Earlier this week I finished re-reading the book "Social, Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect". Social, is incredibly COMPELLING input but, also a lot to take in, so I am giving myself an extra "repetition"by reading again. ;)
The author argues that our need to connect with others like us, is an incredibly fundamental part of what makes us happiest as human beings. He also argues (and backs up with an impressive amount of data), that we are happiest when we are working with others. He gives compelling evidence that we are capable of incredible things when our brains work together. Our true potential can not be reached when we work in isolation (as many of us do during the school year). The value of this conference both to improving our profession, and to ourselves as human beings is immeasurable. I feel lucky to have been able to share the weekend with so many inspiring educators. Before I forget about all the wonderful experiences this week (and before I totally crash tomorrow night) here is a bit (or maybe a LOT) about IFLT17.
Please forgive the errors in this post, I always think I will sleep at conferences and I always end up a bit sleep deprived instead. If I wait till I have laid down on the couch tonight I am afraid I will miss capturing the excitement of the weekend (and/or this post would not happen). :)
At IFLT17 language acquisition super stars (I promise I didn't photo shop myself into the above photo ;) and other teachers from across the world come together to support each other and work together to push the profession into new territory. All these brains and this knowledge working together to improve the profession is inspiring and up-lifting. Every time block at IFLT this year (much like last year) had multiple sessions I wanted to attend. It is always so hard to choose. But choices were made, and here are a few of the great things I learned. I wish I had time to attend ALL the sessions!
I ended up on the same flight on the way to IFLT as Teri Wiechart. I felt lucky to get to spend some time in conversation with Teri. She is such a kind person, and has done so much to help spread language acquisition. Monday started with Coaching4Coaches with Teri and her incredibly talented team of coaches. This class was something I needed. TPRS and CI are skills that needs a lot of practice. Coaching is an art, and I learned much that I can bring back to my district and to other teachers from her class. This class will be invaluable in helping newer teachers in our district. I am so grateful to her for all her work on IFLT. Also, for the incredible IFLT App that Teri manages. I can not possibly name everyone that should be thanked for IFLT (I do have to go to sleep at some point, caffeine can only get you so far). However, it is impossible to mention IFLT without mentioning Carol Gaab. Even when she talks to an auditorium full of people, she makes it seem as if she is talking right to you. Both kind, incredibly energetic, and a powerful advocate for teachers. I am so grateful for the work that Carol, Teri, and all of their team has done.
The keynote was given by the prolific and compelling Sr. Wooly. He spoke about something that can be a source of stress for language teachers, the worry that we are not "authentic" sources of language for our students because we are not native speakers. If we are not authentic (after all our years of practice), what are we telling our students about their potential for learning a language? His talk connected with the audience and is important to hear. Knowing that someone who has accomplished as much as Sr. Wooly has, worries about their authenticity as a teacher (which is something I think we all question sometimes) is empowering. Greatness does not often happen without a few failures first. A failure is just a step along the path.
After the keynote was the busiest part of IFLT for me. First I guided a forum on Language Acquisition with pre-literate students with teachers from around the world. Although I had a list of 6 or 7 questions, we spent most of our time on the first two questions because we had so much to say to each other. Loved having the time to speak with other educators working with young children. While there are three other elementary teachers in our district, I am the only language teacher in my building with my 500 students. I may be incredibly excited about something I've done in my classroom, or a major leap in my understanding with my students progress, but nobody at my building would get why I am excited. My IFLT support network is an invaluable resource both for sharing ideas and improving my practice (which is probably why I post so much). Hooray for the FB group!
After the Forum I headed off for my first Leader Launch Session on Games in the CI Classroom. Games can be a great way to get lots of repetitions of very, very compelling CI. I was a camp counsellor, have taught for 12 years, and have three kids, so I have a lot of games up my sleeve. It was fun to share some of my favorites with a room full of enthusiastic teachers. After my games forum, I headed off to talk about another of my favorite topics, the brain and learning. The Mirror and Mentalizing System in action in the classroom were the main topics of my presentation. Thank you for taking the time to listen if you spent part of your morning with me. If you are interested in the material from any of my presentations, check out the link here.
After lunch I went to see the energetic, fun, and very, very talented Maestra Loca. If you have not seen her blog, check it out right away. Even if you do not have her energy, or teach a different grade, there is something you can learn for your classroom from this talented teacher. Her session was full of joy. I was so happy to finally meet my elementary teaching partner in crime.
The end of my first day was spent was Keith Toda playing Mafia in Latin. I was killed off in the first practice round, but Keith made it up to me by letting me be Mafia the second round. ;) La Maestra Loca already has a great post about his session, but he definitely gave me a few new ideas for Bad Unicorn (which speaking of) an impromptu game sprang up one night, it was so much fun to play with a group of language teachers from across the country. I happened to have Unicornio Malo cards in my room because I was going to explain how to play in my session if there was time (there wasn't, I chronically plan too much both in my classroom and when I present). I wish we had been able to play in another language (no chart paper or places to write)!
Wednesday I spent the morning with Mira Canion and Kelly Ferguson learning about ways to include culture while staying in the CI. Lots of practical ideas to implement right away in the classroom, good for teaching culture, and inspiring deeper thinking. Mira and Kelly are both funny and personable presenters. They also talked about coffee a lot, which was very compelling for me first thing in the morning. ;) My students will totally be geeked I met the author of "Capibara con botas', which is another bonus.
I record a lot of videos with my students, but have never been to film school (or sadly read any books about filmmaking). Learning the basics with Sr. Wooly and Kelly Ferguson taught me a lot about how to make videos for and by my students WAY better. I cannot wait to see what I can produce with and for my students applying these new techniques. I also laughed so hard during the final session in this presentation that my stomach hurt (which is a good thing). Here is an early attempt at editing from my group's video. It was so fun to make this video with a group of peers that I had met in the facebook groups, but never in person. We can continue to support each other through out the year this way.
Next were "Lunch Time Talks" with Leslie Davison. We had roughly 100 teachers each day, willing to spend even their lunches learning from each other. How powerful is that? Lunch time talks can be more stressful than a longer presentation, because they are only 5 minutes and go so quickly. Everyone did a great job, and it was fun to learn different things from faces across the country. I gave a Lunch Time Talk about using breathing to control stress. To learn more, click here. The lunch time talks were well done, and I learned so much that I am looking forward to investigating. Thank you to the fun and knowledgeable Leslie Davison for organizing these the last few years!
Next up was the phenomenal Jason Fritze of Fluency Fast talk about elementary procedures. I could hardly write fast enough to keep up with his great ideas. Sadly my phone was dead, so I got no picture, but I do have many pages full in my notebook! I finished up my day with coaching. It was great to be able to start working with other CI teachers and learn from each other' s teaching. I appreciate all the coaches, but am especially grateful to Gary Di Bianca for letting me coach and learn with him.
I had heard for many years to go see Alina teach if you ever had a chance, and Thursday it finally happened. Not only did I get Alina, but Mira Canion popped in, and the two ended up working together for much of the lesson. They made a hilarious and entertaining team for students and teachers in the session. All were compelled and comprehending incredible amounts for beginning students. Must like in the previous session my notebook filled up quickly! I wish I had been able to fit in a language lab in Mandarin with the amazing Linda Li. Maybe next year, since Ohio is within driving distance for me.
After the language lab, and helping set up Lunch Time talks, I headed off to a Collaboration Room on Grammar in the brain with Kirsten Plante. It was so much fun to meet someone as into the brain as I am, I am so happy we had time to discuss the brain in your group, the time flew by, and I hope we get to chat again in the future!
As with IFLT last year, my only regret is that I did not have time to see and do more. A lot more pictures than I normally post of myself in this blog, but I can hardly believe I was able to meet so many amazing educators in one place. I wish I could have had time to work and learn with all of them. I have collaborated with many of them online before, but there is something special about meeting in person.
The value to ourselves as human beings to attend a conference like this is something that can only be experienced. Coming together to work with other teachers that are excited about changing education for the good of students and teachers is like nothing else. Discussing ideas in forums and collaboration rooms , creating projects, observing, questioning our practices, and all the excitement and laughter is something I wish that every teacher could experience, every year. Our full potential as educators, is reached when we come together to learn from each other, and to support each other. I will be a better teacher next year, because of everyone I met at this conference. Whether it was learning new things to try with my students from La Maestra Loca, Alina or Jason, deciding to play a last minute game of Unicornio Malo when I was steps away from going to bed (I am so glad I stayed up) in the hotel lobby, making a video in Señor Wooly's Film Class that made ma laugh so hard my stomach hurt, or listening to Dr Krashen and BVP take our questions, each part of the conference helps grow our profession in different ways. "I AM a language expert, language is NOT like other subject matter." Thank you to Dr. Krashen and BVP for your wise words. Thursday was the perfect end to the last full day of IFLT17.
Friday morning went by quickly with a fascinating session on Assessments with Diana Noonan. Assessment may not sound interesting unless you are a language dork, but for us teachers it can be compelling when done right. My last session was with the dynamic Mark Mallaney. I can't wait to bring his CI techniques back to the middle school teachers in my district.
When I came to IFLT last summer, I promised myself I would only go to this 1 conference, and that I really wouldn't go to any again for a long time. Halfway through the week I was already plotting my return. This year, I "for real" promised myself I would not go next year (2018), because I definitely used up all of my teacher improvement money (and then some) to make IFLT2017 happen. However, I know already, that if I can make it work, I will be back again next year. Having the support of your peers, and being able to work together to create practices that are infinitely better because we were able to learn from each other, is something that is incredible to be a part of, and hard to resist. I am so happy I was able to learn with so many amazing teachers this week!
If you asked me for links to materials or to post parts of my sessions and I do not do so soon, please let me know, I just forgot (as I have said, sleep deprivation). :)
Thank you to all the organizers, presenters, and coaches that made this happen. Organizing a conference is a crazy amount of work. I am truly grateful to all involved!
Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel —Socrates
I have so many new ideas for next year, and even though I will enjoy the rest of the summer, I can't wait to get started, and to share the excitement with my students. Thank you to everyone for a week well spent, I feel lucky to have been a part of it. I hope to see everyone at a conference in the future (and on the FB groups of course). Safe travels!!!
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.