Boy did I need Alyssa Villarreal’s recent post last fall–I was great about setting goals, but they were too many and too big! I spent the school year spinning, working non-stop and on the verge of burnout.   What followed was a summer spent recovering from my near burnout crash–with no work, no PD (I’m happy to report that I am a refreshed and ready to go teacher this fall!).

Last summer I spent a few days with Laura Terrill focused on writing curriculum–she made it clear that writing curriculum for the number of levels I teach is a multi-year process.  Multi-year. Process.  Although this was clear to her, everyone else in the room, colleagues from other programs…I was swirling in excitement about creating a proficiency focused, tailor made program after teaching in a curriculum void. This was the culmination of years of processing Helena Curtain’s work, following the cutting edge teachers on #langchat, and finally working with Laura. But my capacity did not match my enthusiasm.  Once I had written a few units, I became an addict–I thought, “Well, if I write enough units for 4th-6th, why can’t I just get some new ones ready for 7th and 8th, too?  Hmm, now that I’m on a roll, let’s look at 1st-3rd.”   And what about technology integration and using TALK scores and those Spanish pen-pals…and…and…and.

It was too much. I was trying to innovate and change too much in one school year.  In the end, my students didn’t get enough of what they needed–me. A sane, present, happy me.

So before I left for the summer, I created an idea board for this year–one that I could leave and revisit when it came to time for set-up.  This board represents goals that are reasonable, and do not require lots of innovation for me–simpIy a path on which to focus.  I continue to reference it–so that I stay focused and don’t lose my way when I start back in with attending conferences and participating in #langchat—all great resources, but as a innovation addict, can become overwhelming, if I don’t check myself.

The papers are inspiration from a variety of resources including TELL, Edutopia,Martina Bex, Laura Terrill and Donna Clementi and of course, Pinterest.

What I’m focusing on (not in order of importance):

[lists style=”style6″]

  • Encouraging student independence and engagement–group work, vocabulary self-selection, ownership of language
  • Focus on Comprehensible Input and Reading
  • Proficiency Focus as the foundation-and inclusion of some more grammar instruction in middle school through PACE, and in context (more exploration of my kids’ high school transition in a future post)
  • Deep culture: Products, Practices, Perspectives–going beyond holidays
  • Art and Photography as Comprehensible Input(a la Project Zero)

While feedback, IPAs and target language use continue to be a part of my practice, these are the areas coming into focus for me this year.  I’ll report back in future blog posts–to keep me accountable–on how these look in class. I am taking in Alyssa’s advice–I will be gracious with myself, and am inspired by Colleen Hayes’s recent post on being enough.  What my students are gaining is a sane, present, happy me.


Published by Valerie Shull

Valerie Shull teaches Spanish for elementary and middle school children at Rogers Park Montessori School, where she's been on staff for twenty years.  During her time at RPMS she’s worked with children age four to fourteen. The rubber hits the road in her proficiency-focused program during her school’s annual 8th grade travel/homestay trip to Costa Rica, which is recognized by ACTFL’s Global Engagement Initiative.  Valerie is passionate about working toward language proficiency with children, improving her own practice and supporting teachers in their journey. She is a regular conference presenter on the topic of language proficiency in the early years and is a member of NNELL, AATSP, and ACTFL,  where she currently serves on the Global Engagement Committee. Valerie works and lives in Chicago with her daughter, a young global-citizen-in-training. 

2 replies on “When Too Much is…Too Much (Stay on the Path!)”

  1. I love the idea board! …and get the excitement of wanting to forge ahead- students do want that passionate, happy, (somewhat) balanced teacher. Perfection, “work completed” never happens, but life- & our connections with our students must! Thank you so much for the post!

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