Archive for October, 2010

Undergrad again

I’m working on getting a certification to teach English as a Second Language.  Sort of by choice.  Sort of by default.  Ten years ago German disappeared, eaten by budget cuts.  So I moved to French only.  Now French is threatened.  The grapevine has it that, as our district moves to be one of the few all International Baccalaureate districts, the MYP (middle years program) will require every student learn a second language.  (There is dancing among the world language teachers.)  Budget considerations, however, seem to indicate that there will be only one second language–Spanish.  French teachers circle the wagons and start contacting parents.  Oh yes, Chinese, assuming we continue to get grant money…

Anyway, on to my point.  I’m teaching full time and taking three grad classes to finish up my certification.  I need to continue to be employed full time because I like having a house, clothes, a car and food.  Seems silly to quit eating at my age, but asking for an Incomplete in at least one of them seems a good bet now.  Still not to my point.  Getting there.

In the first meeting of one of the classes, we did the getting to know you thing.  Why are you in this class, what are you going to teach.  My turn.  I’ve been teaching French and German at the middle school for a long time.  Instructor urges: Oh, come on, how long.  Okay.  I do the math.  Thirty-five years.  Astonishment from the young things around me.  “I wasn’t even born yet.” “What were education classes like in the olden times.”  “oh, grandma, tell us a story about the olden days.”  No, they didn’t say the last one.  I bet they thought it.

In any case, I’ve now made my first PowerPoint presentation and am struggling with putting together a portfolio. (Can I just take a test or write a paper, please?  We did that in the olden days.)

But hey, I’m still here, still teaching, and still trying to learn new things about teaching.  Let me know how it’s going for you in 35 years, young things! (I’ll probably still be teaching.  It’s a habit that’s hard to break.)

I should know better!

I know that TPRS is the best way to teach or learn language.  I know that going slowly and just talking with the kids will get the best results.  It’s not an “I think” or “I believe”.  I know.  Yet…as soon as I had my first absence and decided to give the kids some non-CI work, I back-slid.  The cultural worksheet on Paris led to the ‘Paris unit.’.  We TPRS’d it, but not 100%.  Not 100% is not good.  Then that led to the city unit and suddenly I’m teaching aller and contractions with à and I’m back to the being grammarhammer!  Then suddenly it’s time for grades.  We’re all messed up and confused.  Halfway through a chapter in Raconte-Moi Encore and halfway through the book unit on cities.  Okay, three days on a house project this week, three days on having fun following directions around the school next week, then I’ve got to go back to teaching them the way I know is right.

But I’m going to out something like 5 days in November, between the state conference and workshops my school is requiring me to do…and suddenly I’ll be lost and confused again.  I should know better!

Getting to know kids and motivation.

In the grad class on reading I took earlier this year, the first session was all about motivation. Reward systems came up.  Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.  All that good stuff.  However, both the articles we read and the class discussion led us to what TPRSers already knew: you can’t P enough.

That’s right.  They suggested getting to know your kids.  They suggested caring about your kids as people.  They suggested choosing texts to read based on student interest.

A secondary teacher in our group moaned about how hard that would be with 150 some students.  No, you can’t get to know 150 some students in several days, but we know how to do it.  We know we can use the Circling with Pictures (Scott) or Circling with Balls (Ben–I love the original title) to start to get to know our kids.  We can learn their names.  We can stand in the door and notice them, per Love and Logic.  We can greet them and treat them like people.

It’s a trick, really.  If you remember their name and remember something else about them, even if it is only asking if their colds is better, they think you know them.

Last year I was doing a get-to-know-you activity with some continuing students (I wanted to say ‘old kids.’), and one of them complained, “But this is silly, you already know all about us.”  I must have fooled them pretty well.  I don’t know all about them, but I know a little bit about many of them.

In any case, if the kids perceive you care, they’ll be more likely to work for and with you.  If you can’t love the kids, get out of the teaching business.

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