Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An unexpected breath...

And I don't know what to do with it, to be honest.
I keep worrying that I'm missing something or not where I am supposed to be.

So I need to let go.
And just breathe.

For the first time since I can remember, I have nothing after school today. So I can correct, clean and plan. Awesome.

And this actually is coming at a good time because my German 3 class is getting a bit out of hand... losing the love and losing focus. So things need to be refocused for them. This is good to have this planning time... so I'm going to go use it! Tschau!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Buzz...

Today we had our first all-team meeting.
It was amazing!
The classroom was full.
The buzz was plapable.
And everyone was excited... including the coaches.

One said that this already seems like more fun than work. :)

I love it. And I love my job.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Beat of my Heart...

Or is it the beat of the African drums??
Nah... I'm pretty positive it's my heart beating so proudly.

German 3 today was fantastic.
And what was different, you might ask??
First: instead of grades on their quizzes, I matched them in groups of three... one high, one medium and one low. Their task as a group was to help each other so that everyone's paper was perfect. The amount of coaching that was going on... especially for those lower kids who seriously need it... was nothing short of amazing. Kids were looking out for each other... making sure they had enough time... making sure they asked the questions they needed to get the answers... and even more importantly, the high achieving kids were asking the questions for the lower achieving kids... and then they would go back and teach it!! It made me so proud... and I knew that what we were doing was good. HOORAY!!

Second: I split them. The kids who hadn't finished their verb conjugation had computer time to do so. Those who had split into groups and added to our wikispace about past tense verbs. This was SO meaningful... because the kids who had finished felt like their purpose on the wikispace was a privilege and they were working so hard to get the information that they understood onto that space. They even figured out inserting tables... and were having discussions about what the most meaningful way to write things was for people who were just learning. Awesome. Everyone working on their own stuff... one of those "productive buzz" moments.

Third: Positivity. I think I understand. This class needs a bunch of positive feedback. When theywere told that people from district were looking at the website... and when I said I was so proud of them for their coaching and so proud of them for the work they've done on the wiki... they just beamed. And then they got to work... really productive, meaningful work. Awesome kids. Thank you, SMU.

Whew. So that was awesome.

Tomorrow I have an IEP... and I'm the only general education teacher... and the student has an incomplete for last quarter. I don't know how this is going to go. We'll see.
Tomorrow is the last day for the week!
Happy Thanksmas!

P.S. I almost forgot. German 1 we looked at houses for sale online today. They did a good job of making up sentences and talking about the houses! I really want to continue meaningful exercises like this and bent objects. I like them and the kids have even asked to do more... Meike was the one who asked! Keep this up!

Also, note to self: try to add more ways to draw... everyone is asking for it... and denying that is denying a big piece of who these kids are.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What a downer


I have been such a downer lately. Like for the past six months or something... I swear. Maybe it's just a natural shift that happens as I'm figuring out that I don't, in fact, need to please everyone all the time... which is still hard, but I see myself standing up for myself in ways I never would have before because, although I yearned to be noticed, I didn't want to stick out. So I hope this is just part of the phase... and maybe it's because I feel loaded down... but the other day Liesl mentioned that she didn't like all the negative energy she had been giving out lately (which I hadn't noticed) and it really struck a chord with me. It is definitely true for me.

So here's my positive spin on today:
German 1 did some exit slips about how they were going to study. I think that I like the exit slip philosophy... but I also don't know if I have enough stamina to follow through with it on a daily basis (and is that really necessary?). Anyway, a number of kids said they were going to use the internet resources (podcast and online flashcards)... so Monday I am going to give the exit slips back and check back in to see how many actually did... and what they thought.
I was lucky that the class of kids I've had the longest is the class I had to miss today... because they know what to do and have fun. And one of the subs said she liked the clapping. Me too.
It's good that the doctor says that Caitlin just has the croup... and I'm sure he listened to my concerns before handing out this diagnosis.
German 2 had a very interesting conversation about sarcasm, and I was surprised to hear how many didn't appreciate sarcasm in the least... and I was very surprised at who said it.
I got to spend some time with my medicine loving baby today. She was so good at the doctor's office and afterward... a lady in the waiting room didn't think she was even sick.
The conversation with daycare from my perspective went really well. We have a conference on Monday and I think everyone knows the agenda... which is good: no surprises.
Tori and Hannah are super excited to start the speech season! (They saw me in the hall and said they were just talking about speech last night!)

So... all in all... an excellent day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bow chicka bow wow

Okay... mostly writing just so that I get this down with the hopes that I can use it as AR data. Today I offered the idea to the onesies that I make an MP3 of the vocabulary... asked what they thought. It was overwhelming. The mass responded very positively and I heard one girl say "Actually, that would be greatly appreciated." and others said things like cool! and mentioned that would be useful! So I had two boys agree to be the test pilots... told them where to go in order to download the mp3 and to let me know how everything went tomorrow. I made the mp3 at lunch... and uploaded it. So it will be there, ready for everyone tomorrow. I just need to remember to show everyone how to do it and talk with the boys about how it went.

Otherwise we're off to conferences tonight instead of the school board for the community of experts (which I am very excited about).

Finally, I'm surely running up the ladder and definitely not letting something go. Something happened at auditions today that I thought was just fine and had let it go... and then it was brought up again later with the statement "I don't want you to think you have to walk on eggshells with me." with someone who I've always felt didn't really get along with me (from their point... not mine). So now I'm having a hard time putting it to sleep. If they wouldn't have dug it back up, I would have (naively) thought it was just all in good fun... but the issue coming up again makes me believe there is relevance there that I didn't know about. ugh. We'll see.

Otherwise speech auditions were good again today. Everyone has been pleasantly surprised at the number of students who are coming in asking for public address categories. That is awesome. I'm wondering, Liesl, if you will see FS tomorrow. I don't want her to think we didn't do creative because we didn't believe in her writing skills. I don't want her running up the ladder, too.

That's it for today. Off to supper, conferences and the minute clinic for a sick Noodle.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

14 November

Wow. I just cannot believe it's Wednesday. So many times this week I have just been totally off on what day it actually FEELS like it is. I could swear it's Tuesday... and I would have sworn yesterday was Monday. AT least I'm keeping time... and being a day behind is always nicer than feeling it should already be Friday and it's only Monday. However I feel like I'm packing a lot of "stuff" into my hours. I rarely watch TV anymore and most of the time I don't really care. I never thought I would be "that girl"... maybe it's just a phase. :)

German 2: We did "Chairman of the Board". It sucked. There are so many reasons it sucked, but it was made extremely evident that it is not, in fact, a close knit community. So not worth the time with these kids. (But I have an inkling that it would be worthwhile with my German 1 class... I'm just a bit gun-shy at this point.) So then we delved into the book, notes and the like... and I think that is what these kids need. The "feel" in the class was better. Kids were on task. Having those standards is what this class needs. I feel like it's boring stuff... but apparently they need it. So we will be doing more. More quizzes, more writing, more check points. They need to be held accountable for their learning in a way that most don't. Call it lazy on their part... whatever. If that's what it takes for them today, then that is what they will get. The pleasant "hum" of productive work was nice. Otherwise I had even some of my good kids with other classwork in front of them... so maybe they were just bored. Isn't it weird how different classes need different things? This is when I'm glad that I'm not stuck in a position of trying to keep one class at the same pace of another.

German 1: They are just too cute. The house drawing is going well... I think I found a "shining star" spot for one of my SpEd kids... she came to class today (after just getting the introduction to it all yesterday) with her project 70% done. Apparently drawing and the like is beneficial for her... and boy is she shining. I want to make sure I touch base with her again tomorrow of how proud she should be of her work.

Speech auditions again today... I'll get back to those later... but we've already perhaps lost a couple coaches again today. I hope not. This is supposed to be a TEAM activity... maybe we need to look at the mission statement again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meme again...

