This past week and a half I was on vacation, hanging out with the cutest and coolest girl ever! It was glorious! It was thrilling! It was relaxing! It was hot, humid, and sometimes rainy, but it didn't matter. I was on vacation in Florida! No twitter. No email. No work...well that's a stretch, I always work—but, I worked less! And now, it's OVER! I've realized that I have exactly 13 more weekdays until my first day of school! OMG!
I'm freaking out!
Guys, I am scared! I have a genuine fear of what is coming this school year. Trying to get myself in order has been incredibly stressful. I'm feeling the heat! This school year I will be teaching Spanish I at a different high school and will also lead the world languages team as their department chair. Since I'm new to the school and teaching Spanish I, I know I need to set up and create a strong foundation for my students. Being the only CI and TPRS teacher at the school makes me feel like I have to prove myself even more! I know what is necessary for language acquisition. I've been teaching this way for 6 years, so what's the problem? Well I'm stuck! How do I make sure my students are where they need to be next year because I've covered all bases? Do I follow Bex's curriculum? Do I follow Jalen Waltman's curriculum (which is more aligned to Spanish textbooks? Do I meld the two together? Do I pay for Señor Wooly's curriculum (I mean Billy is so cute!)? Do I use Amy Bachman Catania's resources? Oh, how about using Blaine Ray's "Look I can Talk" curriculum? Or maybe I should use Carol Gaab's, "¡Cuéntame más!" curriculum? Do I *gasp* (I haven't used one in the entire time I have been teaching Spanish) try to follow a textbook and complement it using CI methods and strategies? I don't know what to do! My head is spinning around and around, and it's really slowing me down in terms of preparing myself for the new school year. As I am the only CI and TPRS teacher at the high school, will using these methods and strategies ensure that the kids will be ready to move on to Spanish II? What if I don't cover things I am supposed to cover? What if... What if...What if... I feel like I am in limbo, and I'm not sure how to get moving. What direction do I choose? Being out of the game for a whole year (I taught special ed last year) is really doing a number on me.
the problem with too many choices
All the choices above are really good ones, but now there are so many choices and so many resources that it's hard to pick the "best" one (for me). Do you know about the Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz? Here's a TEDtalk about it.
overcoming my fears
Overthinking everything feels like I am dragging my feet in the sand, getting nowhere quick! As it should. I need to trust in my instincts, be flexible, and have courage. I need to believe in myself and sometimes that's hard. But, if I am ever going to fight my fears— and win, it must be done.
what needs to happen?
First and foremost, I need to make a choice. OK. Choice made. You'll never know (jajajaja--evil laugh). JK I chose to follow Bex's curriculum primarily with Catania's as a supplement (and a lil' sprinkle of Waltman in there too at times) and I'm sticking to it! Now that I have finally made the choice, I am exhausted. My mind needs to take a break. So, while not focused on resources and curriculum, I also made the choice to start thinking about my classroom decor, which makes me super happy, and for the most part stress free. My husband and I have set aside a budget and I've started using it on these awesome resources below:
jam-packed sessions full of valuable information to over 140 participants from all over the US (and even from Switzerland). She was extremely gracious and kind and humorous too (bonus!).
I didn’t want to come off as a creepy stalker so I limited my interactions with her to an introduction and a selfie, which turned out quite wonderful if I do say so myself. I hope that if she ever reads this post, or my blog in general, she will know how influential she has been in regards to my teaching career and making the switch to TPRS® and CI.
So, after my initial, “OMG that’s really her and OMG I’m really here!” moment, I got down to the business of trying to soak up every bit of information that came my way. Since my head is still processing all the information (yes, 5 days later!), I’m going to list 5 main takeaways of information that stood out to me to be essential and relevant when it comes to comprehensible input as I understood it.
Disclaimer: To reiterate, these are my “notes” from the information provided as I understood them.
Ultimately, if you ever have a chance to see Martina Bex at a workshop, Do It! The amount of information, tips and tricks to create impactful CI units, and experience that she encompasses are invaluable. For her to impart such knowledge is a genuine treat. I can say I am well-prepared to continue my CI journey, and I feel pumped about it. No matter where any teacher is on his or her CI journey, there is always something new to learn. I was happy that I walked away with tons of new perspectives.
In a nutshell, I am grateful and blessed that I could attend this workshop. And after two days of cramming my brain full of great information and fresh ideas, it was time to leave. You know there’s just no place like home!
Important Note: The hashtag for the workshop was #CIwizards. Search this hashtag if you want to see what others have posted via twitter.
have you ever felt like a fish out of water?
I have! And not too long ago. You see my grandmother recently turned 90 (#blessed), and for her surprise birthday party tons of puertorriqueños came from Miami, Orlando, California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee (I know, right?), and the island. It was a huge gathering, and I was very excited to see everyone. There was family there that I hadn’t seen since I was three and now I’m…well, much older (you know better than to ask a woman her age). So, in the thick of it, Spanish was the main form of communication. Easy peasy for me, right? I mean I teach Spanish for heaven’s sake! Um, not so much when you are overanalyzing every little word that is coming out of your mouth, not to mention your accent to boot. Oh, Arelle.
A BUMBLING, MUMBLING, at times RAMBLING FOOL
It was distressing. Here I was so painstakingly considering my word choice, my tense, and my pronunciation that I could hardly produce any sense of conversation. I got weird looks, sympathetic pats on my back, asked to just quickly take a selfie, or told to just eat more food. I felt crummy and isolated. I was having a pity party for one. And then, I began to just laugh. Yes laugh! You see, two things had occurred:
(1) My perception was most likely much worse than what was happening. I internalized this feeling of not being good enough and feeling out of my league. Growing up, my parents, for the most part, spoke to me in Spanish. I can understand it 100%, but I usually replied to them in English. This put me in an awkward situation. I was a Puerto Rican who couldn’t vocalize in her native tongue as easily as I could in English. I remember feeling embarrassed by this. It wasn’t until late teens/early twenties that I began to see the importance of not only understanding Spanish but speaking and writing it as well. The understanding and the writing came easily, but the speaking, oh boy the speaking… How can I be authentic? How can I come across as a true Puerto Rican? You see, those were the wrong questions to ask. All I needed was to snap out of my abysmal view of my language skills and instead take risks!
(2) Which brings me to thing number two. To this day, I ask and expect my students to take risks. I ask that they just throw out self doubt and relish in their mistakes because mistakes are needed to become better in language acquisition. Instead of focusing on just letting myself speak naturally, organically, and without filters, I trudged through choppy bits of conversation. I just couldn’t get out of my head. I was too worried about appearances, and we all know how that goes. I clammed up. But then I saw the light. I saw this big mistake that I was making, and the party raged on as did my new-found confidence as I enjoyed the Despacito remix that was blaring through the playlist (curated by D.J. Arelle especially for the party).
I FLUSHED THE GOLDFISH DOWN THE TOILET