I’m working, and if you want coffee, you can have coffee!”  What choice did we have?  Ysabela and I thanked him profusely and had coffee!  Before he disappeared, I asked him his name and told him I’d be sure to blog about him.

If any of you know a handsome gentleman named Zari, please pass along a hug from us.  He made our morning, so he deserves some good karma….let’s all keep paying it forward.

 

 

 

 

Onward to D. C.

Somewhere close to lunch on the last teacher workday (LAST TEACHER WORK DAY!!!!), I left to take the dogs to Koko’s Palace, pick up Ysabela and our “personal bags” and head to the airport.  When I refer to “personal bags,” what I really want to say is that we each carried a large tote that held our clothes for the weekend.  My bag even had room for my purse.  That saved me money since there’s a charge for a carry-on or checked bag.  Only a personal bag flies with me free—if it fits under the seat.  We all know clothes can be mushed, and mush we did.  🙂  We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  I was a bit nervous since I had received an email advising me to arrive three hours early for domestic travel due to long security lines.

Bela and I took the red-eye and arrived in Washington, D. C., right before five in the morning.  I will admit to sleeping—and most likely snoring—all the way.  I am not ashamed.  In my defense, I did warn my flight neighbor.  He didn’t have a problem with it.  Bela later informed me that he and I were doing some duet snore harmony.

I had downloaded the Uber app prior to leaving home, so I thought transport would be easily arranged.  HA!  Airport Internet could be a bit better.  After almost half an hour of “loading” on my cell phone, I was done.  My last resort was to call my hostess, Martha.  She was already awake (thankfully) and came to pick us up within the hour.

We were welcomed at the apartment building by Martha’s neighbor, Mr. Ali.  He’s a delightful person who made me a cup of coffee when I was there last year.  Coffee friends are forever friends.  Ysabela and I managed to get settled in enough to take a nap.  Martha set the clock to make sure we’d be ready to get to the venue by the appointed time.

Didn’t I tell you what we were doing there?  Oh, dear!  Sorry about the oversight!  We were there to present student films for the American History Film Project!  I attended last year with one of my students; sadly, none were able to come this year except for my daughter (who also did a film).

This year’s venue was lovely.  The curator at Blenheim was so gracious and generous.  Ysabela and I even got to take a tour of the place before our presentations began!  We were made to feel so welcome that I hated to leave at the end.

It has been so encouraging to see Martha’s dream grow.  There were more films presented (and more states represented) this year than last.  Our in-person audience also doubled!  Local school board members were in attendance, and they took an active part by asking insightful questions after each film.  Ysabela did a fine job, as did the other students.  Several young film makers joined us via Skype to answer questions.  Technology is great!

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For more information (and to see the films) head on over to the Facebook page (link below), give it a “like” and do some browsing!  Please share it with your friends as well.  I’ll blog more about it all in a day or two!  Stay tuned!

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Marking Time and Papers!

The end of school is drawing near, and the teachers are just as excited as the students.  Many of us teachers have exams all prepared and scheduled.  Mine sure are!  Having exams ready to give lowers my stress level.

Making a final exam is not as easy as it may sound.  I don’t want to give a huge test; instead, I want to sample several topics I think students should have the vocabulary to write about.  There is a second part to the test for students to speak the language.  I asked my students for topics they are comfortable discussing, and I will choose from those.  Once they know what to work on, they can be prepared!

Underappreciated!

I have been teaching languages for the last sixteen years, and I have seen and heard many weird comments during that time.  I have noticed that many people simply don’t appreciate the work I do.  To be honest, it makes me sad and a bit angry.

I have heard things like, “Speak English!” or “Why can’t everyone learn English?” too many times to count.  Think about it from my perspective if you can.  I am a professional paid to speak my second language—in this case Spanish.  I am paid to teach people as much as I can in the time allotted to me.  I have been trained extensively in the various methods to do just that, literally spending years staying current with research in my field.

