16-17 Reflections

Wow. This school year was crazy, and it went so quickly! During the middle, I thought I wouldn’t make it out alive, but now that it’s over, all I can talk about is how “fast” it went.

I read a motivational post earlier this year that said something to the effect of, “why do we always judge ourselves based on what’s left on our to-do list, rather than what’s checked off?” MIC DROP! I’ve been trying to keep that close to my heart as the year went on, but it seems like the end of the year is just a long reflection on all the stuff we didn’t do this year!

That list could be the death of me. I actually CRINGE (and I am not exaggerating) when I think back about all the stuff I didn’t cover, teach well, or “check off” this year. My colleague and I even talked about spending time during our PLC next year sharing successes on a big Google Doc so we can remember the great things, especially during the hard times. What an amazing idea.

So, rather than showing you the list of thing I “didn’t cover,” I’m going to share my pluses and deltas from this year:

Pluses:

  • I was transparent about proficiency w/ my students this year and gave appropriate feedback to push them toward those goals.
  • Even though there were lots of downs and a limited number of ups, my students read a novel this year and did pretty well!
  • My students LOVED having pen pals this year, and while I was not the biggest fan, I’m trying to let student interest guide me in this way.
  • I was pretty good about following my motto from last year’s Camp Musicuentos: “I will not sacrifice the good on the alter of the perfect; when I find a resource that is good enough, I will stop looking.”
  • My students were using more verbs this year than ever before because I intentionally taught high frequency verbs at the beginning of the year.
  • My end-of-the-year strategy for pushing my students: “a one word answer is not acceptable for the second semester of French 1!”
  • My end-of-the-year strategy for student feedback: *me, pointing to score or feedback:* “tu es content?” If yes, I said “okay!” If no, I asked them to do it over.


Deltas:

  • I did not get through as many units as last year and I think I missed less days … I need to be more intentional in my planning so that we aren’t treading water because of me!
  • Interactive notebooks were a hit w/ students … when we kept up with them. I need to streamline these and use them more next year!
  • The LOGISTICS of pen pal letters … and then students telling me they “turned them in” when the physical copies were halfway around the world … next year there will be drafts and online submissions or I will pull my own hair out.
  • You know how you always feel like one skill falls to the wayside? This year it was listening! I need to be more intentional about listening activities for next year as well.
  • Due to my crazy number of classrooms this year, I didn’t keep up with stamp sheets or redos like I wanted to. Next year will ALREADY make this easier, I can tell.
  • I left at contract time a lot this year, which meant that grading was a slow and arduous process … but next year, I’ll have a place of my own at the end of the day, which should help with this problem.

 

I’m sure there are a million more (I have a whole Google Doc of “things to do next year”), but I will leave you with these, and with another wise thing that my colleague said to me:

“Did [whatever is bugging you] hinder your students this year?”

If, like me, the answer is no, than it’s probably not worth worrying about. After all, it is SUMMER — you can find me at the beach, or at least Instagramming about it.

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Yearlong reflection

I’ve been gearing up to write a reflection of this school year, but every time I sit down to think about it, this year is just a jumbled mess in my head.

Things that went well:

Teaching style: This year, I ditched the textbook in favor of a mashup of both Jefferson County and Shelby County‘s curricula. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with 4 levels, so following this was really nice. It was nice to have an end assessment in mind, even if I tweaked it. Most days, I also wished they had actual activities, but that’s a definite pipe dream. I think that the units were interesting, relevant, and generally engaging topics for my students.

Quasi proficiency-based: I didn’t get the integration of this that I would have liked, but I definitely liked trying to incorporate this system. Next year, I need to make sure students know what all the levels are, their goal, and where they currently are. I definitely didn’t mention this as much as I should have, or make sure that students knew its importance. I think that next year I’m going to start with Shelby County’s proficiency pre-unit, or something similar.