In an effort to sort through today (I still can't even begin to try to comprehend yesterday's huge discussion) I'm needing to go back to the Meme thing (shout out to you, Liesl!):
What went well:
Speech auditions! I am excited about the quality of kids we had audition and look forward to holding them to high (but fun) standards and really finding a lot of success... I am SUPER excited about Liesl's lightbulb about having a certain young man do extemporaneous poetry reading... Seriously. He will go to state. I am SO excited.
What went pretty well:
German 1 went pretty well today... I ended up telling more culture today than normal, but sometimes culture can go by the wayside and it is definitely not only already one of the standards of world language education, it's also inherent in many of the other standards. So no problems here.
German 3 went pretty well also. The new way of doing music was fantastic. We listened to it three times and for different things each time (degrees of difficulty scaffoldling throughout) and I asked what they thought. Even Dirk said that he liked it because sometimes listening to it the first time with all the lyrics and not knowing (or having to find out) what they mean is too overwhelming... and he's one of the best students in class. This is great feedback. I'm glad I learned the technique and I know it is pedagogically sound as well as effective! Awesome. They also did more conjuguemos today. Only 4-5 have passed it. They really are having a harder time with this than kids have in the past... but they all recognize how beneficial it is for them to do... despite the fact it might be frustrating. How do I know this? Because right after their complaints (Man, this sucks! I can't do this!), they verbalize things like (ugh. But I know I'm doing better already... or I know it's good for me Frau, but I swear, I can't do this). Then I cheerlead a bit and ask them if they've been having personal bests... and they always have been. So this is all good. We're not going back tomorrow. We'll save it until Thursday.
What could have gone better:
German 2. Seriously. The kids are being lazy. They are tired. They are just not excited... even today when I was excited! So today is an example of an anomaly of the theory that my excitement will always infect the kids. The discussion about the podcast didn't give the results I had hoped for, but perhaps another avenue to try instead. They mentioned an 8th grade class where they did show-and-tell... and could do anything as long as it related. I might just try this. We'll have to talk more about it tomorrow. I think I also need to just get them up and moving. More community building. Something. Maybe Chairman of the Board tomorrow??
Who I need to touch base with:
A colleague about speech team. And I'm not really looking forward to it, but maybe I need the mindset that it truly is painless and without judgment... ask it like Biener would.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wow... what a day.

Today as I was sitting around on my prep... wondering what I needed to get done. I had no idea what was ahead of me.

After school today a former student came in to talk. We've had conversations in the past and I thought she was coming in to just chat about life in general... well that wasn't the case.

After a discussion about rape, drug abuse, a completely non-supportive family and what seems to be manic depression... I walked away overwhelmed with everything. In the end, I had promised to talk when she needed... and that I would sit with her at the police if she needed to go back.

I'm still reeling... three days later.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Feeling overwhelmed

Yesterday as I was trudging out of school, I felt as if the holes for my mind-maze were outnumbering the safe paths. And allowing my mind to drop into one of those holes (about school, planning, fluency, M.Ed., family, speech, anything...) would be detrimentally depressing to the point of paralysis.

Things seem overwhelming and I feel like I'm drowning and just not doing the best job with anything right now.

So I've kept myself (and my mind) busy (and safe) by focusing on minutia. Simple things that I can do, create and plan... none of the higher level thinking I need to do things well.

So maybe it's a coping mechanism... but at least I'm coping at this point. Time for more D vitamins.

Vocabulary-Based Instruction

A former student was talking with a couple of my current students saying that my German courses were based so heavily in vocabulary that she felt like she missed out on some of the "other things" that others knew. This stuck with me. Maybe because it was criticism... maybe because it's hard to look at myself in that critical way, but the only way things in life can change for the better is if you can find and reflect on the honest truth.

So I've been thinking about this. And having minor conversations with colleagues about it.

Vocabulary is easy. Vocabulary is low level. And vocabulary is how I learned language.

I want to push it beyond that.

More into the skills of language.

But how can I assess that most efficiently and effectively so that it is the center of curriculum and consideration?

And how does this play into the concept of concept-based instruction? and backward design?

Do themes pull these skills in or do the skills pull the themes in?