Enjoy the Go

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I’m half-way through my second year as a middle/high school Spanish teacher with 5 different Spanish preps and a reading class.  As the end of the first semester and the end of the calendar year looms closer I tend to become reflective about the year, what I’ve accomplished, what I’d like to accomplish and how to do that.  What has stuck out to me this year is balance.

So often as teachers it is easy to get caught up in the go go go of the system.  Go lesson plan.  Go grade.  Go to the student activities.  Go do some professional development.  Go to the meeting.  Go fill out the paperwork.  Go push yourself to be better.  These are all good and necessary things but, as you know, the list gets long.  What I don’t include in the list are things like: Go do dishes.  Go do laundry.  Go get groceries.  Go see friends.  Go have date night with your spouse.  Go spend time worshiping.  Go take a nap.  Go do something you enjoy that is purely yours.  Go cook.  Go be active. Go rest.  All of those are good and necessary things as well.

In my first year of teaching I did a lot of “going” on that first list.  The result?  I lost 20 pounds (which I didn’t need to lose.  I’ve since been working to gain them back.  Yes, you can hate me now), I got really sick, really tired and really burnt out.  My lessons weren’t executed well because I was in a fog.  The end of my first semester, my lessons were less than stellar.  My house fell into disarray, I missed my friends and I felt very alone.

The epiphany of this year for me has  been, you can’t go all the time.  You can’t cover all the “go’s” that you sometimes feel like you have to or are expected to cover.  It is OK, and healthy, to go less.  If I don’t do more of the things from that second list, I can’t accomplish any from the first list.  As new teachers it is easy to get caught up in the expectations of others and you are still in that fantasy that you can do it all and do it well.  I’m not saying we can’t do it all and do it well.  I’m saying you can’t do it all and do it well right out of the gate.  I’m learning that it will take time to build myself up to the teacher I want to be, and that’s ok.

Now I strive to choose a “go” from each list and keep myself balanced.  As a result, I’m doing less in my classroom but I’m doing less much better!  My students get a better teacher who does less.  They get a teacher whose less is more because she can answer questions  better, organize better, execute better and manage better.

Do I think I have all the answers?  Am I some sage you should be listening to?  No.  I’m just a second year teacher trying to find her way, sharing what she’s learned and hoping it might help someone else in a similar position.

As we near the end of the year I encourage you to rest.  To choose your “go’s” carefully.  To find balance, happiness and acceptance of your limitations (my biggest struggle).  I’m not encouraging you to be sloth or lazy.  I’m encouraging you to do more with less.  Be healthier, happier and see that being the teacher you want to be is a journey that takes time.  As one brand of toilet paper urges, “Enjoy the go”.

Until Next Time,
Maestra McH

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Why I Love Twitter

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I’ve heard a some teachers comment that they don’t get what the big deal is with Twitter.  Here’s the big deal (for me at least).

My History
I was fortunate enough to student teach under the wonderful @kaleestahr and in the first week she made me get a Twitter account.  I didn’t have one and didn’t really get it.  She quickly showed me the ropes, including Tweet Deck, and introduced me to her followers, many of which I follow closely today.

My Present Situation
I teach at a small school in rural Nebraska.  When I say small, I mean small.  Our k-12 enrollment is around 275 this year.  I am the only language teacher in the school and am isolated to the third floor of an older building with no other high school teachers in my building except the high school SPED teacher who spends a lot of her day being superwoman and running all over the school.  The key word in that last sentence is “isolated”.

Twitter has been the string connecting me to other language teachers and my only real source of world language professional development.  I’ve been able to get ideas, resources, support, collaboration, pen pals, friends and entertainment from Twitter.

“But it’s so overwhelming!”
Yes, Twitter can be overwhelming but you don’t have to read it all.  Give it a shot.  You’ll quickly learn what kinds of tweets help you.  You’ll find people who post great resources.  You’ll also quickly learn who posts nothing but kitty pictures and negative vibes and you can quickly unfollow them if that’s not your thing!

All those weird acronyms and symbols, RT, DM, Ss, @, #.  You’ll get those figured out too!

My Advice
Give it a shot.  Find people that are into Twitter but not TOO into Twitter.  It’s not the end-all-be-all of PD or resources but for this isolated newbie, it’s a great place to start.

Don’t know where to start?
You can start with me! @lisajmch

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH

Mystery Skype

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Recently I’ve been tweeting about looking for a mystery skype partner for my Spanish classes.  This week three of my five Spanish classes participated in a Mystery Skype with our pen pals (thanks @missklusman!)  If you’re not sure what a Mystery Skype is, here’s the run down:

-From what I understand it is very popular with elementary classes

-The object is to determine where the class you are Skyping with is from.  We found city and state.  You may only use yes/no questions

How does this relate to the language classroom?  We Skyped entirely in Spanish.  Each class had one greeter who introduced the class without saying where they were from.  My classes followed the simple greeting, “Hola, buenos días.  Me llamo ________.  Mucho gusto y buena suerte.”.  After that we played rock paper scissors to decide who asked the first question.

Our “think tank” came up with questions to narrow down where our opponents were from.  These were phrased in the target language, for example “¿Están norte de Kansas?” (Are you all north of Kansas).  The other classroom would answer “sí” or “no”.  Based on the answer, our “map keepers” would draw on a map of the US to narrow down areas the opponent could be from and to help the think tank come up with the next question.  Once we’d asked our questions, a new group of students went up to respond to the other class’s question.

Students were very engaged the entire time!  They got to work on listening skills (questions from the other class), speaking skills (asking our questions), introductions and small talk (introducing themselves and making some small talk while waiting for the next question), vocabulary (north, south, east, west, border, near, next to, coast, etc).  I’m not even going to go into the geography, reasoning and interpersonal skills the students used!  It was fun to see what the kids remembered and came up with during the small talk time!

I provided a small word bank for reference as a safety net for students to ease their anxiety.  Ten minutes into the process they weren’t even looking at it anymore!  I also provided US maps and once we’d narrowed it down to the state students pulled up Google maps on laptops and iPod touches to find the city.

It was a really fun activity and it was great to see students working in the target language and feeling successful.  I had some quiet kids really step up and talk and some that aren’t usually engaged, engaged and participating.  The students can’t wait to do it again and neither can I!

If you’re interested in participating or have questions, look me up on Twitter, @lisajmch

You can also Google “Mystery Skype” and find some good resources and examples!

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH