It is impossible to reflect on IFLT 2019 without going back to IFLT 2018. I clearly remember the biggest takeaways from that first IFLT experience in Cincinnati just one year after I decided to ditch the textbook in my classroom (after 4 years of traditional language teaching with poor results). At the time, I was only 1 of 2 teachers attempting to use acquisition-driven instruction (ADI) in my district with the help of blogs and threads in Facebook groups. The impact of IFLT 2018 resonated throughout the school year. It changed my teaching in ways I never envisioned. I carried out so many wonderful ideas from the conference and developed confidence in ADI. As a result, my district and state supervisors approached me to share several of these practices at the district and state level where I often quoted many truths delivered at IFLT18. Beyond the conference, these truths continued to change my teacher mindset and decision making in the classroom. Although I am still learning, attending IFLT that summer empowered me with the confidence to use a different voice I did not know I had, the teacher leader voice.
Now, flash forward to the summer of 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. With this new voice, I have supported my district’s increasing interest in ADI and several fellow teachers have now committed to its practices. Three of these teachers from my district decided to invest in IFLT19. To see the glow on their faces as they shared their experiences from this year’s conference was one of the biggest highlights of my own experience. This is because I recognized that energy, it was the same one I was charged with the previous year. The one that allowed me to make a bigger impact not only in my classroom, but beyond. The one that led me to go back to school enlightened and ready to shine at building relationships with students and try so many new practical yet research-based SLA driven ideas and activities. I now can’t wait to see what my passionate colleagues and I are going to accomplish with our students and our district.
During IFLT19’s opening, Carol Gaab shared a powerful slide. It read “You can’t memorize how to CONNECT with students, how to sustain MEANINGFUL INTERACTION in the TL or how to facilitate ACQUISITION. You just FEEL it…IT becomes part of you.” I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on this truth prior to attending the workshops. It reminded me that just like our students become proficient at a language, we are also becoming proficient at the craft of ADI and it never stops. It is also an intentional yet organic process. IFLT19 embodied this statement in the following ways:
In my cohort, each leader shared big ideas on the areas they were authentically passionate about. This facilitated a genuine connection and established trust among our cohort participants. Seeing this grounded the importance of allowing my learners to guide my curriculum as well as the topics I am passionate about because it makes an exponential difference.
To maintain connections strong with students, Justin Slocum Bailey’s “Poised for Proficiency” workshop equipped me with a powerful takeaway when he highlighted the importance of BECOMING AWARE of something as simple as our breathing to radiate calmness in the classroom, but to also use body language to include every student in the class even when addressing just one student. He led a discussion on various intricate yet powerful details used to develop authentic connections with our students. This year, I want to bring more of my own awareness and presence for my students during the hour or 90 minutes we have together because during those minutes nothing else matters. And like JSB mentioned, it can be done one tweak at a time.
MEANINGFUL INTERACTION in the TL:
During my IFLT18 experience, I made the mistake of only attending one language lab. At IFLT19, I made it a point to observe a lab daily. Each exemplified meaningful interactions at their best. Jason Fritze geniusly used giant paper speech bubbles with targeted phrases to create and enhance a literacy opportunity for his students in the target language. I am beyond excited to implement this idea my classroom. Also, Mark Mallaney masterfully facilitated and sustained natural interactions using a wide variety of subject pronouns simultaneously with targeted verbs. He did so by giving students gestures to differentiate between “yo,” “él,” and “ellos.” I am certain his students were not thinking about grammar at all, they were simply enjoying a compelling story. I plan to bring this to my classroom as need to be more intentional with teaching more plural subject pronouns with a wide variety of verb forms. To do this naturally seemed like a challenge, but Mark’s approach gave me a major aha moment.
Additionally, observing the labs allowed me to make a list of instructional tools used by these amazing instructors. As I plan for the new year, I am looking at my own toolbox, and I am using this experience to assess what has worked and what new tools I can use to continue to guide my students towards acquisition. These language labs with master teachers and real students are a big part of what makes this conference like no other…pure GOLD!
At Diana Noonan’s “Transforming a District” session, she mentioned if we are to create a shift in our districts from traditional teaching to teaching for acquisition, SLA education must be present for teachers. She encouraged us to build a team of teachers who believed in CI and to start reading books such as While We are on Topic by Bill VanPatten to facilitate continuous SLA discussion. This led me to reflect on my personal journey this prior school year where I began to read books on SLA research and as a result really began to closely examine the purpose of every activity in my class. Reading research can be a powerful shortcut to better ADI, and it has produced better results in my classroom because CI works. My plan is to continue reading, trying and implementing, all while maintaining a humble and opened door to my classroom. I can’t lead my district colleagues to CI, but my students’ progress can, so I must continue to learn to maximize their proficiency and provide support to my colleagues when asked.
FEEL IT AND IT BECOMES PART OF YOU:
Three years ago, I was getting my feet wet with ADI with basic TPRS, one word images, and PQAs. After my first attendance to IFLT, the sessions kept facilitating the opportunity to personalize my own toolkit. Now my lessons are geared towards building relationships with students and content based instruction with embedded culture. The result is one of the most beautiful types of teaching I have experienced, and it is now part of me. It is exciting to view myself, as Paul Sandrock stated this year, as a language acquisition engineer, the type who builds a strong bridge for students, and that is just what I plan to do without ever forgetting Carol Gaab’s closing quote “Approaches and strategies are useless without RELATIONSHIPS and LOVE!”
Attending IFLT has been a transformative experience for my career, an experience I wish to include in my agenda every summer possible, one that I must continue to share because it is one of a kind. See you in California!
Bertha Delgadillo is a high school Spanish teacher at Woodville Tompkins Technical and Career High School in Savannah, GA. Over the past five years, she has taught all levels of high school Spanish (Spanish I – AP Spanish Language). She is passionate about all things CI. DACA students and heritage learners are very close to her heart as she used to be a DACA grad and a heritage learner in a US school herself. In the spring of 2019, she received one of fifteen LifeChanger Awards and was named the World Language Educator of the Month of May in the state of Georgia. During her spare time, she enjoys family time, traveling, latin dance, reading, mixing drinks, and coffee. She lives with her husband, 13 year old son Manny, and a Chihuahua named Patrón. You can connect with her via Twitter @profedelgadillo, Instagram @profesoradelgadillo, and her blog.
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