Saturday, April 6, 2019

Mindset reminder: as the new trimester starts and pressure to get kids "ready" ramps up

Shortly before the grapefruit knee
I decided to get knee surgery after 2 years of PT, tons of doctor's appointments, and a grapefruit-sized knee after our second day of bike touring in southwestern Utah.

When I started paddle boarding because cycling was getting to be too much, I realized that I really needed to do something about it.  (If you don't know me, it might be helpful to know that I started teaching cycling in the public schools, and my previous career was as a cycling educator and advocate. So not being able to ride is major. And I ride to work every day possible.)

Back to school:
I sat on a stool, I put my knee up, and I tried to teach. I tried to follow my plan. I tried not to cry.

I sort of mostly succeeded, in that I didn't usually cry until I actually got home.  Usually.

Some days, the pain was so overwhelming that I could barely form words in English, and the thought of trying to do anything hard in another language brought those tears back.

So I let go.

I let go of my plans.  Instead, I did lots of card talk- only I would give the kids like 10 minutes and sometimes colored pencils to draw, and then collect their papers and make a slideshow for the next time I saw them. (Sounds like a lot of work- it's really, really not, with airdrop and a phone. Here is an old post about how I do this.)

These, plus some other pictures, ended up being an hour of lesson plan
in 2 different classes!

I decided to try Special Person interviews, something I had tried 4 years ago and hated.  The kids loved them and begged for them.  I tacked on some Write and Discuss, and voila, that was the lesson plan.  For an assessment, I had them write about themselves.  (And the results were mind-blowing.  Not a single student said "Yo es 13."  (I is 13).

I even showed funny videos, and used them for input, but I didn't always do a reading afterwards.  (The copier is a LONG way from my classroom.)

I leaned very heavily into FVR.  And Sr. Wooly.  And Weekend chat.  And small talk.  And whatever I could do to keep the language flowing, minimize trips to the copier, or even trips that involved standing up and writing a new word on the board with a translation.

I got REALLY GOOD at keeping my vocabulary in-bounds- and I was already getting good at it!

I'm not counting down. You're counting down.
I guess I want to write this for myself- to remind myself as I stare down the calendar at 40 more days of school, 8 of which are Mondays (at least according to the daughter of the kindergarten teacher, who is good at knowing things like how many days are left), that input is input.

Input that kids are interested in listening to and input that they understand and are interacting with is all good.  In fact, it's the best thing I can do for them.

There is no rule that says I have to follow my scope and sequence. (Thank goodness.)

There is no rule that says I have to cover this or make sure to teach that. (I am very fortunate.)  

There are only the constraints and demands I place on myself, and I really want to cultivate a different mindset.

I am incredibly lucky, I know, and I think I need to remember and acknowledge it.

I know myself.  I know that if I am not careful, I am going to look back at January, February, and March of this year and ask myself what the heck I was even doing those months.  There is hardly anything glued in our interactive-ish notebooks, and if it weren't for Anne Marie Chase's quick quizzes and weekly timed freewrites, there would be no assessment grades in the gradebook.

But you know what I was doing?  Getting to know my kids.  Exploring their interests, and mine.

Shooting the breeze with them, in Spanish.  Watching videos of cats and sloths and penguins and then talking about it. We literally spent an hour discussing the gross things that pets do and eat.  It was one of the funniest hours of my life as kids shared horribly funny stories of their pets bringing them dismembered bits of other animals.  We spent another hour talking about their class trip and what they saw, felt, and experienced in the nation's capitol, which led to an intense discussion about what is feminism, what is sexist, and what is culture.  I could not have planned that if I tried.

I want to remember that some of the fastest and best hours of teaching have gone by when we just read, or chat, or look at interesting pictures and talk about them.

I want to remember (in May, when the pressure to have my 8th graders "ready" is really building up) that I am preparing them to communicate, not to conjugate.

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