To the Doctor We Go….

In rural Nebraska, heading to the doctor can be an “ordeal” of sorts. Our doctor happens to be 95 miles from home, so when I have to take Bela, we just schedule to be gone from school for the entire day. We got up early and went for coffee only to be disappointed….our local coffee shop is closed for the next few days. Bummer. We were sad, but we soldiered on. The gas station was also closed, so I had to use my debit card (which I do not like to do) to get gas so we could leave town. There was a cattle drive of sorts between our town and the next. I am so glad we were able to dodge the cows!

Things started out a little sketchy, as you probably figured by now, but they sure took a turn for the better once we made it to the doctor’s office. Our wait was reasonably short, and we went back for vitals to discover that Bela has lost 17 pounds! I didn’t have energy enough to do a happy dance, but I sure am thrilled for her. I though she looked smaller lately, but it can be hard to tell. Bela’s Hashimoto’s may be getting under control! Since good is usually balanced by bad, the doctor said she also is suffering from TMJ, so she prescribed an anti-inflammatory to see if it will improve.

While I was waiting for the doctor, I mentioned to the nurse taking vitals that there are a lot of apples on the ground going to waste. She said to get all I wanted! She was even kind enough to bring me two bags to use. Once I was out in the parking lot again, I noticed a cherry tree was growing alongside the apple tree! I got a bag of apples and a bunch of cherries. Bela said the cherries are a taste of Mexico! We put the free resources (one of my favorite phrases!) in the car and walked across to the pharmacy for medicines. That didn’t take long, so we stopped at Hazel’s Coffee for some yumminess. I got mint and vanilla, and Bela got brain freeze from peanut butter and white chocolate. We parted from our blended ice long enough for me to stop by the local college campus to offer my services as a Spanish instructor. I was warmly received when the lady found out I can teach ESL and Spanish. 🙂 We left and planned to head home, but by then we were hungry; we ate lunch at Taco John’s.

Since we had all day to ramble, I stopped at Chandler’s Honey because every time we have seen it, Bela has begged to stop. I’m usually in a hurry no matter where we go. Not today! All in all, the trip was worth the trouble today.

The trees had plenty of fruit!

The trees had plenty of fruit!

Blended ice yumminess!

Blended ice yumminess!

Taco John's serves potato oles.

Taco John’s serves potato oles.

Videos for Homework?

I have been doing a lot of reading about blended learning and flipped classrooms, so I am actively searching for good videos to assign as homework. If students get to watch a video, it takes the work out of homework.

I have found a few good ones to explain the proper use of each of the two past tenses in Spanish, so I guess I’ll see which students actually do the homework when I give a quiz next week.


Today was a very productive day for my Spanish 2 students. Their assignment was to be able to discuss their favorite actors or actresses in Spanish (of course) and ask questions or comment on their classmates’ statements. They were expected to look up any necessary vocabulary, ask me for help as needed and speak in the target language.

I have to say that they exceeded my expectations. One class went to the local coffee shop, ordered their drinks and started talking. I asked questions and made comments as well, so they had to think on their feet and keep up! A few students were really hesitant at first. Normal under the circumstances, right? After all, this ole, mean teacher was demanding something scary from them! They had to move out of their comfort zone. YEA!!!!!

Both classes were interacting so quickly that I could barely register who was speaking to add checks by the names! They made me proud.

Bright Spot in My Day!

I teach an exploratory language class with students in seventh and eighth grades. Originally it was an exploratory Spanish class. Instead of boring myself with Spanish only (since I teach the same material to three or four groups), I asked the principal and the students if it would be cool to let the students vote on the languages we study for the nine weeks I have them.

The first language chosen was French. American Sign Language, German, Portuguese and Navajo were next on the list. To be honest, Navajo caught me by surprise. I am forgetting one language, but I’m sure it will come to me by morning! Spanish, of course, is going to be the last language we investigate. Most of the students already know a few words of it from last year and classes in elementary school. It will be fresh in their minds for next year (I hope!) when they begin Spanish at the high school level. This class is shaping up to be fun.

I have a video lined up for ASL already. The song is now stuck in my head along with some signs!

One student commented that he really liked the fact that I want to have some fun! LOL He went on to suggest that we prepare and eat (of course) a food related to each culture. Hmmm. I like that a lot! My mind instantly jumped to crepes….with Nutella, whipped cream and maybe some fruit. This kid was on a roll. He also happily recalled the baklava a teacher friend made for them (at my request) last year when we studied ancient Greece. At least he has one good memory from history class! I’ll try to give them some new ones with languages.

UPDATE: I forgot Russian!

Full Concentration

Summer is winding down fast, sadly. I am not (yet) mentally ready to step back into the classroom, but I’m getting there. Maybe this year I can give 100% to my classes. I know that sounds bad, but it’s the reality.

My attention has been divided due to the grad classes I have just finished. Any teacher out there can attest to the fact that a teacher must constantly multitask and prioritize. For the past two years, I have juggled two or three classes each semester. I spent the two years before that completing some Nebraska requirements. I have worked hard, but in a multitasking way.

This school year, I will focus fully on my students. It feels like a dream come true! Fellow teachers, you know what I mean. It will be exciting to put my knowledge into practice. I feel very optimistic about helping my students improve their Spanish this year. I will definitely be pushing them harder. People in our town will have to adjust to hearing me speak only Spanish to my students no matter where I see them. Some will be angered by it, but I know what is best for my students. If I don’t use what I’ve learned, what good was all the time I spent studying?


