While the snow and wind blew around the country, #langchat teachers were snuggled up next to their phones and computers, excited to be back amongst friends. After a long, luxurious winter break, #langchat is back, ready to help language teachers collaborate and commiserate about what their new years’ teaching resolutions are for 2014.
In addition to a wonderful topic, last week’s discussion was graced by the presence of @AHSBlaz (Deborah Blaz), the noted world language education speaker and author. We were also happy to hear that @SECottrell will be returning as an occasional moderator, after taking a break to focus on her family.
Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Language Teachers
1. Grow Professional Learning Networks and Collaborate
One of the themes that kept surfacing throughout the night was the desire for many teachers to grow their professional learning networks (PLN.) Many teachers expressed a desire to participate in #langchat more regularly. @SECottrell shared a fantastic link to over 400 language teachers that are great to follow on Twitter. @Sra_Kennedy shared an interest in creating a breakoff Twitter chat for elementary language teachers – #FLESCHAT.
2. Stay Relevant
Many teachers shared their interest in creating relevant classroom experiences that get students excited about learning. @SECottrell suggested “accessing students’ passions and using more current authentic resources” as a way to stay relevant to students. Developing a relevant, student-centered program takes some work, but can have amazing long-term results for your students and overall language program. @senoraCMT said, “Staying relevant will GROW your program!!! The stagnant programs are the ones that shrink!!!”
3. Show Students How to Love Language Learning
Some of the most interesting resolutions of the night were from @alenord and @placido. @alenord said she wants to, “Work to train level 1’s HOW to be a language student.” @placido said she wanted to, “Create paths for students to discover a LOVE of Spanish!”
Although these may seem different language teaching resolutions, the underlying goal is the same. Helping to prepare students for a lifetime of language learning. By helping them know now how to be a better language student, you create a pathway for them to learn to love their target language. @alenord went as far as to explain that our work as teachers sets the stage for future language educators: “encourage, edify and challenge the next generation of world language teachers. Carry and yet pass the torch!”
4. Improve Your Own Language and Teaching Skills
From getting familiar with new language curriculum to picking up a second language, #langchat teachers are very motivated to beef up their own skills so that they can better help their students and colleagues. For some, this involves being more mindful of ACTFL standards and learning outcomes. For others, it means changing the way they interact with authentic resources and reading. For teachers like @mjosey1, it’s about sticking to goals already she has already set. She said, “I resolve to NOT give up on my changes to move to a performance based classroom/assessments.”
5. Use Technology More and Wisely
Technology is a necessary part of 21st Century instruction, and a number of participants discussed how they would like to increase efficacy of technology in their language classrooms. A number of specific resources were mentioned as good ones to focus on for the year. @senoradams said, “I want to incorporate more engaging technology esp. digital storytelling, etc. this year.” @CatherineKU72 mentioned using BitStrips and ComicLife, @mjosey1 suggested Storybird, and @mstort6 advocated for Padlet as good tools to look into this coming year.
6. Have Students Stay in the Target Language
@Melissa77459 said, “The most important resolution for me: More target language for them and for me both in and out of class.” This reflected a similar feeling from most of the language teachers in our Twitter forum.
Even so, it is much easier to say than to do. @Sr_Hache4 said, “I have been trying 4 three years to encourage students to seek opportunities to talk outside the classroom. Would love ideas.” @mjosey1 suggesting bringing in native guest speakers and @Ensenenme mentioned giving students more opportunities for “critical thinking and using the TL to explain themselves.” @SECottrell said, “I was just thinking about finding a Skype buddy for the same reason.”
7. Start a Blog. Read a Blog.
Blogging is a great way to process how you are teaching and to reflect on whether it is working. It can also be a great benefit to other teachers who are struggling with the same setback and roadblocks. For many of our #langchat teachers, the new year brings an increased motivation to begin sharing what is and isn’t working in their classrooms. @alenord said, “[Blogging] helps me think about what I am doing and learning.”
And, even if you don’t have the time or interest in writing a blog, reading good blogs is a great way to increase your own skill as a language teacher.
8. Have More Fun Being a Teacher
Although a lot of time was spent talking about ways to make the classroom more fun for the students, a number of teachers shared their goal to make their classrooms more fun for themselves. @Sra_Kennedy said, “One of my resolutions is to have fun. If I am then it’s much more likely my kids will too.”
@DiegoOjeda66 said, “After teaching for 24 years, my resolution is to recharge for the next class, never lose the steam.” He then shared a list of things we can do to keep ourselves happy to be world language teachers.
- “Know that your next class will be better than the last one.”
