Be the Water by Carrie Toth
My favorite units of study are Biodiversity and the water crisis. Whether we are comparing the Carlyle Lake watershed with the Panamá Canal or investigating water borne illnesses and solutions for lack of potable water around the world, these units are anchored in the concept that water can give life or destroy, sometimes there is too much and others not enough, it can wash clean or it can destabilize. Water is power. Water is purity. Water is life.
“I’ll be the water.” As I prepare my room and my heart to walk into a brand new classroom, in a new school, where I will meet a brand new group of students… and leave behind the students I love at my former school… I am chanting this mantra in my head over and over. I will go every day and I will try to find just the right balance.
Being the life-giving water starts in your own room. Your room is your garden and all of your new students are your plants. They need your love, they need your patience, and they need lots of target language input to grow. Shower them with experiences… cultural and content based… in the target language. Help them see that language isn’t just a subject to study, it is something that steals your heart and makes you fall in love with people and places around the world. If you flood them with language beyond what they can understand, you will drown out many of the plants and your garden won’t flourish. If you don’t expose them to enough, they will dry up and their language skills won’t take root. You’re the water, without you showering comprehensible input and cultural connections on them, they’ll never grow into lovers and life-long learners of language.
It doesn’t end in your room. It reaches out from your garden to your department garden. Please don’t be a downpour that washes away another teacher’s plants… What makes a real, lasting difference are your sprinkles of CI based ideas that will help everyone’s plants grow. Be gentle as you share what you believe and what you know from your own classroom. Let others see your plants flourish and it will be easier to share than if you try to flood them with ideas. As a shifting paradigm takes root in their minds, they will see their own gardens start to grow and will seek out new ideas on their own!
It doesn’t end in your department. Be the water on social media. As you watch your students grow, share. Take pictures (with permission slips) and videos and SHARE what is happening in your classrooms. There are teachers around the world who don’t have colleagues to collaborate with, YOU may be the one. You may find your work soulmate! It is wonderful to create and share units but even more wonderful to find a unit that you love from a like-minded colleague! Many teachers feel like there is nothing special happening in their classroom but this is simply not true! Our language classrooms are MAGICAL! We are bringing the world into these small spaces every single day we go to work!
The thing about being the water is finding the right balance. Some years you water too much and your garden gets over-saturated and some years you don’t water enough and it is a little dry… You can’t stop watering or be afraid to plant a garden the next year, you just keep trying to find the right balance for the garden you have in front of you. Use language, read novels, create relationships with your students and colleagues, be active on social media, share what you’re doing in the classroom… and BE THE WATER this year.
Carrie Toth is a Spanish teacher from Illinois with over 20 years of teaching experience. She was the 2014 Central States Teacher of the Year. Carrie has authored La Calaca Alegre, La hija del sastre, and Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos. Her new level 3 novel Vector will be available this fall! She blogs at somewheretoshare.com and can be found on Twitter @senoraCMT.