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by Erica Fischer on Nov 25, 2015

Inspire… Engage… Transform…

 
Last week, Langchatters responded to the #ACTFL15 theme, thinking up ways to inspire, engage, and transform in the language classroom! Participants discussed what they want to inspire and who inspires them, and they also reflected on how to move from “inspiration” to changes in practice. Langchatters then shared what most engages them as a world language teacher. Instructors also considered what should be transformed in the field, in schools, in their role as teachers, and in students, and they pondered what could be done about it. Finally, participants mentioned supports that can facilitate an effective transformation of classroom practices.

Thank you to those who tweeted in live from #ACTFL15 and to the “#notatACTFL15 crew” (@dr_dmd) as well. We would like to extend a big thanks to Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) for moderating!

Question 1: What do you want to inspire in the field and who is inspiring you?

Instructors are keen on inspiring students and changes in instruction. Speaking of her students, @SraWiemiller wrote, “I want my [students] to realize the world is a big place full of [people] who just might be different than them #openyoureyes.” Similarly, @MlleSulewski wants students to come in contact with others around the world: “I want to inspire my [students] to TRAVEL! Do something different!” Others mentioned their desire to inspire colleagues to experiment with new approaches to instruction. These included content-based instruction (@SraDentlinger), communicative activities (@ProfeCochran), and authentic task-based language learning (@YYCfrancophile). @davis0670 also encouraged increased use of technology in the classroom: “I want to inspire some colleagues to get aboard the technology bandwagon.”

When it comes to sources of inspiration, Langchatters acknowledged their students, former teachers, colleagues, and professional learning networks, such as #langchat! @bjillmoore wrote, “My students are my inspiration as I look for new ways to teach and reach them to make learning meaningful.” @Sra_Saavedra observed that former students can be really inspiring: “Knowing how my alumni are using Spanish to make a difference is a great source of inspiration for me.” @WHS_French_ added that current students can provide daily inspiration: “[This is probably] really cheesy, but my [students] inspire me every day! I want to be the best version of myself for THEM.” @MlleSulewski’s own former teachers provide her with inspiration: “The French teachers I had in school inspire me to be ‘that’ teacher for my [students] #milestogo.” Current colleagues can also inspire, as @CatherineKU72 wrote: “Teachers who dare to share [and] dare [to] try new approaches [and] ideas, [these] people inspire me [to] continue my growth,” and she gave a shout-out to “#langchat bloggers.” #Langchat was also mentioned as a great source of inspiration. @CoLeeSensei said, “[My] no-brainer answer is of course [that] #langchat inspires me!” @profe_robbins echoed this comment: “[#Langchat] inspires me! [It] has [definitely] changed my attitude towards teaching.”

Question 2: What helps you move from “inspiration” to “inclusion” in your practice?

Ready to make changes to your practice? Langchatters have lots of tips to ease the transition from inspiration:

  • Take risks! Langchatters recognized that this can be a scary transition! @SraDentlinger wrote, “To move [to] inclusion I just need to force myself to do it. This is how I started with [Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS)]. I was SO [uncomfortable], but [it was] SO worth it!” As @SraWiemiller added, “It’s about taking risks [and] hoping for the best. AND giving myself room to fail but come back better than ever.” @profe_robbins added that instructors must embrace the possibility of “failure”: “[It’s about not] being afraid to fail. [We need to be] aware that [students may] not be receptive to certain things I’m excited [about] and [it’s OK].” In the words of @ProfeCochran, “[It takes a little] bit of heart, [a] little bit of elbow grease. These things take a LOT of hard work, time, and energy!”
  • Reflect! Others commented on the importance of reflection on efforts and their reception. @alenord wrote in favor of “REFLECTION,” adding, “[Pick] ONE thing to try out, [test] it and [see] how it works.” @ProfeCochran noted that this means “[being] willing to not be perfect, to reflect, and try again.”
  • Take your time! Langchatters reminded fellow instructors that big changes cannot happen overnight. @Marishawkins wrote, “[I apply something new] piece by piece- I may not be [at 100% implementation yet] but I keep incorporating more ideas every day [and] week.” @WHS_French_ pointed out that instructors should be patient with themselves: “[I must remember] that it takes time to be the ‘perfect’ teacher that I want to be. It won’t happen overnight, but little daily steps [add up]!” @muchachitaMJ replied, “[Exactly]! That’s why we need to be so patient with new teachers! Too many quit [because] they don’t have it figured out by [year] 2!”
  • Connect with colleagues! Participants reminded one another that they are not alone in this process. @Vines_TOY10 noted the importance of “[realizing] you are not an island [but have] colleagues [and] learners who [have] ideas that will help [you] move forward to action.” @SraDentlinger added, “I find blogging encourages me to actually do new things, [because] I want to be able to share and help other [teachers].”

Question 3: What engages you most as a world languages teacher?

When it comes to engagement as a language teacher, participants noted the role played by life-long learning, student growth and engagement, and collaboration.

  • Life-long learning: Langchatters noted a link between personal growth as an instructor and increased engagement. @SraDentlinger said, “I am most engaged when I am able to learn in the process as well. I’m still a student at heart.” @SraWiemiller added that an interest in learning is contagious: “When I’m excited to learn, so are they! It’s catchy!” Some instructors search for interesting information to share with their students. @profe_robbins said, “I’m most engaged when I’m learning new information about culture and/or history to share with my students.” @EduJoJoRoRo mentioned “[authentic] resources, [films], late shows like @LPJofficiel – things that keep me abreast of culture so I can share.” @JessicaSelka added that blogs inspire engagement: “[Engagement comes from getting] new ideas…forcing myself to read blogs [or] posts even when I fear it will give me another idea I can’t get to yet!”
  • Student growth and engagement: @MlleSulewski said, “Seeing my students do things I’ve taught them in real life settings – [there’s nothing] more engaging than that.” @MmeFarab also mentioned “[student] achievement and progress,” adding, “I almost cried grading beautifully written [level] 1 assessments last night.” @mlardmlarks experiences engagement when students show curiosity: “when students ask questions out of genuine interest.”
  • Collaboration: Others commented on engagement supported by collaboration. @alenord cited “[collaboration], great conversations with brilliant colleagues, people who are willing to LEARN with me.” @virgilalligator mentioned “[a professional learning network] like this where people are positive, sharing and learning from each other, spreading the good [and] positive.”

Question 4: What needs to be transformed in the field, in schools, in us, and in students? What are we doing about it?

Participants noted that tools and mindsets must be transformed. They added that language must also come to be seen as more than a requirement.

  • Tools: In the words of @ProfeCochran, “TEACHERS NEED TOOLS!” Several participants wrote about the need to integrate technology in the classroom. @learnsafari said, “[Instructors should embrace] technology and [take] advantage of technology,” clarifying, “It’s not meant to replace teachers; teachers are irreplaceable.” @magisterb480 added that appropriate use of technology must also be enforced.
  • Mindsets: Others mentioned the importance of cultivating growth mindsets. @Marishawkins pointed out the need for teachers to be willing to change: “[This is not a problem] with #langchat but with other teachers who never do [professional development, etc.].” @MlleSulewski commented, “Sharing new ideas isn’t showing off. Stop using [this] as excuse to stay stuck in your rut!”
  • Language as more than a requirement: Others underscored the need to alter the way in which many understand foreign language education. @davis0670 wrote, “[As] I said earlier, [language] is not just an item on a checklist for [a] diploma or college admission.” @VTracy7 agreed that we must change the view that “language learning is just a [2-year] obligation for academic purposes.” Along the same lines, @EduJoJoRoRo wrote that this means “[getting] beyond ‘what do I *have* to do’ to succeed to ‘how much can I learn [and] what can I do with it?’”

Question 5: What supports are needed for an effective transformation?

As participants noted, support can ease transformations! They recognized contributions made by a good listener, time, and administrative support.

  • A good listener: @SraDentlinger remarked the value of “someone who will listen to you talk it out,” and @Marishawkins encouraged “getting in touch with more local teachers trying to do the same thing,” noting, “Nothing beats a [face-to-face conversation]!”
  • Time: @MlleSulewski wrote that an effective transformation is supported by “[the] kind of time that would only be awarded to [teachers] with a national shift in mindset [or] policy unfortunately.” One instructor said, “[Our principal] wanted to implement [a 4-day] work week [with Friday] as collaboration [or] extra help time. [The superintendent] said no :(.” @davis0670 reflected, “It always seems to come back to time doesn’t it? Can I buy a few hours?”
  • Administrative support: The discussion underscored the role of administrative support. One instructor wrote, “[We need] district bigwigs to let us implement changes and maybe cut out some of the junk in the curriculum.” @SraWiemiller recognized the benefit of “[administrators and] colleagues who support your risk-taking.”

Conclusion

Last week, Langchatters were motivated to inspire, engage, and transform teaching practices! Instructors discussed what they hope to inspire and mentioned those who inspire them. They also reflected on how to move from “inspiration” to changes in practice. Langchatters then shared what most engages them as a world language teacher. They considered what should be transformed in the field, in schools, in their role as teachers, and in students, while also pondering what could be done about it. Finally, participants pointed out supports that can facilitate an effective transformation of classroom practices.

Thank You!

#Langchat will take a break for the (US) Thanksgiving Holiday, and resume the week of November 30th. We are grateful for all of those who continue to inspire, engage, and transform through this professional learning network! As @magisterb480 wrote, “It’s always good to reflect on our teaching with like-minded people. Thank you, #langchat, for all you’ve done for our profession.” @VTracy7 also expressed gratitude: “Agreed! I’ve made more gains in one year following #langchat than in my first 3 on my own.”

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Got a question you’re eager to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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