Most of us are three-quarters of the way through the school year. Some of you may have spent some time during Spring break, a snow day, or a recent weekend considering how your classes have gone so far this school year and are fine tuning upcoming plans. I did! I’ll share some of my thoughts plus offer a few suggestions for keeping things positive while waiting for the lightness and excitement of spring. I’m in mid-Michigan where the cold weather and snow has a tendency to drag on, so adding something new and exciting to the mix this time of the year is good for everyone!
As I reflected on the first part of the school year, for a variety of reasons that I will not detail here, I felt somewhat off kilter for part of the second trimester. Suffice it to say that my worrying was getting the better of me! I knew I had to shake that feeling! I thought about what I had written in a previous CIPeek guest post on insights for staying on track and realized I needed to take a dose of my own medicine! (You can read the blog post here.) So, without any further ado, here are some examples of what I’ve been doing. I hope this will get you back on track if needed too!
1. Be you and be kind to yourself.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Wayne D. Dyer, “My goal is not to be better than anyone else, but to be better than I used to be.” Do focus on the positive and congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished. Do not waste your energy on what didn’t work. Instead, use that energy to make the next forward step on your journey. We often do not offer ourselves the same compassion and care that we give to others. Picture yourself giving advice and counsel to someone…and then follow that advice yourself. Self care is so important, yet so easy to put off!
In the late fall, I began taking a weekly yoga class again and invited my colleagues and friends to join me. The Saturday morning yoga class that I had attended in the past was no longer being offered at a local health and wellness center, so I suggested to the owner that a late afternoon yoga class during the week would appeal to teachers. My favorite yoga teacher was open to offering a class during that time and attendance is growing…and I get to do yoga with some colleagues! Something else that made a big difference in my health and outlook was that this winter I made a concerted effort to increase my sleep time which meant reducing “screen time” in the evening and adding a relaxing routine of reading a novel or a “cozy mystery” by one of my favorite authors with a cup of chamomile tea.
My fellow Michigan teacher and friend Erica Peplinski AKA “Profe Peplinski” recently wrote a helpful post on her “Profe’s Blog” called “Crazy Calm” with a brief explanation of the two parts of our nervous system, and how to control it when it gets out of control. She also included an instructional video on deep breathing, read the post and see the video here. The breathing exercise is short and can be utilized as needed! I also recommend her post on avoiding teacher burnout–read that blog post here.
2. Get the basics down first.
I include a variety of reading in all of my classes as many of you do too. My students read a lot–written versions of our class constructed stories, stories I’ve written, song lyrics, cultural readings, newsletters such as Martina Bex’s “El mundo en tus manos” (for my upper levels), short stories, children’s books, novels, and Comprehension-based readers. I have enough single novels/readers for my upper level students to do “Sustained Silent Reading” (SSR) several times a week and would love to have enough readers at the appropriate level for my Spanish 2s to do SSR on a regular basis as well. In all levels (1-4/5) we usually read two readers as a class, with the upper levels reading more on their own.
This fall and winter I continued the focus on literacy but I also made a point to design opportunities during which students interacted with a (written) story multiple times. For example, students read and discuss a story with a partner one day. On the following day I ask comprehension check questions orally with time for students to ask questions or clarify meaning. Another day students individually respond to written questions to show their understanding. I have found that extending the use of a story is helpful in a variety of ways–it allows students to really take the time for comprehension with scaffolding as needed. Plus it is a supportive way for students who have been absent one day to still be able to successfully work with that story in class. (Our high school has had a lot of absences this flu season!) Extending the use of stories is good for teachers too! I compose and write the majority of our class stories so that I can focus on what my students need in terms of repetition and support–plus I’m able to personalize the stories to my students’ interests, etc. Being able to use what I write in a variety of ways extends the usage of the written story and offers different ways for students to interact with the text.
Another fun way to “re-read” a story is to cut the story into pieces of text which have been randomly numbered and post them around the room. In pairs, students walk around the room with an illustrated storyboard of the story and match the images with the corresponding parts of the text. The images could be clip art or teacher or student illustrations. There are many ways to vary how you and your students read–check out more posts on reading on the CIPeek blog. My classroom layout also offers a variety of spots to read, whether reading individually, in pairs, or in “families” (groups of 4 or 5). I have counters around two walls of my room so students can stand together and read there or, as you see from the photograph, can read on the only carpeted spot in the room, the entrance ramp!
