13 February 2012

Back to my other babies

I don't know how I survived midnight feedings without a smartphone and Twitter the first time. During my maternity leave, I have not been as connected to my students as I had envisioned (the Edmodo app was not as...convenient as Tweetdeck for one-handed midnight manipulation by phone), but I have spent plenty of time connecting to my PLN, let me tell you! Even though Thursday nights on #langchat haven't always worked out with newborn hours, I've got connections and ideas for two whole new units and perhaps the seeds for (yet another) instructional revolution.

I feel like I'm going to have to do some testing-of-the-waters on Monday and completely re-establish relationships, so I'm trying to brace myself for the worst. Semester's end was kind of rocky, and I pretty much relinquished control to my (AWESOME) sub after that. Engrade messages and texts from students petered off after that, and while I kind of needed the break, I'm worried about what it means I'll be coming back to. Like I said: bracing myself.

At the same time, this is an opportunity to redefine Spanish class and myself as a Spanish teacher. There were plenty of things not working when I left, and not entirely because I was not there. There are some realities I must take into account as I do try to make the most of this fresh-ish start:
  1. Most of them are technology addicts. Some have to tweet constantly, while others seem to think earbuds are natural outgrowths of their hearing organs. They could watch YouTube videos all day or shop for shoes or play random brainless games on any number of sites. Given access, they are moths to flame.

  2. Technology is also an excuse. They may not come out directly and say, "I didn't do that assignment because I don't have a computer at home" (never mind that each of them gets at least 3 hours of access to do work every week during school hours), but those who have the hardest time seem least likely to ever do assignments on Edmodo, Glogster, Voicethread, or Blogger. They might not say it's the technology's fault, but it seems to me less likely to get done if they have to access something other than Facebook online (which, I believe, is blocked at school once again, so don't bother suggesting it). Out of sight out of mind?
  3. I make assignments they find pointless. Some will put it in writing that they think we should never do a collage again (never mind that I was trying to get them to organize their ideas before writing), and others will blatantly ignore revisions I suggest for their assignments and act like nothing I said for the previous 3 weeks made any sense whatsoever. With my new-found perspective, I have to acknowledge that these are cases of my failure to appeal to their mindsets. The assignments sound really cool and meaningful to me, but by now, I know how to put on my Student Goggles ™ with assignments. I can't fool all of them all of the time, but I could probably do better getting in their heads before designing a project than I did first quarter.
  4. I'm going to feel adrift again. At almost exactly the same time as last year, I'm contemplating diving into waters where I cannot exactly see the bottom. Perhaps the greatest compliment of my teaching career came from a student who struggled in Honors English II but now works at his university writing center. He said his class's Honors English III teacher asked how all of them were such good writers, and they all groaned my name. I let them choose which writings to develop in "side projects" and made them write and re-write until I was satisfied. What was true in the English class, I'm finding increasingly, is also true in the second language class. I think I can achieve something like this with @amor8's awesome blogging strategies, and possibly some ideas I got from a new tweep @SrLaBoone, who, although claiming novicehood in Twitterlandia has some truly great ideas I hope to steal adapt to introduce Twitter as a Spanish class tool. And I have NO idea what all of this coolness will look like.
So I'm going to walk in tomorrow with very little clue what I'm doing or what to expect. I will have a Google doc to establish twitter handles, blog topics, and blog URL's for each Spanish class. We will talk about the comments on the class blog I tried to start (before discovering commenting on Blogger was blocked at school). Spanish III will keep going with their novel, Spanish II will have a poetry project I already had planned, and Spanish I will probably start geographical terms.However, I am anticipating that these will possibly all morph into something side-project-like, where weekly blog posts become potential fodder for bigger projects and less unity, possibly achieving the sheer and utter differentiation @MmeBrady described in last week's #langchat.

So here I go, stepping out of my little mommysphere where I've been holed up, hopefully into a new phase of my development as an educator and a chance to connect with my teenage babies, perhaps in a new and better way.


  1. And be sure to tell that fearless leader of yours to read this!

  2. You've got all my amens and head-nods at "yet another instructional revolution" - feels like we're always changing and I hope getting better! Hope this whole week is the beginning of a new adventure with your teenage babies. :)

  3. I love that you included #3 - 'I make assignments they find pointless'. I realized that this year, too. Part of why I was making pointless activities for them was that I had no idea what they were interested in!

    It's harsh to realize that what we do is pointless. And we can spend a lot of time planning and correcting these pointless activities, too! But I think that once we realize that, once we get out of the spinning wheel of pointlessness, we can start to make relevant learning situations for our students. I am no longer teaching those students but I think that if I were, I'd do as you plan and look at learning from their perspective, not from mine.

    I wish you only good things as you go back to work!