Dusting off my blogging skills, after a short hiatus. Life temporarily got in the way, however my time at CiMidwest this weekend reminded me of the importance of connecting with other teachers, and so back to blogging I go. The keynote by the inspiring Jason Fritze (available on the CiMidwest FB page), along with several sessions I attended reminded me of the incredible power of love in our classrooms. Love for our students, love for learning, but also love for ourselves and each other. As we know, the world can be a challenging place. As teachers we are in the unique position to give our students several gifts: love for their own selves, the love of learning, and a love for unknown others. Each year is an opportunity to spread this light in the world. I am in year 14 of my teaching career, and in my time in the classroom; I have taught roughly 3,000 different students. If I have managed to reach even a quarter of the students I have taught, I've added a little more light and love to the world.
LOVE OF LEARNING
We only have so much time with students each week. For some lucky language teachers, that may be an hour a day, or even entire days spent in the target language! For myself, it's 36 minutes, twice a week. The brain is like a muscle, in that, the more we use skills, the stronger they become. In fact, with practice, our neurons can process 100 times faster than when we first start a new skill. While I can help my students acquire quite a bit of language in a week; I can help them learn even more, if I help the fall in love with the language enough that they want to do it on their own at home. How do we do this? By picking topics that are interesting to students, such as their own selves. Bryce Hedstrom talked about Special Person interviews at CiMidwest18, where students own lives become the topic through which they learn language. We do this by tuning into students interests as Annabelle Allen does when she makes exciting stories about a house named Fancy Floss Jr. (unicorn mocos/boogers and all), and we do it when we make reading the same vocabulary and grammar interesting interesting to our students as Carol Gaab does when she varies reading activities. We also do it when we go slow, and connect with our students. Tina Hargaden presented on the foundational skills of using Body and Voice to connect with your students.
Love for others
When we inspire students to love the language and play with it outside of school; the result is amazing acquisition that can turn students into lifelong language learners. This can blossom into a love of other cultures and learning. In my session on the brain, I talked about a a 'pet project' I do with my students. Each class takes home a different "class pet" home for a week. We tell stories about the countries and culture the pet is "from"; the students take a picture with the pet, and makes up some personal information about the stuffed animal (practicing high frequency vocabulary). I then put these papers into a binder and add it to our classroom FVR library (I got the idea of adding this to our library from someone on FB, I wish I knew her name to give her credit, as I love this popular addition to our FVR library).
This project has shown value beyond the language learning aspect. Several years into this project, the 'pets' are now recognized throughout the community where I teach. Native Spanish speakers often initiate conversations with students when they see the animals out and about. A very shy Kindergarten student brought the stuffed bull to a local Mexican restaurant. Upon recognizing the stuffed animal, in addition to practicing Spanish with the student, the staff at the restaurant invited her back into the kitchen to meet the cooks and dishwashers in the back of the house. This student made a connection with people she would never have been brave enough to initiate a conversation with because of learning a language.
I always speak to my students about how the world would be a boring place if we all looked the same, ate the same food, dressed the same, liked the same things, went the same places, and thought the same. I emphasize that all people have things in common, but that our differences can make the world a more exciting place. Hearing it from a teacher is one thing, experiencing this on their own thing, is powerful on an entirely different level. When we can help our students see the connections that are the same between people, but also the beauty in what is different we make the world a better place.
Below, for your language teaching pleasure, please find five videos made by students (shared with permission). These videos were done independently, and voluntarily, for fun! They show a love of language, however it is also fun to see the change in complexity and confidence as the students develop their language skills.
Below is the latest video (just got it yesterday). L2 is in first grade, and her older brother and sister make cameos as 'students' in her class. I love listening to their language development, and the joy in their voices as they play with the language!
Love for their selves
I was able to sneak into two sessions at CiMidwest that focused on honoring the diversity in our students. Rewriting the Story: Upending Bias through a Focus on Understanding with Anna Gilcher and Rachelle Adams and I See You: Building Connections with your Students of Color - John Bracey. Anna and Rachelle's session shared the importance of students seeing positive representations and role models of people like them taught in class. John's session spoke to the importance of being real with your students, and showing up for them. Both sessions had some excellent tips on how to reach all of our students; and I highly recommend attending their sessions at a future conference if possible. One striking similarity between the sessions I noted, was the need to see each of our students as the unique individuals they are; to take the time to get to know them on a personal level and to understand that the things that make them different are a part of their story that we need to recognize and integrate into our teaching. Our students need us to see them for who they are, if we hope to be the teacher that fits their needs. We can only hope to help them reach their full potential if we honor who they are as individuals, and all that this entails.
Love of SElf
Teaching with Comprehensible Input can give (and take) an explosion of energy. When we give our all to our students, it can be very easy to forget to take care of ourselves. I know that if I have been up too late grading, or planning, or even with a sick kid, then I don't put quite as much energy into my lesson, and I don't have quite as much patience with my students.
From a scientific standpoint, we can not be as good in the classroom when we are exhausted because of something called Mirror Neurons. Science backs up the need not to over-do! In our brains we all have neurons, which send signals to other neurons that cause us to do...everything! Specialized neurons called Mirror Neurons, help us understand the moods, motivations, and actions of those around us. When you see someone doing something, the same neurons that would light up in your own head if you were doing the action, light up (even though you are only watching someone else do the action). It's part of why you feel scared when you are in a scary movie, flinch when you see a bad injury, or are thrilled by an intense football game.
If we come into our classrooms without energy and interest for our subject, the Mirror Neurons in our student's brains will pick that up, and they will not be as interested either, therefore decreasing interest and learning potential. On the flip-side, if we come into the classroom with energy and enthusiasm, then our students will also catch that from us, and in turn be more excited about what we are studying. Although I was not able to attend his session, I know that Justin Slocum Bailey taught a great session on Mindfulness in the TL, and the Little Things that Make the Big Things Better. I was also able to lead a session on teacher Wellness and how to take care of yourself so you can be healthy and full of energy (which will be mirrored in our students). You can find links to some of my ideas below:
1) Crazy Calm
2) Healthy Living - Burn Out is Bad for Everyone
3) Healthy Living Part 2- Who Has Time to Work Out
4) Healthy Living Part 3- You are what you Eat
I hope that something from the above links might help you help yourself!
Below are two of the videos I shared in my presentation!
Teaching is a labor of love, teaching students to love learning, love themselves, and love others. In the process we must model what we preach and love ourselves as well. I am eternally grateful to have a job that is exciting and helps me feel like I make a difference from day to day. It would not be possible without all of my incredible students, and fellow teachers that fill my life with love and light. Whether you are a student of mine, a fellow teacher I work with, or have met at a conference, or only someone who is reading this blog in search of a way to spread the love; thank you for being a part of filling the world with light, and for planting trees for the generations to come.
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.