Year 2 Teaching Reflections

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Another year in the books; my second year at my current school and in my teaching career my fourth (or my seventh if you count Sunday school teaching, hehe). It was a pretty good year; obviously a little easier than year 1 back into the game, but still a lot to learn from and grow and improve.  This is a pretty long post, so if you're a total teacher nerd (like me!) read on. Otherwise, scroll through the pics and check out what I'm thinking about already for next year at the bottom.

Year 2 Teaching Reflections --

First and best thing this year was my new space; I got a new room that is much bigger and included tables left over from it's former life as a computer lab. There was so much room for movement, dancing, and lots of wall space for signs, artwork, and student work. I spend at least eight hours of my day in that room, I want it to be a place that feels inspiring and beautiful so it gets decked out with Mexican Papel Picado banners, and country flags, paintings from the Dominican Republic that we've picked up from our travels, fake flower arrangements, and lightbulb strings. I try to make it a space that kids want to be in; that inspires them to be creative and feel safe. Do some my fellow teachers make fun of me for my enthusiasm of brightness and loudness and general wackiness?  Of course! Do I care? heck no! It's normal for the foreign language teacher to be a bit of a nut, right? It's definitely the case at our school - she cray.

There was a lot of great things that happened this year. I had two incredible teacher assistants (hi Ana and Lysh!) that were helpful, patient, and sweet. I taught all periods this year except period2 (prep) and period9 (lunch) but there there kids in my room almost every single part of the day - studying, needing a space to regroup, catch up on work, or just to chat. I taught 2 sections of Spanish 1, 2 sections of Spanish 1 Honors, and one section each of Spanish 2, Spanish 2 Honors, and Spanish 3 Honors. My biggest class was 25 (too many) and my smallest class was of 13 (ideal). We do música miércoles on Wednesday (watch a Spanish music video) and Baile Viernes on Friday (Just Dance videos to start class) and the kids love both of them - reminding me immediately if I forget that day. 

We read lots of Spanish books this year and it was incredible to see how the students can go from disbelief in themselves and their language learning to telling me how easy a dictation quiz after reading a few chapters is because they understand what I'm saying in Spanish. There were a lot of great new learning tools we incorporated into our novel reads this year too including - predictions (bunches of hunches), Gimkit & Quizlet Live reviews, Pear Deck for chapter comprehension, and Reader's Theater with props! We built forts, read while playing the Floor is Lava, completed Walk-Around quizzes, cut & paste in chronological order, and summary 'snowball' fights with crumpled paper. 

We participated in Wooly Week and it was hilariously fun and meaningful. Kids were invested and totally locked into the activities. We celebrated with door decorating, a food day, voting on our favorite Wooly song, playing Ojo Sabio until our eyes crossed, and so much Una Cancion Original. By the end of the year, my kids were still randomly singing Wooly songs; especially Ganga Girls and Feo. How incredibly lucky I feel to be a Spanish teacher with so many amazing resources out there to get my kids excited to learn and really comprehending another language!!

We made awesome strides in language learning through comprehensible units too with Martina Bex's Somos Units. I started out with intentions to just use the Somos Units with my Honors classes and take more of a traditional route with my general Spanish classes. But halfway through the year, after seeing the kinds of confidence and progress that my students using comprehensible input were making - I switched everyone over and will never look back. We wrote our own class stories using specific target structures for each unit, learned about interesting cultural topics, listened to music for missing lyrics, and gave mini presentations in Spanish. We also studied the Super 7 Verbs in various tenses thanks to Allison Weinhold;s Mis Clases Locas units. Where we held personal interviews and listened to music for specific verbs.

And we tried to have fun too. Because if there's one big benefit of being a Spanish teacher it is reminding the kids that life does not have to be so serious. Learning language is about messing up, and communicating in any way possible - through hand gestures, facial expressions, putting funny phrases together just to get your point across. It is silly and messy and so much fun! We don't come to Spanish class to sit in a desk and memorize vocab or conjugate verbs until our ears bleed. We USE the language and TRY it even if it makes us look a little dumb, and listen to it, and act it out, and make language jokes that only the kids who can figure it out laugh hysterically because they actually get it. It's goofy and maybe the only part of their high school day that they get to move and dance and sing and be a weirdo. 

So we play spoons the Spanish verb kind, and we practice Spanish hand clapping games like Chocolate, and we dance the merengue, and go outside during Screen Free Week, and we do Running dictation in the gym or auditorium, and we color while we listen to Spanish podcasts, and we review with Write, Draw, Pass games, and learn numbers with card games, and we have food days (!).

We did some non-Spanish reading this year too. I started the #whatseñorastuderisreading hashtag on instagram to share my for-fun reads with the kids and most of them were actually borrowed/suggested from one of my students. It has led to meaningful conversations and connections with kids who have read or been thinking about reading the same books. And a dear friend, Shelly, passed along the TATBILB series to share with my classes after I posted about how we all had Peter Kavinsky fever! Those three books were passed around all year long and Noah Centineo has been a key character in many of our Spanish class stories (LOL).

