Tuesday, November 26, 2019

There is No One Type of CI Teacher

The ACTFL Convention has ended, and although I did not attend this year, my Twitter account can tell you what happened, as it blew up with Tweets from so many teachers who were there. When attending a conference like ACTFL or an IFLT or NTPRS, on the one hand, it is easy to feel motivated by all of the presentations and teachers. On the other hand, it is also easy for one to walk away feeling defeated, because "Gosh, I stink as a teacher, because I am not like X person in the classroom."

Quite honestly, it is very easy for me to get into that way of thinking. There are so many teachers out there whom I admire for all that they are doing for students in their classrooms and are achieving with them, and then I get into a "compare and despair" mindset where I think, "Gosh, I'm lucky if I can get my students to tell me their name in Latin." But then I remind myself: I am not that person - I am me. That person is not in front of my students - I am. And because of that, my students deserve to have me and who I am, not me trying to be someone else. Yes, all of that does sound a bit hackneyed and like an over-reaching platitude, but there is such truth in that.

There are CI teachers out there whom I think are SO effective in the classroom, but I also know that their teaching style reflects their individual personalities. I absolutely love the energy which Jason Fritze and Annabelle Williamson exhibit in their classrooms, but if I were to do that, gosh, I would have nothing left after 30 minutes. There are things which work perfectly well in my classroom, because it is me up front teaching, and there are things which have absolutely BOMBED in my class, because it is me up front teaching. In other words, the only person whom I can be as a teacher is myself. 

There is no one single type of CI teacher. There are those who are full of energy and run around their classroom acting everything out with their students. I know CI teachers who are incredibly laid back, implement a non-targeted language approach, and let students dictate the direction and scope of the class based on their spontaneous interests. I also know CI teachers who are ALL about structure and organization in their approach to teaching, facilitate a targeted language approach, and have everything planned out. I know that there are CI teachers who are implementing a hybrid, CI/textbook curriculum in their classrooms But the thing is that I know that all of these teachers are 100% effective in their facilitation of a CI classroom. 

The task then is to find your own voice as a CI teacher and to become comfortable with it. Yes, be motivated and encouraged by other teachers, but do not strive to be them. Finding your own voice as a regular teacher takes time, let alone as a CI teacher. It takes time becoming comfortable in your own skin in front of students. I look back at my early years of teaching, and I am so embarrassed at how I was as a 3rd-year teacher. At the same time, I have to admit, relatively speaking among 3rd-year teachers, I did a pretty good job. And as dear Rose Williams has said to me, "And your students loved you still in spite of all that." Such true words.

So continue to learn about CI and what that looks like in a classroom. As you do and as you progress as a teacher, you'll grow into it. As a result, there you will find your CI voice. 

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