Friday, May 24, 2019

Reflections on the School Year

I am now officially on summer vacation! Today was the last day of post-planning. My classroom is all boxed up, grades have been turned in and finalized, and I have completed my scavenger hunt of getting signed off by various school administrators, department head, and the bookkeeper. I always find the last day of work to be rather anticlimactic. In my mind, for months everything has been leading up to this day, and now that it is over, I feel a bit let down. I have always said that the end of the school year is like being on a runaway train. The train is not going to stop whether I like it or not, so the only thing which I can do is just hold on. And then suddenly, the train stops, but due to the laws of physics, I am still in motion and am hurled forward. 

One of the caveats of which I have to remind myself at the end of the school year is not to dwell on my perceived shortcomings and failures for the year. Yes, I can definitely look back and see where I failed as a teacher in terms of CI, spoken Latin, student engagement, creating a community, etc. But if I only look at where I fell short, then I cannot see my successes. I am reminded of what Rose Williams once said to me in the past, "(In spite of where you fell short), your students still loved you." And for where I fell short with my students? That is what next year is for - I can go in with a plan already in mind. The new school year brings hope.

As I decompress from this school year and process everything, I am excited for this summer break. I am continuing with my graduate studies in Instructional Technology, will be presenting at the American Classical League Summer Institute, and will be serving as a cohort leader/presenter at IFLT 2019. I am excited for these two conferences, since I did not attend either last summer, and I have also taken 1 1/2 years off from presenting at conferences. I am definitely ready to present again.

Thanks to all of you who read my blog. I am always taken aback when people whom I have never met before (especially non-Latin teachers) come up to me and tell me that they enjoy reading it. I am so appreciative that people find value in what I have to say and that it has aided them in their teaching. I feel so validated!

Here's to my next two months of summer break! 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dragging Myself over the Finish Line

Yep, it is the end of the school year - I have roughly one more week with students. I absolutely hate it. I hate how I feel like I cannot get much done any more. I hate how disruptive the daily schedule has become due to standardized testing - state tests, AP exams, and district assessments - and how every year, that testing period seems to grow in length - this year it is now four weeks! I hate how my lesson plans have now become suggestions due to not knowing on a daily basis just how many students will be absent due to testing. I hate on days when I do see all students that I feel like I am fighting against students who have already mentally and emotionally checked out for the school year. I hate how physically tired I feel with trying to finish up everything in the next week. I hate how there was so much which I wanted to do this school year but did not. Mostly of all, I hate how that I am feeling all of this - this has been the norm for this time of the year over my past twenty years of teaching, so I do not know why I am always so shocked when it happens. One would have thought that I would have learned my lesson by now.

I am so ready for a break away from the classroom and from students.

But here's the kicker: I also know that after a two-month break, I will be ready to return to the classroom. I know that I will feel refreshed after having a summer break. I know that being a part of a conference like IFLT will get me excited to being back with students again and will reignite my fire as something like IFLT or NTPRS always has. I know that the beginning of a new school year will wash away whatever failures I feel about myself now at the end of the school year. I know that I need to do anything NOT school-related. I know that I need time away from being "Mr. Toda" and time to be just "Keith". I know that I need a huge distance away from the classroom, but I also know that distance is healing. 

How do I know all this? Because this is exactly how it goes every school year. I drag myself over the finish line, battered and bruised, but come August, I am refreshed and ready to teach again. Teaching is not a sprint but a marathon. All that matters is that I finish the race, not necessarily win it. Although I absolutely hate and loathe the end of the school year, the thought of starting again in August fully rejuvenated is already exciting to me. 

This is how i know that I have been called to be a teacher.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Random Helpful CI Tips

This week, I was previewing some vocabulary with a few of my classes, and some things came to mind as I was doing it. Here are some random but hopefully helpful CI tips about vocabulary:
  1. If you are trying to pre-teach a number of vocabulary words via storytelling, circling, pre-reading activities, etc., use a lot of proper nouns in English to aid in narrowing and focusing the target words for learners. This is especially helpful at the lower levels.
      Let's say that your target phrase is "goes to" 
  • Example: The girl is going to the store
  • Better example: Cardi B is going to Burger King
     While I am sure that example #1 is comprehensible in the target language, example #2         allows learners to focus only on the phrase "goes to" in the target language, since Cardi  
     B. and Burger King are proper nouns in English.

   2. When defining an unknown word to students in the target language, be aware that      
       some students will take the definition literally and not make the connection which we 
       are intending. Therefore, do everything you can to establish meaning. This is why I 
       always establish meaning in English, even if I define the word in Latin. I need to ensure 
       that everyone in the room is on the same page with the definition.

       Example: Years ago, I attempted to define the word tristis = non laetus. Now to me and 
       a number of students, the "obvious" meaning was sad, yet other students thought that 
       the word literally meant not happy, while others thought it could mean angry or scared. 
       Afterwards, I had students ask me, "So what word means sad in Latin, if tristis means 
       not happy?" A better way for me to have done this would have been to also put an 
       obvious picture, like a sad emoji, to give double input to establish meaning.

       Example #2: Years ago in Latin 1, when I was doing a TPR lesson, I was 
      demonstrating the command porta (carry). I did not formally define the word, because I 
      thought that the meaning was obvious, so I was telling students "Porta (this) ad ianuam, 
      "Porta (that) ad me," etc. At the end, I asked students what they thought that porta 
       meant. While most students said carry, one student replied, "To walk with something 
       while holding it." If I had established meaning from the beginning, this student would 
       have been on board with the definition from the start.