Sharing is natural for teachers, right? I mean you work hard, earn your degree, walk across the stage and, voilà, you magically have the sharing superpower. You create wonderful lesson plans that your students love along with exciting and engaging materials and your classroom is a well-oiled machine. You share your work with your colleagues, your blog readers, your PLN on Twitter and Instagram. You receive positive feedback and develop a strong sense of self confidence by constantly participating in the learning loop. Everyone lives happily ever after, right? I applaud you if this is your story, as a matter fact, I proclaim you as a superhero in teacher’s clothing. I hope you will allow me to share a little bit at why my story is a somewhat different.
I actually began teaching on emergency certification before I had finished my last semester of college. My lead teacher was a grammarian with a penchant for making her upper level classes difficult on purpose in order to weed out students she thought did not belong in the program. I finished my final semester, graduated, then began my second year of teaching at the same school. I taught Spanish 1 and a couple of classes of Spanish 2. I didn’t know any better, so I modeled my classes after the lead teacher. The mantra of the department was, “heavy on the grammar, don’t smile until Christmas, and for goodness sake, use the textbook!.” So, off I went on the journey. In the summer between my second and third year, the lead teacher decided to retire. Yes, you guessed it, I became head of the department with an even younger teacher in my charge for levels 1 and 2. I began to realize quickly in my 3rd year that there must be more to this teaching thing. I began to experiment with some technology integration with the help of a wonderful instructional technologist for the district. As a result, I became a much happier teacher with much happier, more engaged students. I finished my seventh year at the district then pursued an opening at another district. Here is where the story takes a turn.
The new district was filled with people who loved teaching, but more importantly, they loved their students. Under the leadership I had, I found a love of teaching and students. To go along with that was the excitement of teaching in a district that wholeheartedly embraced technology integration. Our instructional technologist was instrumental in getting me set up with what I needed, but he also encouraged me to be a lifelong learner by joining the virtual conversations on Twitter for professional development. In addition, the district had made a commitment to student blogging. Along with student blogging, our instructional technologist blogged regularly himself for reflection. I soon followed suit. My first blog post was published in the TCEA magazine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with the demands of teaching and being a blogger at that time. Plus, I didn’t really understand the blogosphere, so I neglected my blog which I eventually deleted. I did present at a couple of technology conferences though and my PLN was slowly developing.
Around 2010, an organization named Power On Texas was working with the Texas Education Agency to showcase student technology use in classrooms all over Texas. The organization chose our school as one of the model schools. The film crew came in and made videos of classrooms where technology was being used regularly, and then teachers submitted the lesson plans that went along with the lessons featured in the finished videos. The crew came to my classroom and filmed us using Twitter and another app that is no longer in existence on our iPods. The students chose a picture, uploaded it to the app, recorded themselves saying some sentences in Spanish to describe the picture, and posted the link for the finished product to our class Twitter account. Finally, a classmate would listen to the recording and reply with feedback. The lesson plan and a sample product were posted on the organization’s website. When the site went live, I began to receive comments and emails about what our class had done. I was absolutely roasted in the comments and emails. I was criticized for giving instructions in English. I was harshly judged for the short number of sentences included in the sample product. I was also chided for allowing students to give each other feedback via our class Twitter account in English. If this had been a term back in 2010, it would have applied-as my college senior daughter says, “I was shook.” (except she would say “I’m shook) I would say I was hurt because honestly, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had no idea that the ACTFL existed. I had no idea that 90% target language was even something to consider. I had no idea there was another way to teach other than grammar and textbook. I certainly had no idea what TPRS or comprehensible input was. Furthermore, the video company was not putting together a video specifically for Spanish teachers. The videos were housed as part of a collection of videos teachers all over the state of Texas could view for their value in integrating technology on a daily basis. In my humble opinion, there had to be a lot of English because the videos were made for teachers in general.
So, what was I to do? I made a foolhardy decision. I shut myself away. I started posting only to my school required lesson plan blog. I became a person who lurked on Twitter, but did not participate. I did not have a Facebook account to delete or I would probably have done that as well. I regressed, I stopped growing, and I was afraid to share. I was afraid of negative feedback. My teaching world shrank a little. Eventually I knew I could not continue on this path, so I began to ask questions of language teachers or technology integration experts who frequented Twitter, but I did not share anything of myself or my classroom. I became the isolationist teacher who hoarded resources. Please bear with me. This is not a poor me/woe is me blog post. The choices I made were a result of my mindset. I forfeited my self-confidence. I forfeited my joy. I chose to retreat. There is no blame to go around or to assign except to myself. I ask myself from time to time why I didn’t just let it go and move on. I’m not sure I know the answer to that. At this point, I don’t want to dwell on it. What I do want, is to get back in the game. I want to open myself up again to feedback and encouragement. More than anything, I want to be that for others out there. After all, sharing is what we teachers do, right? We share our time, our resources, our smiles, our tears, and sometimes our paychecks to reach our students. We share our hearts with our students, parents, colleagues, friends, and our families. One of the words I would use to describe the world language teachers I follow is generous. They give, they share, they contribute to the learning of teachers all over the world. With this new mindset, I have chosen my #oneword2019 as SHARE. I have learned so much from others. It is time for me to share more of myself and my classroom. Sharing is still a tough thing. My goal is to share more of my experiences as a teacher as well as more of what we are doing in my classroom in hopes of becoming a better teacher for my students, a better colleague, and a better world language teacher community member. There might be others out there who need some encouragement. I want to be able to walk through the fire with them encouraging them to never give up. I am hoping you will share this journey with me.
Is sharing your ideas and discussing activities you are trying in your world language class just second nature to you? Or, are you a little timid about jumping in to the virtual conversations that take place every day on various forms of social media? I would love to read your comments and feedback.