- “Know that your students will always appreciate an energetic teacher.”
- “Remember why you chose to teach before the next class.”
- “Always keep the excitement of your first day of teaching.”
- “Stay away from complaining, unhappy, frustrated colleagues.”
- “Before each class, think about those you love the most.”
- “Before each class remember that you are human, you need water, food and laughter.
9. Create a Happier Work Atmosphere
Many #langchat teachers also shared ways they can change their physical and emotional spaces to have a more relaxed teaching environment. Some mentioned creating a physical space that is more inviting. Colorful bulletin boards, motivational posters and familiar objects from home are just a few things you can do to create a happier workspace. @SECottrell said, “If I am still teaching next year, I resolve to get beanbags and build a reading corner.”
@mjosey1 reminded us that how we deal with students also affects the happiness level of our classrooms. She resolved to include, “More praise/positive reinforcement (encouragement) for my students.” @LauraJaneBarber said that this would also work with colleagues. She said, “Try to redirect negative conversations to a positive focus,” in order to create a more positive school atmosphere.
10. Make Reasonable Resolutions
Although every teacher wants to be a superhero, it is never good to attempt to do everything all at once. Instead, choose one or two resolutions that you can actually accomplish and then focus on them. @alenord said, “Don’t have TOO MANY resolutions!” @AHSBlaz said, “I agree: baby steps. Do one thing, get good at it…then another. Too many at once leads to burnout/frustration.”
Other Fantastic Goals for 2014
- @Melissa77459 said, “Give as much time and effort to my Span 1 classes as my Span 3 pre-AP classes.”
- @placido said, “Stop neglecting free reading time/SSR.”
- @trescolumnae said, “Incorporate second language role play regularly, especially in upper-level classes.”
- @TraciMittag said, “Teach students to be responsible for their own learning.”
- @mstort6 said, “Incorporate more AP skills into lower levels. There should be no surprises on what is required for the exam by the time students get to AP.”
- @alenord said, “Do a better job questioning/engaging ALL students.”
- @Ensenenme said, “Remember to teach like a pirate and, at the very least, play catchy music in the TL to welcome kids.”
- @CatherineKU72 said, “Look more at the ACTFL assessment/guidance and @tonitheisen’s “Lenses” for bringing world issues into WL.”
- @alenord said, “ADVOCATE for our profession MORE!!!”
- @placido said, “Bring more social consciousness into my lessons via Kiva.”
- @mjosey1 said, “Use indexcards with names on them to pull from during class to make sure I don’t forget students. I tend to call on the same “seats” for answers.”
- @MiddInteractive said, “Provide more students with authentic materials and access to native speakers to teach language AND culture.”
- @alenord said, “Become a student of research and read more!”
- @senoraCMT said, “Get more teachers involved in @ICTFL (and @ACTFL)! Stay plugged in!”
- @madamebaker said, “Try to help (new) language teachers reach their students via authentic language.”
- @mjosey1 said, “KEEP GOING. Don’t let the first speed bump turn me around running back to the text only.”
- @TraciMittag said, “Learn more about Standards-Based Grading to improve learning and communication.”
- @mjosey1 said, “Work on a Medical Spanish 1 and 2 to work on Spanish 4 Careers to engage our Health Academy students.”
- @CatherineKU72 said, “Let the students explore the topic/vocab through different media than me. In short, I need to be invisible.”
- @MiddInteractive said, “Provide young learners with exposure to world #languages through engaging activities, songs, games in supportive, fun environment.”
- @SraSpanglish said, “Read more novels and plays, maybe some Lorca, Sor Juana.”
- @eatontheword said, “Celebrate student success and highlight important connections more often!”
- @mjosey1 said, “Join and go to ACTFL conference and FFLA!!”
- @MMLALanguage said, “Give more students more opportunities to live abroad and immerse themselves in language, community, culture.”
- @AudreyMisiano said, “Get organized! I want everything in a nice neat space. Never-ending project!”
- @SECottrell said, “I want to make a reading corner and do more SSR and FVR in AP class.”
We want to thank @DiegoOjeda66 and @SECottrell for sharing such great thoughts and guiding our discussion. We had so many people involved in the conversation, it was clear that many language teachers are focused on learning from and building their PLNs this year. Since we had so many participants, there were a number of great resources and comments that we couldn’t include in our summary. If you’d like to see what you missed, you can read the full transcript here.
Do you have suggestions for future langchat topics? Feel free to share your ideas with us. We are so excited about getting to know you and finding out how we can make #langchat a place where we can learn and grow together.
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