30 April 2012

How to win first and influence students

Step 1: Scrap what you were going to do for the next month.

Step 2: Sit down with your Spanish 3 class for a discussion (in the target language, of course) about what would make an interesting skit. Challenge them to show off what they know about the target culture, while you're at it. It's a good idea to focus their attention on one country and a specific aspect of that country if possible.

Step 3: Divvy up the class according to their interests/areas of expertise. If they're into the hipster scene, how can they connect that to the country of choice? Can they make Dalí and his buddies Lorca and Bunuel look hipster? Awesome. If they're into royalty and dress-up, where can they go with Isabela and Fernando? Do they want to rip on a dictator's... shortcomings? Ándale. Is what they really want to learn a dance? All the better.

Step 4: Google Doc. Everyone can collaborate on a collective script, the divvied parties contributing their own scenes.

Step 5: Pull out all the stops. So your maternity leave sub who is a dancer who learned the Sevillana in Spain is subbing down the hall? Welcome her back with open arms during planning!

Step 6: Rehearse. Rehearse in class. Establish weekly rehearsals outside of class. Rehearse after school. Rehearse with your baby strapped to you. Rehearse in your room. Rehearse at the park. Rehearse with just the students. Rehearse until the lines are memorized. Rehearse until the actions are memorized. Rehearse with feeling.

Step 7: Assemble props and costumes. And by assemble, I don't just mean staple a construction paper mitre for the pope together: use connections to the local theater company to borrow crowns, swords, rifles for Franco's fascist army (of 3). Get them together, even if it is raining.
Then, of course, rehearse again.

(Student reactions and video of the performance after the jump)

15 April 2012

Farewell to my last blue box

I was tempted to take a picture of myself gleefully handing off my THIRD National Boards submission box, but I am so unkempt and haggard looking after my non-break-spring-break of finalizing that sucker that I didn't want to see me with it. And really, I didn't want to see that stupid box again either.

I dread November, when the absolute worst that could happen is that three years of repeated instructional overhauls and pages and pages of soul-rending explication get me one--or zero--points closer to passing, leaving me forver in the no-man's land of Close But No Cigar that last year's 2-point shortcoming brought me to. The best that could happen? I remain indignant that it took 3 years for a bunch of strangers to give me credit for being a worthy educator, either because they finally acknowledge my genius with a stellar score, or because they grudgingly give me a 3-point boost.

I also dread 10 years from now. Maybe they'll do away with re-certification by then? #Ihopeihopeihope

But now that there is no way that I will have to cram everything that makes me worthwhile as a teacher into a couple of barcoded envelopes in a blue box for years (last stop for "advanced candidacy"), I must acknowledge what going through the process...being smacked down...going through the process...being sucker punched...and going through the process again has done for me:

I can write a heck of a resume now
I think I can anyway. I know how to pick out the job description's words to use against them, to get my cover letter to align with what they're looking for. Now, we'll soon see if this actually gets me hired. It might end up working against me. But I'm pretty sure I can really sell myself on paper better than I did before.

I have an awesome network of supporters
My list of WLOE NBCT's has grown ever-so-slightly since I met @trescolumnae four years ago (the ONLY WLOE NBCT I've ever met face-to-face), but, by golly, every one of them was on top of my questions this past week! Furthermore, the National Boards Facebook group has proven a godsend. Not only that, but I have some people close to home, who, although mainly mystified by all things WLOE, have supported me and gone the extra mile for me (Tammy & Luann having taken time out of their breaks too to get me revisions or verification forms). And I know there are people around me and online who know my work and my worth who can speak to my strengths, even when I can't. We all need that.

I measure accomplishments more communally
I get why my Entry 4 only got a 2 the first time. I thought the accomplishments entry was actually about my accomplishments (silly me). I thought prestige was about how many workshops I led or committees I participated in--things that got my name out there. But when it came to answering the question "How does this impact students?"...I guess I hadn't stopped to care before. I thought it was a PR game. Boy was I short-sighted. Now success is making something happen that gets students excited, not that lets me look like a bigger fish.

I broke the cycle
I'm a woman who can work a worksheet. I have taken their design to the level of an art. My French teacher (the second one, not the one I named my daughter for) had us fill out schema after schema of every possible conjugation. My German teachers stuck to the textbook--with occasional ancillary materials. My undergrad Spanish professors were also textaholics (though they tried to slip "Un dia de estos" for an authentic text in every semester, it seemed like). I, myself, had a two-vocab-game-a-day habit when I started teaching Spanish. Of course I still slip a worksheet or grammar game in, as a means of scaffolding, perhaps, or a break  to build the young ones' confidence. But I FINALLY get what an essential question has to do with foreign language! I cannot TELL you how impossible that was when I thought language equaled vocabulary + grammar! Mind you, I'm struggling to balance the questions I want to ask with student linguistic levels, but those kind of struggles were absolutely alien to me four years ago!

I am less put-off by how much more is demanded of a WLOE NBCT
I think it is fair to say that no other discipline is require to SELL THEIR WORTH not only to the rest of the school, but to THE WIDER COMMUNITY as part of their certification. The rest can rest on their well-established academic laurels (I can say this because I was an English teacher, right?) I still think that so much more is expected for the same credential, but I also acknowledge now that it really is part of our jobs. 5 C's, Community, right? And what is language if it is not used to communicate? So, yeah, our jobs require a lot more outside-the-class rigamarole, but, well, they require it, or how can we say we are helping students learn a language at all?

I can almost see how I fit
In an ironically prescient PLC meeting when our school discussed switching to the STEM model, I asked what Spanish's role would be. My principal said, frankly, "I don't know." A year later, of course, they have decided there IS no role for it. However, as I am on the job hunt, I may be looking for English jobs too, and the most exciting interview question I've had thus far was when another New Schools principal (this school is for real cutting edge, and I am pining for a call-back!) asked me how I could combine English and Spanish and teach both.And I had an answer. I talked about authentic texts on the climate change in Peru (gracias, @Karikuy), writing persuasive letters and making presentations in English to get community support to fund a winter clothes drive and make contact with organizations there to use Spanish (kinda like the Colombia project but, you know, BIGGER). We are part of a global community, and Spanish is a way to bring that community together!

So, National Boards, I may have nightmares about your blue box for the next seven months at least, but I have to hand it to you: I am better for the process that induced those nightmares.

02 April 2012

With which would you woo?

Image from Shakespeare & the Players
Just in time for National Poetry Month, we come to Touchstone's fabulous catalectic trochaic tetrameter:
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So, be sure, will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind;
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find’s love’s prick, and Rosalind. 
I'm thinking this is the perfect opportunity to break out some more Shakespearean classics and maybe start a discussion of poetic style and purpose.

So first, I'll give them a choice: Touchstone's ribaldry, "My mistress' eyes," "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day," or Orlando's lame-foot verses...

But upon the fairest boughs,
Or at every sentence end,
Will I “Rosalinda” write,
Teaching all that read to know
The quintessence of every sprite
Heaven would in little show.
Therefore heaven nature charged
That one body should be filled
With all graces wide-enlarged.
Nature presently distilled
Helen’s cheek, but not her heart,
Cleopatra’s majesty,
Atalanta’s better part,
Sad Lucretia’s modesty.
Thus Rosalind of many parts
By heavenly synod was devised,
Of many faces, eyes, and hearts
To have the touches dearest prized.
Heaven would that she these gifts should have
And I to live and die her slave.

The question being: With which would you rather woo/be wooed? and of course Why?


We can talk about what sounds good, the merits of sing-song couplets versus iambic pentameter sonnets, rhyme scheme and meter.

We can talk about metaphor ("such a nut"), allusion (Helen's cheek etc), personification ("his gold complexion dimm'd), irony? ("nothing like the sun"), hyperbole ("live and die her slave"), alliteration ("I grant I never saw a goddess go"), double entendre (love's prick, et al)...

Which could bring us to What does one want in a wooer?


Is it wit? Humor? If so, Touchstone might win.

Is it intelligence or eloquence? Then we'd probably have to go with a sonnet, 18 if we like tradition and honey coating, 130 if we prefer nonconformity and brutal honesty.

If it is heartfelt abandon and unabashed corniness, then, I guess, Orlando has a chance.

And so, we can talk about characterization, the means and the ends.

Ah, Shakespeare. Ah, Poetry Month. Together perhaps we can teach beyond the test?