Weary

Friends, I am weary. I am worn, and I am exhausted. The Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November is almost over, and whether you believe it exists or not, it has gotten the best of me. I sit here, typing this post with a stack of 90 IPAs that I’ve had for over a week that I haven’t touched. I sit here, with 105 assignments to look over and give feedback on. I sit here, with approximately three school days left until a break that I have needed for a very long time. And man, am I tired.

I failed this week, and I failed hard. But, according to most people’s perspectives, I did all of the “right” things: I introduced new vocabulary in context. I started with input. I gave graphic organizers for students to categorize information. I gave exit tickets. I scaffolded the material in a way that seemed appropriate. I checked for understanding. But, despite those efforts, I failed. I pushed kids to produce language before they were ready. I asked questions for choral responses and got frustrated when individual students didn’t know what words meant. I spoke the target language and misinterpreted that my students were comprehending it. I didn’t give appropriate time to process new vocabulary – vocabulary that came much too fast for my students. I got upset that students didn’t remember all of the words we had learned early this year, even though we reviewed them recently and they had no questions. Yesterday was the culmination of several weeks of impatient, overworked, under-appreciated teaching, and I lost it.

My husband and I are in the process of buying a house. We met last night with our realtor, and on our way out, my realtor reminded me for the millionth time: “Wendy, if you ever want to get into realty, you’ve got a job.” And yesterday, I really wanted to say “yes.” I looked into it, by the way – realty. To get your real estate license in Ohio, you need to complete 120 hours of class before you take the tests. And I laughed. “120 hours,” I thought to myself, “that’s about the amount of time I put into 2 1/2 weeks of teaching!” I want to say that I’m exaggerating, but I honestly don’t think that I am. Last night, as my realtor made that joke that probably had some truth behind it, I felt like I could quit.

We went to dinner, my husband and I, and I remember sighing really loudly and saying, “why do I love teaching when teaching doesn’t love me back?” And I think that I meant that I feel undervalued. I feel under-appreciated. I feel forgotten. And I wonder, with all of the assessing, checking, data collecting, and teaching that I’m supposed to be doing – with all of the immediate and appropriate feedback that I’m supposed to be giving – where’s mine? Where is someone, observing me and saying, “whoa, whoa, whoa, Wendy. You’re giving me a red flag today – let’s back up and try that lesson again!” Where are the people to really help me understand what I’m supposed to be doing each step of the way? Where are the reminders that I can use all of the fancy buzzword activities in my class and still miss the mark?

Last night, my loving, wonderful, amazing, patient husband looked back at me and said, “because you love kids. You love helping them with their lives, and you love seeing them do well.” Man, did he nail it. There are so many frustrations of my job – the never-ending cycle of grading and feedback, the lesson planning that consumes my thoughts from the time I open my eyes until the time I go to bed, the times when I have to call parents and guardians because of behavior, discipline, or worry. I’ve cried way more than once over the stresses of this job, but more than anything, I have joy. I well up with pride when I grade a wonderful assessment, I smile from ear to ear when students try to create with the language, and I spend my time amazed by what students can do with what I’ve taught them. My husband reminded me of why I cannot give up.

In case you’re on the edge of your seat, no, I am not going into realty. What kind of example would I set for my students if I quit every single time I failed in the classroom? What message would I send if I didn’t learn from my mistakes and try to be a better teacher for them? What would it mean if I became bitter from lack of recognition, praise, or aid, and just gave up?

It is so normal to be weary. In the light of social media, it feels like everyone we know only does well, so we don’t show our issues! But Meredith said it best when she said that the “highlight reel does not necessarily highlight real.” While people have been going crazy over my new I cans, I’ve been more disheartened with teaching than almost ever before. I was in a meeting yesterday where I told someone that this has been my best year of teaching, and I meant it, and then I had the worst day of my year by far.

Teachers, we will get a rest soon. We’re almost there. Keep going. We may be weary now, but next week, we’ll have a chance to reset. Stay strong.

“I can” goal stamps

Wow, am I sad that I won’t be at #ACTFL16 – it’s only Monday and I’m already seeing so many great tweets and plans to meet up … I’ll have to be there with you in spirit!

In other news, a lot of people have been asking to see my new document that includes I cans for my unit on family and homes. I can’t take all the credit – I’m always inspired by Megan and Kara’s stamp sheets, and I got a few of my I cans from Melanie and Kara’s work this summer at Camp Musicuentos!

Here’s a few Q and As about these new stamps.

So what are you doing now? Currently, I only stamp about half of the I cans in a unit – those that will require an assessment. Here’s an example of the one I planned on using for this unit before I had a change of mind!

So why are you changing what’s working now? I’ve wanted to do I cans like they do at Jefferson County Public Schools (credit again to Kara and Megan), but it’s always the logistics that get to me. But, I’ve decided that there’s nothing like combatting logistics by just implementing something to see how it goes, as evidenced by last year’s 90% TL experiment! I’ve really been working this year to say the “I can” every day, so that students can see what we’re doing and how it relates to the bigger picture, but I also want them to see them all the unit goals at once. Since I only stamp after assessments with my current stamp sheet, they don’t always see how the little I cans transition into the bigger ones.

