Friday, October 9, 2020

October, 2020: Really? Just...REALLY? A reminder and an update

 I haven't written much for a long while.  Well, that isn't true- I have been writing a lot, and thinking a lot, and trying new things- A LOT- but not over here on this blog.  Truth be told, I miss this old friend, but I am struggling a bit with a) who wants more screen time? and b) what this blog is, now that I have this whole new job (Director of Training, Comprehensible Classroom).

And, just like so many of you, I am overwhelmed by the new unexpected demands placed on teachers right now.  I never expected to be training teachers how to use Zoom, or advising teachers on how to connect and build community with students that they have never met, online.  I never expected to be working in my 8 x 11 foot office, with a (new) obnoxiously green wall (my green screen) and a whiteboard.  But I am surviving. Not necessarily thriving, but right now, survival is enough.

I swing day by day between relief that I have a job, a home, and that my family is healthy and safe, and all the other really big, scary emotions that living in a pandemic has brought.  I still grieve for the goodbyes I didn't get from my graduating students, from the farewell party that I never got when I left my school, and for the teaching I didn't get to do in the spring.  Oh, and all the conferences and weddings that I didn't get to go to in person.  I know I am supposed to focus on the positive, but sometimes it is REALLY hard. You feel me, right?  I keep reading and re-reading this article:  For Teachers Who Are Not OK right now, Angela Watson (Cornerstone for Teachers).

So, what is going on with me? I am teaching. A LOT! I have been running small cohort style virtual classes to support comprehension based teachers teaching online/hybrid/whatever, and adapting the courses as new realities are hitting us (scattered, anyone?). I have been thinking a lot about the kinds of issues that come up again and again, and trying to create resources to help address those issues.  I have been busy!  

Here are some of the things that I have collaborated or created in the past few weeks. 

Blog about Becoming an Anti-Racist Educator - Blog about assigning work in different Learning Management Systems- Virtual Assessment Video- Unboxing Flex video- Conversation with John Bracey about Connecting with Students of Color, tons of short articles and resources about really important things, like 90% Target Language and Distance Learning Resources and Projects in Comprehension Based classes- Upcoming: Trainings abut SOMOS Flex, Pear Deck, Differentiation- Rewriting the curriculum of my Methods of Secondary World Language Class and making it 100% virtual / synchronous, and creating all my assignments to be virtual (some synchronous, like our starters, and some asynchronous), and adding demos to every class.  Playing with new tools like Go Formative and Interactive Digital Notebooks- Planning a really extensive series of courses on assessment (coming in the new year, probably)- doing a small # of district trainings- trying to stay active and not get too sad.

On the other hand, even if my summer was spent in front of a screen, I had a blast at the various virtual conferences in which I participated and presented/moderated.  I had the joy of attending Latin class with Justin Slocum Bailey and Chinese with Diane Neubauer, two of my favorite humans and brilliant teachers who were using the teaching labs to experiment and push their own practice.  I watched a ton of other teachers teaching kids in a few different languages, including one memorable class where the students had no cameras, some had no mics, and they *still* created community and acquired language and participated.  (Note- they were there by choice, and highly motivated, but STILL!) 

I attended some mind-blowing sessions from brilliant presenters and teachers and started to remember that all we need to support language acquisition is a way to talk to our students (or give them things to read) and a way to check that they understand the input. Input, that students understand, works. All the other things are shiny and pretty and may or may not actually support learning. (And they ARE a huge time suck for teachers.)

Also, I made some new friends and collaborators. That was really lovely! 

Anyway, as we all struggle through the pandemic and the new realities of teaching, I hope you will give me grace as I find the new identity of this blog and my own teaching practice.  

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