I am so excited I attended the TELL Collab Nashville, held at Lipscomb University’s Spark Center! It was an energizing way to connect with passionate language teachers, to enjoy some of Nashville’s great local music, and to reflect on my own teaching over this school year. We’ve come a long way.
In the midst of stretching our minds and growing our students and reflecting on our practice, it becomes really easy for us teachers to start to feel bad about everything we haven’t done for our students–not given enough corrections, not given them enough authentic resources, not taught them all new vocabulary in context. In addition, it is just as easy to think about all the methods we’ve done that we are having challenged–teaching grammar explicitly, giving heaps of vocabulary lists, having students memorize so many verb tenses. Because we teachers are often over-achievers, this kind of thinking can really put a damper on our end of the year, so instead of feeling invigorated at the end of the year, our classes turn more into babysitting with the hopes of starting afresh in the fall.
We teachers are good at sharing ideas, so the TELL Collab was such an igniting way to spark new ideas and fresh thinking. We had several Hot Seat sessions where there were some really challenging questions about our teaching methods look so different, and we even pioneered live videos on the TELL Project Facebook page! So, after an inspiring weekend of learning and sharing, the temptation may be to return to class the next Monday and want to turn over the desk in frustration because you have to start all from scratch with everything you’ve learned.
Stop. Forgive yourself.
We all have worked tremendously hard this year at making sure our students knew more of the target language than they did when they started in the fall. We all have worked tremendously hard this year at ensuring our students were prepared to speak more and engage more with other target language speakers. We all have worked tremendously hard this year with all of the tools we had, and thanks to the open sharing of the TELL Collab, we have even more tools at our disposal. But remember, we must choose the right tool for the right job.
One thought that was floating around the TELL Collab Nashville to help us remember this idea of forgiveness and forging ahead was that expert chefs start with perfecting one plate at a time, then move on to another. They don’t try to perfect everything at once. With that in mind, there were several suggestions to start piloting something new in one class, then try another class, and then another. One thing I’ve done this week–a full week after the TELL Collab–was to ask my classes what worked well and what I could do to improve. This was a profoundly rewarding experience because as hard as I have been on myself this year, my students recognized great personal growth, and they really understood that they were working towards greater proficiency in Spanish. But not stopping there, I know that there are some things that would make their learning experience better, so I want to improve. I know I won’t be able to implement everything they suggest, but I can work one making some things better to add to my toolbox. I like to pilot some things in the last term of the school year in order to iron out some kinks before rolling out a new procedure or using a new tool in the fall.
Over a lunchtime conversation last week, I put my head in my hands and sighed. “Man, TELL Collab. Why you gotta open my mind so much?” because Laura Sexton (@sraspanglish) was pushing my thinking about homework choice, digital badges, and student portfolios, so I began thinking of all the things I could do to push my students to track their growth. (Laura got to seat in the Hot Seat during one session, by the way.) That’s the kind of inspiration and free-thinking that comes out of a space devoted to sharing new ideas and pushing professionals in their work. It is probably just as much work to reflect on what we do as teachers as it is to plan a lesson and implement it. And that reflection is definitely hard work. But it’s worth it. And rewarding.
Remember, forgive yourself, and push forward.