What if Teachers Were Drafted?

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I was out of town this weekend and away from the internet but took a moment to jot down some thoughts as the NFL draft rolled on.

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Confession: I am not a sports fan.  You can fit what I know about the behind-the-scenes workings of the NFL on a pin head.  What I do know is that there is a lot of hoopla about the draft.  I’m sure if I did some digging I could find how much was spent on the NFL draft including media air time, research, salaries for all the people involved, not to mention revenue generated for the city of Chicago.  I got to thinking, what if we put this much effort into education?  What if we were so passionate about education and the ramifications it has on our youth and our country that we drafted teachers?

Can you imagine a world in which people are as passionate about their local schools as they are about their teams?  I’m talking hats, foam fingers, posters of legendary educators hanging in kids’ rooms!  Imagine a team of people scouting and researching teachers, analyzing their skills, fighting to get the best of the best into their schools to make the greatest learning community possible.

Imagine if we spent even a fraction of the money on teacher training as is spent on preparing young men for the NFL draft.  I’m picturing a “Combine” of education where instead of measuring how fast you run a 40 or how high you jump, they look at how deeply you push kids to think, how many modes of learning you can seamlessly blend to reach as many students as possible, how much target language and comprehensible input you use.  Can you picture people at bars drinking their beer and watching coverage of the results?! “Man, that Mr. Smith is amazing.  We better get him.  Our math department was a bit weak last season; this is just the guy to turn it around!” “That Mrs. Jackson, my goodness!  Have you seen what she does with American History?  If I was 20 years younger, I’d be fighting to get in her classes!”

Now I’m not putting down the NFL draft or saying that I think any of this will ever happen but hey, a teacher can dream.

Sneak Peek of Animal Unit

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Yesterday I blogged that I’m working on a unit based on children’s books and built off of animals.  Here is a sneak peek at what I’m putting together.  It’s just the vocab sheet (VocabSheet1) and a few days of lessons plans (LP1-5) so far.  I haven’t made all of the materials yet but hopefully this will give you an idea of where I’m going and maybe a few new ideas how to introduce or practice vocabulary!  If the lesson plans seem very wordy it’s because they are.  I’m trying to explain ideas in more depth than I would if it were just me using these plans as well as give a few different options of how to do things based on class size and your preferences. LP1-5 is Lesson Plans Day 1-5 (only day 1 and 2 in first drafts so far).  I’ll be updating and re-posting materials as they evolve.  Let me know what you think and enjoy!

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH.

Baby Brain, Board Books & a New Unit

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¡Hola! It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the blog world.  This is mostly due to the fact that I gave birth to my first child (a healthy baby girl who I’ll call “L” here) in September and moved into a new house in December.  It was a busy and blessed autumn for my family!

Around three months postpartum the baby brain started to clear (kind of!) and I began to crave something more enriching than the one-sided conversations I was having with L.  I am taking some time out of the classroom to be “mom” but my teacher hat kept coming on as I read books to L.  If you have a child, you probably know the name Sandra Boynton.  She is author to tons of well-known children’s board books.  I soon began to see a trend between the books and couldn’t help but see a unit start to develop based around animals.  I am currently working on constructing a unit designed for middle school or elementary Spanish classes primarily but that could also be used with high school students inspired by Sandra Boynton’s books.

The unit will revolve around animals and build into animals sounds and corresponding verbs like “dice” and “digo”, emotions, colors, the alphabet, “getting ready verbs” (reflexive verbs) and whatever else I end up tying into it.  It will use the Spanish versions of Boynton’s books, other children’s books and authentic and created material I’ve found and/or will make.  I plan to post the unit materials (including handouts, activities and mini-projects) and lesson plans here as well as on Teachers Pay Teachers for free once I complete the unit.  I hope to build a unit that would span several weeks and be suited to beginning Spanish students.

I’m not sure how long it will take me to complete the unit which will mostly be created during L’s naps and late at night but I look forward to devoting more time to creating and teaching, even while out of the classroom.  I also hope to return to Twitter (find me at @lisajmch) as I’ve been absent from there as well!  Stay tuned!

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH.

Baby L at 3 weeks old.

Baby L at 3 weeks old.

Fun Family Activity

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The teacher I am subbing for left a great family vocab activity that I will definitely use in the future and want to share.  We had already worked with family vocab (mom, dad, uncle, aunt, bro, sis, etc) for a couple of days so students were to the point where they could recognize most of the vocab when they saw it.  Each student received a slip of paper with something like this on it:

Yo soy Luisa Santos de Ramos, la madre de Paco y la tía de Alejandra.

I had 20-24 students in the classes.  There were 2 or 3 different family units, depending on the class size, within the papers.  Students had to walk around and 1) find their family unit, 2) figure out how they were all related and 3) draw a family tree of their family (on the white board).

Students were extremely engaged and focused.  I was honestly surprised at the level of engagement and the great teamwork I saw that went into drawing the family tree.  I was worried there might be a few students who hung back and just sat, and there were a few, but for the most part everyone was really invested.  After students drew their family trees I had them read their slips of paper one at a time and we double checked their family trees as a class.

Students had a great time seeing who was “married” and who were parents and kids of each other.  It was a great activity in which students worked with the target vocab, got to use their problem solving skills, get up and move and draw.

I Didn’t Know What I was Missing!

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This Monday will mark my 4th week as a long-term sub at a high school for a Spanish teacher who is out on maternity leave.  There is another Spanish teacher and two ELL teachers in the pod I’m working in.  For the last two years I was the only language teacher in my district.  I was also the only full-time teacher that was always on the third floor of the building I taught in.  I went days without seeing another adult sometimes.  I had no idea what I was missing out on by not having other language teachers around me.

Sure I reached out on Twitter and have a wonderful group of teachers/educators with whom I communicate but that’s not the same as being able to run across the pod after school or between classes and get a language teacher’s perspective on a topic, activity or student.  I have grown a lot these weeks in management and teaching and have felt more confident than ever just by being able to bounce ideas off of someone in the moment or seek guidance from a veteran teacher who knows my students, school and subject.

I don’t know that this post serves much of a point other than to highlight my thankfulness for the situation I’m in and the people I’m learning from.  It also affirms my faith that person-to-person interactions and relationships are paramount to good teaching and good living.  I feel healthier and more invigorated as a teacher than I have so far in my short career.

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH

The Unexpected: Just What I Need

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As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be spending this year substitute teaching.  This is a bit unexpected.  I was really hoping to find a full-time or part-time teaching gig near my city (last year I commuted an hour each way, approximately 100 miles a day).  September 20th I start an 8-week assignment teaching Spanish 1, 2 and 3 for a teacher that will be out on maternity leave.  I was fortunate enough to sub for the other Spanish teacher at the school this week and then sit in on the classes I’ll be teaching for a day.  I have already learned so much!

At my previous school I was the only language teacher and a new teacher to boot!  I wasn’t sure about this substitute teaching thing and had no idea what to expect but now I believe it may be one of the best things that could have happened to me.  I’ve already been exposed to how two different, experienced Spanish teachers run their classrooms and I’ve picked up so much that I want to try/strive for in my future.  It just goes to show that the unexpected, and if we’re being honest, unwanted, might be just what you need.

Here’s a run down of what I’ve picked up so far.

Week Sheets
The teacher I’ll be subbing for, let’s call her “A”, has taught Spanish 1 and 2 for 4 years now at this school and has what she refers to as “week sheets”.  These are very simple, bare-bones break down of what she’ll be teaching and the students homework for each day.  She gives these to the students every other Monday (each sheet is front back, so two weeks of class).  This keeps students in the loop and they know exactly what to expect.  It helps students become accountable for being gone and still getting work done.  They know exactly what they’ll be missing.

Weekly Grading Routines
This is one of those, “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?!” things.  Each student has a binder with sections and they do all of their classroom activities in it.  So if they do a book assignment that needs to be written or do any kind of in class assignment that involves writing, they add it to the same sheet of paper and keep a running sheet of assignments.  She doesn’t grade each one each day, she picks them up on Fridays and gives one weekly grade for all the assignments.  These assignments are reviewed in class and she does a great job of working the room and checking student’s progress.  This is basically practice and students get credit for doing it.  The same system applies to their practice workbook.  She has a stamp grading system so at the end of the week all she has to do is go through their books and tally up her stamps and assign one weekly grade for all work instead of numerous smaller grades.  This seems so much easier than trying to grade (note when I say “grade” that may mean give credit for doing) each individual assignment.  I’m excited to try this out and see how it goes.

Pesos
This may be the most controversial routine for me.  Both teachers hand out pesos for speaking Spanish and participating (in level appropriate Spanish) in class.  Each Friday the students must pay a set amount of pesos (Spanish 1 – 3 pesos, Spanish 2 – 5 pesos, and Spanish 3 – 10 pesos.  I’m not sure what AP’s price is) to the teacher and this goes in as a weekly grade.  I did a practicum in a class that had participation points and it seemed that students wouldn’t do anything unless you bribed, yes bribed, them with participation points.  Since then, I’ve been leery of anything that resembles participation points.  Based on what I’ve seen so far though, this peso system seems very different.  The teachers give out pesos for speaking Spanish and the point isn’t to get your set amount of pesos for the week, it’s to encourage speaking and use of the language and it seems to be working.  This is done in all levels from Spanish 1 to AP Spanish.  In the Spanish 3 and AP classes I saw/taught, students used a lot of TL even without direct prompting and even when pesos were no where in sight nor were they mentioned or awarded.  Spanish 1 students didn’t seem intimidated by hearing or answering in scaffolded, level-appropriate Spanish in only week 4 of school.  The system these teachers have created really seems to encourage the use of TL without having turned into a bribery system.  I credit this to their experience and incredible skill.

Most of last year I prayed to God to help me find a job closer to home and when that didn’t happen I knew He had a plan but I had no idea what it was.  I think I’ve found the plan now.  I am so excited to be exposed to and part of this school’s language program, even for only eight weeks.  I can already tell that I am going to learn just as much as the students I’ll be teaching.  As I go through this I’ll update on these initial systems I’ve described and other things I may run across or try.

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH.

A New Journey Begins

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This year of teaching is going to look very different than my previous two.  After much deliberation and deciding I couldn’t do my two hour commute, I chose not to renew my contract with my school last year.  There weren’t many Spanish openings around me so I’ll be spending this year substitute teaching.  This could get interesting.

I’m nervous and excited about this change.  Classroom management is something I feel I need to get more comfortable with so I’m looking at subbing as sort of a boot camp in this area.

On an incredibly positive note, I have already committed to an eight week long-term assignment teaching Spanish 1, 2 and 3 this Fall so that will be nice for a few months.  Apart from that I don’t know what to expect as far as how busy I’ll be or how often I’ll be working.

I anticipate a lot of learning during this process and am anxious for the new year to start.  I hope to have time to develop some units when I’m not subbing and will keep you posted on that as well as other lessons I learn this year (I’m sure they will be numerous!).

Welcome to Musings ’13-’14!

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH