26 November 2014

#ACTFL14: Crystallization of Purpose, a Groupie's Paradise, and Selfie Extravaganza

ACTFL 2014 was full of powerful learning and powerful connections. It's not so much that I learned anything new as I felt previous learning reinforced and my resolve to move forward strengthened. Just being around people doing such progressive and pro-active things with their students and their practice overall has helped me believe I, too, can--and develop a plan of attack! So here are my day-by-day takeaways, both from in-person encounters and online creeping.

First off, loved the morning show format for the opening! Even the commercials were great! I did go and explore the AAPPL booth and plan to try it when they roll it out in a month or two. It's like Google Voice assignments with built-in feedback mechanisms!

Also, I confess I was skeptical about a keynote speaker with no outward connection to teaching. The cool part though is that Annie Griffiths' connection is to LEARNING. I cannot emphasize enough the need to take risks as a language learner AND a language teacher, and Griffiths' has got that down pat. What's more she gets the purpose of language beyond its own end, an inspiration for the communication-based classroom. And the level of self-reflection and sympathy--nay, empathy--she brings to her photography and experiences is a perfect model for us educator-types. Especially the patience and the faith in your "subjects": just trusting that opportunity will arise given time, trusting that your efforts will lead somewhere--our profession is just a job without that.

What are we doing in the classroom if we are not building something that will last longer than a semester? I always love Carmen Scoggins' metaphors for learning, and the sustainable living collective may be my favorite yet. It's curious, too, and important to acknowledge the distinctions between our experience and our students' when it comes to what lasts. I love, too, that Carmen emphasizes our roles as educators in the grander scheme of things (the girl gets me!) I love that she makes us look beyond the "disrespect" of someone falling asleep in class. It's our job as responsible adults in these kids' lives to recognize the source of their actions--even when they don't--and not take them personally. Also, some day, I hope to be as with-it as Carmen to get a Wix together for each unit. So far, Google Classroom has gotten me the closest to with-it as I've been, though, so there's that.

Of course someone who makes it to Teacher of the Year status is going to have great ideas. It was also cool to get some sit-down time with old Twitter buds like Clarissa and Noah, too. Some of my favorite ideas include Yo Azama's "Wonder Wall"--a perfect idea to help generate ideas for Genius Hour and to support PBL! (Especially answering their questions with more questions!) I've been wanting to have a karaoke event, too, so my wheels are turning on how to make that happen. I also really love the idea of getting community support for badges so there is a real, immediate, and tangible benefit to developing language skills. I found it helpful too to sit down and talk about how to use the ACTFL I-cans (I am so re-doing my portfolios...probably this weekend!)

Also, shout out to Caleb Bloodworth, paying it forward after enjoying last year's livetweeting. He helped me find a great session--and filled me in on what I missed before I even knew I was missing anything! Important lesson: titles are deceiving. There are so many things we can learn from sessions not geared toward our particular circumstances. Without Caleb to show me this, I would have missed Greg Duncan's session the next day! Also, shout out to Rachel Ash for keeping me in the loop with other cool activities to keep input comprehensible.

The SWCOLT guys take the entertaining and edifying cake for the conference for me. Their videos had me in stitches, and their points not only helped me see learning targets through kids' eyes but also FINALLY helped me see how I could make standards-based grading work within my district policies. Hint: score everything, record only the proficiency information. (This will still take finagling, but I can see how to keep records and show learning separately! Even if it messes up my beautiful TL monitoring system...) I'm also contemplating how to balance portfolio grades and spontaneous demonstration grades...which means I'm probably redoing my syllabus this weekend too. Is it weird that that sounds like fun to me?

I'm also looking forward to trying out WeSpeke. I tinkered a bit before bedtime with my minimal Portuguese skills. More fodder for the syllabus...or personalized adventures?

And finally, Greg Duncan just reminded me of everything that is important in a language class. It's not that I didn't know it, but, kind of like Amy did for me last year with authentic texts for novices, Duncan just kind of crystallized everything for me, cleared my path to make it more visible, more obvious.

OK, I saw the presentation ahead of time, I follow these ladies religiously, and we're kind of homies. But I was STILL learning from them during our session! I'm linking it even though it makes me want to cry blood, but I think it's important to show the journey. She knows it, has known it for years, and if you don't, you should: I am a Musicuentos fangirl. Three years ago I used the word "disciple." We've collaborated many times since then, and seeing her face-to-face for the first time as I left Denny's with my other idols, it was more of a reunion than a groupie fest. The feeling I will take from being at ACTFL 2014 makes me want to sing Peaches and Herb, even though most of the people I've only ever seen on a screen before (though we did pass in the hall last year, right, Amy and Kristy? And, well, Bethanie and Cristy and I are driving distance/edcamp distance from each other!) I should have been starstruck trying to buy a book--or 4--from Carol Gaab and Carrie Toth or walking by Megan Johnston and Kara Parker. But instead, they called me by name and hugged me!

Now that I got that out of the way, it was also cool sitting down with Megan, Kara, and Tom Welch of ACTFL Innovates gave me a chance to refine ideas and look to the future, which is what I LOVE about being other passionate--and brilliant--educators! Like Joe Dale! Now that I have iPads, absorbing his ideas has a whole new dimension. Now if only it didn't take an act of congress to get a $3 app.

Special thanks to people getting up at 8 AM on a Sunday to hang out with me. The takeaway from my session for me is mostly my new connection with Cadena Sensei and our mission to tie Genius Hour to reading (this is where my TPRS purchases may come in!) PS Whoever put the PBL session at the same time as my session is cruel and heartless.

I'm glad I got to squeeze in one last session from my North Carolina compatriots, too, because I finally got some ideas to make some community connections in a community that 1) is not where I live and 2) is not quite as diverse as where I do live (hint: service learning and key word--iglesias).

And as one final parting gift, here's my wall-o-selfies Thinglink, complete with links to people's blogs and profiles!

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