Berty Segal Cook, a phenomenal teacher

Berty Segal Cook, a phenomenal teacher

If I had to describe Berty Segal Cook with just one word, it would be….DYNAMIC. She is, however, so much more! Inspirational, dedicated, magnificent and amazing are all words that easily describe her. Honestly, you may not understand just how amazing she is unless you attend one of her workshops and experience language learning with her. That’s how several language teachers spent the day. I had been looking forward to it for weeks! Many of my colleagues drove hours for the privilege if that tells you how respected she is in the field of second language acquisition. Berty flew in from California last night to conduct the training. She has presented workshops in 22 countries. Jan Coone organized everything, including breakfast and a wonderful lunch! It doesn’t get any better than that! Words can’t describe how rejuvenated and refreshed I am. I feel like I can make it to the end of the year! (Excuse me while I happy dance.)

We began the day with coffee and donuts, always a good move when you’re dealing with teachers. Berty started promptly at nine because she had a full day of activities for us. She explained the differences between the left brain and the right brain. My preferences lean strongly toward the left brain, meaning I am more “linear” in my thinking, and I see details that make up the big picture. I need to take notes and figure out verbs! In many cases, this causes a lot of stress, especially for language leaners. Those “right brain” people can take in the whole of something and use the senses to absorb what is happening around them. I learned that by using right brain activities, intelligence is actually increased! Activating the right brain also determines long-term retention. Berty was able to prove that without a doubt. She indulged our left brains and cited the work of Asher, Krashen and Terrell. She allowed us to make a few notations in our handout, but not many. That was hard for me as a left brain thinker. When she started our lesson by teaching commands in Yiddish, I thought my left brain was going to have a seizure!

Yes, you read correctly—Yiddish (her first language). Berty would take breaks from the commands and let us stretch our legs and get coffee, discuss other aspects of language learning and come back to the commands. After three or four hours, all of us remembered what to do even without her modeling the command for us! She expected all of us to get immersed and involved, so we took turns throughout the day being examples for her lessons. I was chosen (along with four others) for the clothing description activity. I was first in line, so she started by describing my long hair, glasses and blue Cinco de Mayo shirt. Then things got exciting. She lifted my foot about 18 inches off the floor. I quickly grabbed the shoulder of Emily (to my left). My other hand landed on Berty’s back. She paused and asked if I had problems with my legs. My response: Not until today! She went down the line describing each of us. Then she asked the “class” to point out who was being described as she listed characteristics she had mentioned. All the participants were able to understand and be successful! Now we have to change our methods to reflect what we learned.

We were lucky enough to be able to order Berty’s books, and she was kind enough to have Jan copy lessons we can use as resources while we wait for our books. I don’t know about my colleagues, but I will be putting our text books on the shelf as of tomorrow. My kids and I need to have some fun with learning again.

To find out more, see Berty’s website (below). If you have the chance to sit in while she demonstrates her lessons, do yourself and your students a favor and GO! We need Berty in teacher prep classes at the college level! Jan Coone also has a great website for teachers. You can find it below as well. This was a day well spent.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Fired Up in the Land of the Free

Yes, I am fired up today! I have some things to tell small-town America…things they might not want to read. Let me preface my remarks by stating very clearly: I love living in my small, rural town. It is a great place to raise my daughter, and we feel safe here. I appreciate all the kindness from the people in this Nebraska town. Thank you for accepting us.

This should come as no surprise to people who know me in this town, but I have to say it all anyway. I ask your indulgence. I am a Spanish teacher. I live and breathe the language. I was actually HIRED to speak Spanish and to teach it to your children and grandchildren. The reality is that when I see one of my students around town, I may actually speak to the student (gasp!) IN SPANISH. You should be proud when your student answers in Spanish–or even if the student gives an answer in English that shows he or she understood my comment! The absolute wrong thing to do is tell me to speak English because I’m in America. Why? Keep reading.

My job is to broaden my students’ horizons and to teach them the joy of speaking a second language. It allows the students to experience other cultures and think in different ways. I would also like to point out something you may not realize—the United States does not have an official language. The reality is that America is home to many cultures and languages. Your language is not the ONLY language. Your way, my friend, is not the ONLY way. Your beliefs are not the ONLY beliefs. My job is to help small-town students be ready to move from life in rural America (where people are mostly similar) to a global environment where speaking English and Spanish (or French, Chinese, etc.) could make the difference in dollars later.

If you are uncomfortable with my language skills, ask yourself why. What hidden issues do YOU have that make you feel that way? What prejudices do YOU have in your heart of hearts? Are you afraid you are the topic of discussion if you don’t understand the conversation? (I can assure you, that is usually not the case; it’s human nature to feel that way.)

A short while ago, some community members were upset that my students can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. Why? Shouldn’t the focus really be on the honor and commitment of people to the flag no matter what language is used? I received a kind, supportive email from a veteran in our community who believes the language isn’t as important as the respect given to the flag. He is one of our nation’s heroes because he served the United States with honor and pride. Other community members might view me as unpatriotic because we say the Pledge in Spanish, but it’s not the case. My students willingly make cards for deployed servicemen and women, so your argument is not a valid one. My classes even have two adopted Spanish-speaking soldiers. Everything we do is somehow related to my subject matter whether it’s saying the Pledge or making cards to send. The sentiment is more important than the language. Do us all a favor and focus on the big picture. Understand that I care about your children, and I want them to learn as much as possible. I want them prepared for a bright future. Only education across the curriculum can do that. Trust me to DO MY JOB. After all, it’s why I was hired.

I think sometimes people just need something to complain about or they aren’t happy. My advice to those folks: pick a topic and go to it! It won’t keep me from doing my job anyway.

Old Glory

Old Glory