Our Spanish club was a little bigger and better this year too. We had an awesome president (Ana!) who really took the lead on the Elementary school visits which was so helpful to me. Our 'elementary school teachers' visited K-2 classes once a month to teach them a few Spanish words which is meaningful to the little kiddos and my big kids. What an important lesson for my high school kids to see how their influence can make a difference (and how those little kids warm my students' hearts!) 

We participated in the Homecoming parade, painted faces for a school fútbol game, designed and ordered new club shirts, and held two dances this year. 

I was thankful to be part of my school community this year and join in on all the traditional events we celebrate including the Veteran's Day breakfast, PI day pep rally, the Homecoming pep rally (it was haunted themed and I was Pennywise!). I loved attending my students' games, and art shows, and the musical. It's one of my favorite teacher moments when a student recognizes you outside of your classroom at a school event, they have this great expression transformation from confusion, to understanding, to joyful surprise. 

My new neighbors in my wing were friends that helped laugh through the passing periods (even on the toughest days - thanks Chad, Mark, and Malinda!) My school besties, Renee and Nicki, were always willing to listen with an encouraging ear before giving me the pep talk and rally chant out the door to try again. We are a small community, but we are fierce and I feel so grateful to be a part of a place that takes all my dancing, singing, and enthusiasm in stride. 

It would be dishonest to not mention though that it was also a tough year. I am still (always?) working on creating boundaries between my heart and all.the.things. It has been so easy for me to get overwhelmed in everything I can't change for my students and for education as a whole. Many times this year, I looked around and felt like I was just a drop in the bucket; any good I do is swallowed whole in the bigger issues that I can't change by myself. 

There has been a quote that has been rattling around in my heart this year that goes something like, "Some kids come to school to learn, and others come to be loved." It's the truest thing and I could name which of those students each and every one of my kids are. I spend fifty percent of my day being a Spanish teacher and the other half being a Mom. Many of my students really just need someone to look them in the face and listen to anything they have to say. Many of my students need me to be standing outside my door in the morning with a huge smile shouting '¡Buen día, mi amor!" to be that constant in their day. My students need me to say, 'Yes! we are working today?! If you think you get a free day in here, you are crazy, dude." Most often, my students need me to catch their glance and mouth to them, "hey, you okay?" and give them a piece of paper to write down on a note about what's up. 

I love this profession so much. I love working with kids and watching their progression in learning and their progression in life! I can't believe my job is to go to school each day and look across the room at THE LITERAL FUTURE and try to make a positive impact on it. But it can also be taxing on the spirit, to hold my kids' worries and struggles and challenges in my heart. To look at a student who could do anything in the world but who can't see it for themselves. To look at kids today and see how the world has beat them down in all the ways and try to convince them that they can do it even though it's hard. To help them realize that education and hard work is the only way to better - that no matter how many shortcuts the world tries to advertise to you, the only thing that will get you to a successful and proud ending is through yourself and the positive relationships you build with people.

"more books; more liberated"
As hard (and sometimes lonely) this job can be - I am so astounded by the people who find a way to reach out a hand filled with kindness to my little classroom.  I had a bonafide classroom fairy godmother this year (Ashley) who sent me monthly surprises, supplies, and little gifts. My students all know her as our fairy godmother and the gratitude I felt, not only for the gifts, but to feel seen and valued as a teacher helped me dig my feet into the ground another day. Truly, Ashley, your kindness and support has meant so much to me and my kids.

I have hugged and congratulated our class of 2019. I've disassembled my whole room so the maintenance staff can clean and repaint. I carted home three huge bags of 'to organize over the summer' stuff. And already three days into summer vacation, I've texted a fellow teacher about next year's stairwell bulletin board - HAH! Luckily, she's a teacher nerd too - so we're good. 

I am looking forward to finalizing next year's curriculum map, opening a big box of all the class sets of new novels I ordered (!), and daydreaming about my classroom decorations. Until then, it is a lot of yoga, reading, certification research, and re-energizing my soul to get back in there and do it all again.

And because always thinking about growing and getting better, here's some things I'm thinking about this summer to prepare for next school year. What worked and needs a little re-work for you fellow teacher friends? xxoxo

8 things that worked
  1. Gimkit
  2. Leave Me Alone Passes
  3. Novels
  4. classroom resources - word wall, chromebook organization, signage, etc
  5. Just Dance & Baile viernes
  6. year long curriculum map
  7. Wooly Week
  8. Pear Deck (for a novel)

6 things I'd like to re-work
  1. comprehensible input at every level
  2. classroom procedures
  3. deskless/flexible seating
  4. blending units and resources
  5. Notebooks
  6. Spanish Club meetings, study abroad (!), fundraisers

1 comment:

  1. I got choked up and smiled so big through this post! So thankful and honored that I can be a cheerleader for you and your kids. You are doing great work, friend. XOXO