How did you do it? So, after a little inspiration from Kara and Megan’s new Adios Textbook! site, I went for it. You guys already know that I’m a sucker for Piktochart, and it didn’t disappoint, again! I really took the time to write the I cans that I wanted, to put them in what I thought was a logical order, and to show students how they will progress, including bigger assessments.

How are you going to check each goal? To be honest, I don’t know. I think I’ll accept them as students can show me, but not during the middle of class. I’ll probably stamp them as I see kids complete them, whether that’s during the performance checks I try to do at the end of class, as kids participate during class time, and/or during some kind of stations, where I can check in with a few kids at a time as we go. I really need to get a self inking stamp so I can do it more spur-of-the-moment.

And what about grades? I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if I plan on grading them. I want kids to master each I can. I want them to see how each I can plays a bigger role in what we’re doing. I want there to be a reason that they complete them. I want them to want to show me what they can do. But I don’t know if grades are the motivator. And if so, do I grade each I can based on how well they did it? Or do I take it for “completion?” Since they need to show me each goal as they’re able to do it, can I set dates to enter them in the gradebook? Or should I really look at them all by the end of the unit, since they’ll be able to redo them as they need? I don’t have these answers. So I’ll update you as I decide!

What are the ACTFL proficiency levels for? I plan on helping kids to track their proficiency across all units, so I imagine that either I (or they? maybe both?) will circle the level that corresponds with their end-of-unit performance!

Anything else? I’m really nervous that I set these in stone, and now I have no room to deviate from that – that’s why there are blanks (thanks, Thomas Sauer, for the tip!) Also, what if the unit drags on and I want to skip a couple, or I realize that they’re not what I really wanted? I guess that will make me better for next year.

Well, if you’ve been with me this long, I should at least give you the full document, no? Here’s what I’ve got going for this unit, I’m honored to hear that inspired so many of you!

I always worry that I don’t vary the wording of these enough. As always, I welcome your feedback!

maison-i-cans

#langchat sessions at ACTFL!

In the event that you’re reading this hoping to see me at ACTFL, sadly I will not be attending. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t help out my fellow tweeps who will be representing #langchat while in Boston!

Here’s a list of langchatters who will be presenting at ACTFL – be sure to stop by and meet them, attend their sessions, or share the name with a friend!

Friday, November 17th:

1:15 PM – #authres in FLES – by @SraWillis and @MaryJoAdams1

1:30 PM – Chat it up – engaging students in twitter chats for proficiency – by @kmcneese and @RhulsHuls

2:30 PM – Using target language: it’s not just about what you say but how you say it! – assisted by @profepj3

3:45: Party Like it’s MMXVI: The Fun and the Fruit of 21st Century Latin Teaching – by @IndwellingLang

3:45 PM: Canela: A Movie Unit for Spanish 1 by @karacjacobs

5:00 PM – Detour Ahead! Overcoming road blocks to staying in the target language – by @profepj3

Saturday, November 18th:

8:00 AM- part of the impACTFL voices series: Pathways to Proficiency – by @profepj3 and @SECottrell

5:15 PM Textbook as AID: Adapt, Incorporate, Ditch – by @SECottrell

Sunday, November 19th:

8:00 AM – Yes we can! The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-do Statements with Early Language Learners – by @Nathanlutz

8:00 AM Interpersonal Speaking Boot Camp: Live-Graded Power Stations by @MmeBlouwolff

Why I #FridayFeedback

Looks like I’ve got to clean out the cobwebs forming in the corners of my blog for this one.

Do you get feedback from your students? Do you get feedback from your students and actually read it? Do you get feedback from your students, actually read it, and then use it to inform your teaching? I know, it’s really hard to do. I’m sometimes a mix of all three, but I’ve really been trying to be better.

There’s a ton of research that shows that choice is a motivator for students, so I love little opportunities to get them to tell me what they like in class. I also love hearing their opinions, because while 50% of students tell me that they loved the most exciting thing we did that week, the other 50% tell me that they like the activities that I thought were “boring.” They like the activities that weren’t as engaging, but helped them with little aspects, made them feel confident, or got them out of their chairs for a few minutes of a day that seemed long and dull otherwise. It reminds me that even when I don’t think a lesson went over well, my students got something out of it, even if it’s only a few of them. It also helps me plan activities for the next week of class, with students’ ideas fresh in my mind.

That’s why I use Friday Feedback – coined by Creative Language Class and shared with me by Allison Wienhold. At the end of each Friday, we wrap up a few minutes early, I remind students of the activities we completed this week, and they write about their favorite one and tell me why. I love reading the “why” parts. I’m going to share a few of my favorite ones from last Friday with you:

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I hope you feel inspired to get feedback from your students! I’d love to hear how it goes!