The last month or so of the school year is often very hectic for teachers. We are working to complete our curriculum, wrapping up all of the end of year paperwork, finalizing grades. Deadlines surround us and it can feel like we are juggling several things at once. It is easy to get distracted. (It is also easy to neglect your blog.) Students are also anticipating summer break. And, as the weather warms up, it can become harder to focus. I often find myself in survival mode. But, one of my favorite things about teaching is that each school year comes to an end. We get time to process, reflect and recharge. And, it is all brand new again the following school year.
At the start of this school year, I was excited to have only two levels to teach for the first time in my career. I also did not have an extra class for the first time in four years. I had more time than I had been accustomed to. Of course, I used some of that time to get myself coffee (I am a hopeless caffeine addict).
Over the last few years, I had been implementing changes to my teaching. I have been moving away from a textbook centered curriculum and focusing my teaching on comprehensible input. And, after three years of teaching AP Spanish Language and Culture, I also felt comfortable enough to implement some changes. What that looked like in my classroom - a lot more reading. I used Fluency Matters novels with my ninth graders and two young adult novels in AP for “Book Club Friday’s”. I have never had so much fun teaching. Reading the novels lead to such rich class discussions. These discussions often lead to conversations about current events. I could not have planned it better to be discussing immigration with both my 9th graders while reading Esperanza and with my AP classes while reading Cajas de cartón in the months before a presidential election where it was one of the most debated issues. My students were acquiring vocabulary and language to discuss this complex topic. They enjoyed reading and having a class that wasn’t “normal”. My AP students became very confident in their reading ability and were not intimidated by that portion of the AP exam. I plan on continuing with the novels and the increased focus on literacy.
I would be remiss not mention our district’s new initiative - now every high school student is issued a MacBook Air. The addition of this level of technology was a bit intimidating at first, but it also was a complete game-changer for me. I had always considered myself to be fairly “techie”, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I would manage a room full of students with laptops. Our district also has G Suite for Education. With both of these tools, there were new ways to collaborate, new ideas and new apps to try. I was eager to embrace the technology. I knew it would be helpful in AP simply because my students would always have the ability to make a recording in class. I then spent lots of time looking for new activities, apps and project ideas. I also spent a lot of time with Jen Fischer, one of the tech coaches in my district. I would spend a prep period with her and come away with a new idea to try. And, I would try them all (just ask her - I would try just about anything). Some were more successful than others - Flipgrid, digital breakouts & #BookSnaps (if you are not following Tara Martin on Twitter, get on that ASAP) were huge hits - I know this from reading the end of year reflection surveys I had my students complete. A few were duds - 6 second videos were not what I had envisioned. Were there days where I would get frustrated with some students for playing games or translating everything they could on Google Translate? Yes. But, overall, I like to think I am utilizing the technology we are fortunate enough to have to improve learning and to make my own life easier.
More new ideas
In January, I started blogging. By February, I had become so comfortable with G Suite that I decided to become a Google Level 1 Certified Educator. From the training modules, I picked up lots of new ways to harness the power of this technology. By April, I had completed the modules for the Google Level 2 Certified Educator and passed that exam. It was then that I started trying some new projects that the technology allowed - student-created screencasts & iMovies, digital breakouts and Choose Your Own Adventure Google Slides presentations. These ended up being the highlights of the class for many of my students.
Now that it is nearly a month since school ended - not exactly sure how that time went by so quickly - and AP scores came out (I can happily report a 100% pass rate), I am starting to think, in earnest, about what I want my classes to look like next year. I am never satisfied. Instead, I am always looking to improve and for new ideas to engage my students. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be doing some of that while sitting by the pool.
Hope all of my fellow teachers are enjoying the fleeting moments of summer break!
High school Spanish teacher in NJ. Google for Education Certified Trainer. Always looking to try new things in my classes. Technology junkie.