Not grading everything: Oh. my. goodness. Do you know how wonderful it is to give students practice that’s not graded? Something that will propel them into the next benchmark/assessment without needed to grade each and every one of them?! It’s amazing. That being said, I need to streamline the feedback for these assessments and be honest with students. Many only wanted to know, “is this for points?” and I need to work on changing those mindsets. For feedback, I’m hoping to use some “stock” feedback that I can check; I hope to reinterpret Amy Lenord’s plus/delta speaking feedback.

Input: This year, I really realized how crucial the input step is. There is one unit in particular where I modeled the vocabulary for students every single day for two weeks and I think it’s the vocabulary they remember the most. They can write it, they understand it when they hear it, they can speak it, and they can interpret it when reading. Next year, I need to find more ways to give written input; I think I’ve got more ideas for oral input, but need to expand what students read.

Things that I need to change:

Feedback: This year I was awful at both a) giving timely feedback and b) giving the right kinds of feedback. Like I said above, I’m hoping to design a feedback form that helps with this kind of thing, and a general rubric (probably several) that I can use that will help me give feedback fast(er).

Refining all skills: In changing my teaching style this year, I concentrated on the speaking and writing (the first two parts I think of when I think proficiency) and I’m the first to admit that the reading and listening portions of my class suffered. I attribute some of this to not having a bank of activities, to being young, and to teaching four levels, but I’m hoping to get more listening and reading activities for next year. I’m hoping to (eventually; I know this one will take time) incorporate a system like Sara-Elizabeth does, where each day is dedicated to a specific mode of communication. That way, I won’t find myself freaking out that it’s been two weeks since we did an interpretive listening activity.

Technology integration: I tried to incorporate technology as much as I could last year, but there were so many limitations that I ran into? We needed Chrome to use this site; I could access a site on my school computer, but it was blocked for students; I tested a site and it worked, but couldn’t handle 24 students accessing it at a time. This year was a mess. There was one situation where I made a listening assessment, the site didn’t work for students, and I had a backup plan (go me!) — and that site didn’t work either. For those students that got it to work, great, but someone had taken all of the headphones (there were 3 pairs out of 30) from the library, so they couldn’t listen even if the site did work. It was my biggest failure this year and next year I need to test more and have better back-up plans.

There are definitely more things that I could put in both columns, but I’m trying to stick to the positives and only a few things that I need to change. I can’t take on the world in a day, that’s one of the ways I hit a bout of burnout last year.

That being said, I want to shout out a few things: I recently celebrated my one year blog anniversary, and my one year dedicated to becoming a better teacher with #langchat on twitter. I wouldn’t be the teacher or the professional I am today without the help and support of #langchat, and there are quite a few teachers I want to thank. I could say a million words of thanks to you all, but I’ll try to keep it short:

Sara-Elizabeth: Thank you for revolutionizing everything I thought I knew, and for being so helpful and supportive in my a journey

Amy: Thanks so much for sharing all that you do and for truly coaching me through your blog and your tweets

Allison: Thank you for sharing your ups and down and reminding us young teachers that even the greats have hard days; I’m inspired by your journey

Laura: Thanks for sharing, caring, and the #blogpostsporfavor. You challenge my thinking in a respectful way, even when I am clearly wrong

Colleen: Thanks for making me feel like wonderful teacher, even on the toughest days, and for inspiring me by your wonderful activities

John: Thanks for all of the collaboration we did this year, and thanks for putting up with my constant tweets and terrible jokes

Lisa: Thank you for your transparency in changing your teaching. not only are you honest about the time that it took you, but you share so much and I can’t tell you how much I respect and admire that

Bethanie: Oh my goodness, thank you so much for sharing everything that you have with me. I would have been lost this year without the ideas and activities that you share and I’m so grateful for that

Melanie: Thanks for your fresh ideas and letting me ask you tons of questions/stealing your blog post ideas. The four prep solidarity was much appreciated

Kirsten: Thanks so much for all of your help and support, in front and behind the scenes, and I’m looking forward to working with you next year!

More changes coming soon – can’t wait to share them with you!