When my students encounter me, I need to create the expectation of using the second language.  What that means is when I see students in town or anywhere else outside of my classroom, I like to speak to them in Spanish.  It activates what they already know and expands their minds to be able to learn even more.  They gain confidence when they are successful.

Sit back, be quiet and let me do what I’m trained to do.  It’s not my fault there is no official language for the United States.  It’s not my fault that students are required to take at least one year of Spanish to graduate.  It’s not my fault that it is harder for some students than others.  If you think about it, that could easily apply to math or science, etc.

What any teacher does is build background knowledge for life.  Our job is to combat ignorance.  A little support from the community would be nice.  Tolerance for other cultures wouldn’t hurt either.  You’re never too old to learn!

P. S.  To the community members who are always supportive, thank you so much!  You make the rough days easier.

Long Days

I taught Spanish all day yesterday, then left in a hurry to feed and water horses and make my way (slowly and painfully) to Lincoln.  It’s a drive of about five hours, but trips take me longer because I don’t “drive like an idiot.”  I generally obey the speed limit and try to go easy on my poor car.

A drive like that gave me plenty of time to think.  Not always a good thing.  My main fuel on the drive was coffee, so you can imagine I was in need of a rest stop or two along the way.  I (briefly) considered stopping at a rest area, but I’ve seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds for that!

I made the necessary stops for fuel (for me and my car) and arrived (later than I had hoped) at the hotel.  All this in the name of continuing education.  The whole trip was for a final face-to-face meeting for the UNL Foreign Language Assessment class I have been taking this semester.

The class was full of great information, and I can use the units I created to improve instruction, so it was well worth the work.  It was also an awesome experience to collaborate with like-minded professionals.  Making contacts is the key to exchanging information and improving instruction.  We all spent a long day collaborating and sharing.  The meeting was over by 2:15, and I was fortunate enough to have been able to follow Brenda to get back on the interstate.  (I say “fortunate” because I can get misplaced in a paper bag.  Brenda was staying at the hotel as well, so I made it to the meeting because of her.)

For some reason, I didn’t sleep very well last night, but I was glad I was mentally alert enough to make it home at a reasonable hour.  It sure feels good to be home again.

 

Holiday Cheer

I have been doing some reading about Handbags for the Homeless.  Some call them Blessing Bags.  I saw the idea on my news feed one morning, and it intrigued me.

Some have criticized the idea calling it demeaning.  Those critics advocate giving cash instead and complain that the benefactors are simply trying to feel “less guilty” and soothe their consciences.  I think you should do what your own heart tells you to do.

My motivation is not guilt.  Why would I feel guilty for having a home and food on the table?  I’ve worked thousands of hours to have what we have.  There’s no guilt involved.  What I feel for people who are less fortunate is more complicated.  I’m sad for them, angry that homelessness is even an issue in one of the best countries in the world, concerned that there are hungry children.  One catastrophic event, and any of us could be in trouble.  Everyone needs a break and a helping hand sometime!  I’m not a rich woman, but I do care about humanity and want to take action.

Before I decided to take part and invite students to join me, I contacted the director of the closest homeless shelter and started asking questions.  Beth, the lovely director, explained how things work and what items are always needed.  Relying on her experience, I decided to proceed.

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Handbags for the Homeless

Whirlwind!

Since arriving in San Diego on Thursday, Bela and I have seen Old Town (with Lila), explored a bit of the Gaslamp Quarter and had some great meals.  Sunday after I went to the convention center one last time, we ate brunch at the Broken Yolk Café.  The waitress (Hannah) was super and the food was abundant.  I couldn’t finish it all.  They have a challenge meal of a 12-egg omelet with four biscuits and more that you have to eat in one hour.  By yourself.  It costs $26.99, but the bragging rights might be worth it.  (Not to me, though!)

Sparks Gallery was right across the street from Hotel Z, so we had to see everything in there before we left.

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I didn't know Bela was stalking me.

I didn’t know Bela was stalking me.