Spring Is In The Air – 1

It’s nice to be back from three weeks traveling around India with two of my boys. I hope that all of us in our group are rested and ready for the next semester.

During the break, on the beaches of South India, I gave a lot of thought to my instructional priorities for the coming semester. I wasn’t doing it to be obsessive during a vacation, but for my own mental health.

So, in keeping with a major breakthrough I have made in the past few years about what my deepest priorities are as a CI teacher, I have decided to base my instruction for the rest of this year on what is best for me and my own sense of balance within my school building, and not on choosing and implementing best instructional CI practices for my students.

We must always remember in our jobs that most of us, with very few exceptions, teach students who are required to be in class and are therefore not particularly motivated. Or worse, are motivated by grades, which motivation mixes with CI about as well as oil and water mix.

So when we overly try to play all the cards in our CI deck (a considerable arsenal as we who have been in this group for years know), we make of ourselves something akin to Tarot fools. Such preoccupation with CI to an excessive degree wears us out and has ruined careers because the teachers were trying to drive a bullet train through a junk yard – it didn’t work.

I will no longer base my instruction on how much language I can teach my students. I see too many of the best and brightest CI teachers in the world burning out these days. Why do that? The joke that “it’s all about me” is not really a joke at all. How can we serve others unless we take care of ourselves first?

Many of us here, of course, recognize this thread as a recent one and a good one one on the PLC. Each year it seems to gain energy in our daily discussions as many of us begin to realize the supreme importance of conscious self care in our work as teachers.

It’s not about the CI. It’s about how we use CI to create relaxed, happy days where everyone in our classroom is free to enjoy themselves in the real way, so that we don’t get destroyed in the daily insanity of school, but rise above it, rise above it. We can and we will rise above the undeniable chaos that education has become today. But we can only do so by carefully tending to our own mental health, each day, in each class, every day until June.

In the next post on this topic I will describe my plan for keeping my mental health as my top priority as we begin now to move into springtime. This new plan, really the latest variation on the original “Two Week Schedule” (which can be searched here) is the fruit of much thought over many years. I am really looking forward to implementing it on Monday!

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1 thought on “Spring Is In The Air – 1”

  1. Oh yay! Soooooo GREAT to hear from you and especially to hear that you reconnected by tending to yourself! Conscious self care. YES!!!

    “All about me” is my mantra as well, out of sheer necessity and the reality that I am on the verge of a health crisis if I don’t gain some balance.

    I read all four posts and this sounds like a fab. plan. So relaxing. I remember having classes like this! How would you adapt this for brand-new-to CI classes? Starting from day one, …establishing a super relaxing chill atmosphere of respect and joy?

    Asking because on Jan 25 I get to start over with all new groups and knowing what I know now about this school I need do a better (i.e., less naive) job of creating emotionally safe classrooms. For my own sake and also for the kids.

    So…SSR for my level 1 and for the 8th grade exploratory is not an option in the first couple of weeks. And based on this semester’s level 4 students it was apparent that they had not had much if any experience of language in context, so not sure where the “level 3 kids will be, other than the students now in my level 2 who are continuing. Also, “reading” in general here in F-town…is an activity that causes most students some sort of negative reaction / association. “I hate reading.” Etc.

    I have a high percentage of students who I’d guess are PTSD in some way. I don’t mean to use a label, but from my observation and general vibe in the school and knowledge of the community in general this seems to be the case.

    It’s not about the CI. I will need to divvy up the 80 mins, clearly designating CI periods. with that huge projectable online stop watch. I will also need to give them a legit recess. Structured and fun but not requiring TL. At least for now for my current groups in this place, trying to keep everything in Spanish for 80 mins is too much. “Recess” seems to help a lot in terms of general goodwill not to mention ability to focus. Whole group hacky sack is helping enormously at the moment, because the skill level in this activity is really equal among everyone, so it’s just an excuse to move and laugh. I even noticed they transition more easily when I give them this down time. Live and learn.

    Knocked off center from day one, it’s been a wrenching four months. I’m still not totally sure how to respond to things like blatantly vulgar comments, refusals “I’m not doing that” refusals to stop talking etc. and how to discern whether they are “cries for help” or “trying to break the new teacher” or true inexperience interacting respectfully. I’ve been given reams of rubrics and such with “recommended strategies” but its soooooo much information that I can’t process it all in the moment. I end up either reacting or ignoring. Both are weak responses on my part. I’m really not allowed to remove kids from the room, so I’m planning to treat the first 5 days (the official drop / add period) as a sort of “tryout.” I don’t even know if that is “legal” but since language classes are not a graduation requirement, I don’t see the value of guidance putting kids in my class just because they “need a credit.” While everyone can acquire a language, not everyone is ready to be open and willing. No blame no shame…sign up next semester when you are ready. In the meantime find a class taught in English.

    As I wind up semester one, I will take time to write out all of the positive things that happened so that I can build on that. There have been lots of break throughs, most of which have nothing to do with now much language the kid picked up, but with confidence and acceptance. I will post the list somewhere so I can read it each day to remind myself about the reality and power of my attention directing my life energy.

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