3. Connect and communicate.
Whether near or far, get connected with your colleagues to share ideas and collaborate (and commiserate–then get going on the collaboration part!)
In our district, there are four Spanish teachers–two at the high school, one each at the middle and elementary schools. This past December we were able to take a whole school day to meet as a group to see how things are going, discuss our current curriculum and make plans for the future. The four of us seldom get to see each other face to face at the same time. This time together was such a shot in the arm for everyone. I had prepared a Google slide deck which included our agenda, links to resources, lists, etc. We decided to include that information in a new Team Drive that we can contribute to and use as a location for collaborative materials.
This past fall our Michigan CI Teachers Facebook group started meeting once a month via Zoom.us which is an online meeting platform. Just trying out this virtual meeting was a new and interesting learning experience for me. My co-hosts and long-distance colleagues Erica Peplinski and Tim Geerling are great teammates. Thanks also go to Darren Way who started our Michigan CI Teachers Facebook page. Interested in collaborating with others? Check out this list compiled by Laurie Clarcq or this one from Michael Peto for compilations of CI teacher Personal/Professional Learning Networks to connect with other teachers in your area. If there isn’t a group, start one!
Also, another great way to meet and mingle with CI colleagues is to attend workshops or conferences. Find out what might be happening near you! The 2nd annual Mitten CI Conference in Saline, Michigan is Saturday, April 21, with pre-conference workshops on Friday, April 20. Find more information here. The amazing IFLT18 conference is in Cincinnati, Ohio this July. Learn more about IFLT18 here.
4. Show and Tell–Share your successes with “stakeholders.”
Our school district produces a quarterly newsletter for the community and I always take the opportunity to write an article or two to share what is going on in my classroom and in Spanish Club. I typically include photographs and thus, before the quarterly due dates, I spend some time reviewing my saved images from the past few months. Doing this reminds me of the “photo worthy” happenings that do go on all school year long. Sharing the successes and events happening in your classroom is another way to advocate for and “advertise” your program.
5. Enjoy your students.
Enjoy your students, they are the reason you are where you are! This time of the year can present some challenges–everyone might be feeling that “senioritis” (or “summeritis”) has kicked in. This might be a perfect time to try something new while still keeping the normality of a regular routine. Can you enjoy your students with some new music? With a new game? Can you bring out a tried and true activity or story you haven’t used in a while? I do use music a lot in class but decided to add in a regular dance time on Wednesdays this trimester in my upper level class. I might even try it in level 2! My tried and true for this trimester is one of my favorite Comprehension-based readers, Felipe Alou: Desde los valles a las montañas, written by Carol Gaab. I’m excited to share it with my students this trimester. We’ll start it after spring break. I’ve used it for several years now and each time I try to add one or two new things to the mix. An autobiography written by Felipe Alou with Peter Kerasotis just came out. I read it over spring break and I am looking forward to sharing more information and insight about Felipe’s life with my students as we explore the reader. Find out how I use the reader in my classroom with this CIPeek blog post.
We recently transitioned to our third trimester at our school so I have a mix of students from my first and second trimester classes. We just recently instituted Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and thus, it is a perfect time to talk about class expectations again and what that looks like in our language classroom. I’m grateful that our school district has trained teachers and staff in the “Nurtured Heart Approach” and that has helped us to make the transition. Another source of inspiration and support is Laurie Clarcq via her presence on her blog, Facebook pages, and in person at conferences. I would be remiss if I did not include a link to her blog which is a heartfelt resource for teachers.
What are some things that help you and make you feel supported? How have you gotten back on track this year? How have you supported your colleagues? Please share in the comments!
Rebecca (Becky) Moulton has been teaching Spanish since 1995 at Northwest High School in Jackson, Michigan. She has been teaching with TPRS/CI since 1999. She earned a BA from Alma College in Alma, MI. After a career change, Becky received her teaching certification from Northern Michigan University and later earned an MA in Common Learnings in Curriculum from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI. Contact Becky at Rebecca.Moulton@nwschools.org and follow her on Twitter @SraMoulton
Do you love teaching Felipe Alou like Becky? Here is a super cool Felipe Alou breakout activity designed by Kristine Keefe-Hassan!