Sunday, July 3, 2016

How I succeeded with CI & TPRS this year: everything else

I've already posted some random things I felt went well this year, which mostly turned out to have to do with assessment. I'll aim to post some other things now.

Well, what DID I succeed with?

"Problem" students. Not all of them by any means, but for a handful that I KNOW were considered "problem students" by other teachers & admins-- and often deservedly... for me too... I can confidently say that for that handful, I ~made a difference~ and isn't that what teaching is all about? Well, no, teaching is also about getting kids to learn stuff. But I was able to be a safe person for a few kids who needed one, and something about my classroom management style worked. I had success with some of those "weird" kids too, some of the same kinds of weird I was at their age. One who didn't usually talk in other classes was great for me in history and got an awesome grade and signed up for Latin next year. A couple other "problem" kids of various kinds from my history class also signed up for Latin, which is really exciting because you know, you come to love them even when they can be real jerks sometimes, and I would have missed them. I am glad I get to keep them for another year or maybe even another three years. Now, my classroom management is not good, but I guess I did an okay job making my room a safe environment.

Routines. Oh, no, I absolutely failed at building procedures and routines. EXCEPT FOR THREE THINGS.

1) Put your bags in the back of the room at the start of class: Why, you ask? So I don't trip on them. Why for real? Well, that, but also so they're spending less time digging through their bags in search of distraction.

2) Go through this door, not that door. I started doing this for no real good reason my first year. Next year I'm going to use the "other" door alcove as a quiet cooling down space a la many classroom management books. My room is a dumb shape, but that space should give me somewhere kids can go to be out of the mix without being out of my sight.

3) "Get your binders!" This only worked for history. My plan was to have kids keep all their materials in my room. That way in theory there would never be "I forgot a pencil" or "I don't have any paper" or "I left my book in Texas." In reality, they drew on the binders with the whiteboard markers I provided them with, and lost their pens & pencils immediately anyway. The binders themselves were also not remotely organized, which was my own fault for not being clear on how I wanted them organized (even to myself, nevermind to the kids). For HISTORY, though, this worked awesome. Their printouts and worksheets stayed with me and at the beginning of every class they put their bags down, got their binders, and (eventually) went to their seats. So I know it can work and I can probably make it work well if we practice.

Being untextbooked. This wasn't actually my plan from the beginning. The plan was to use LLPSI, which is a lovely book if you're a Latin teacher. If you're a student, you apparently find it frightening because it's all in Latin. It also wasn't very interesting to them, probably because we didn't get far enough into it for it to be interesting. So I ended up writing all my own stuff. Before when I'd taught, I'd always made my own exercises, worksheets, tests, etc. because I'm a control freak. Now, there was no other option. This usually worked out okay although some days were better than others. I will say one thing-- all y'all Spanish TPRS teachers who have zillions of story scripts and novels and get scared when you have to make your own (this happens regularly on the otherwise great iFLT/NTPRS Facebook group)? It's not as hard as you think, and it's really nice to be able to pivot and change things up depending on the class and the day. THAT BEING SAID if you do have access to lots of materials in your TL, you hug those tightly and you thank the people who made them, because it is a LOT of work.

So I guess my message is: I used whatever was available, but if something wasn't available... I made it available. Or tried, anyway. That's literally why this blog exists. So I can share my materials- however imperfect- with other teachers new to CI, especially for Latin. Oh what's that? You're not sure where or how to share? Go check out mille noctes, please.

I also wrote a novella (see sidebar). Highly recommended. It's fun and useful and everyone is so delighted to have more things to read that the community is very very helpful with working on your Latinity.

I also built myself a PLN, mostly informally through Facebook and Latin Teacher Idea Exchange and the Yahoo Latin Best Practices group, but then also formally when I started doing Latine Loquamur! weekly and started the Teaching Latin for Acquisition FB group. I also made a temporary Classroom Management Book Club mostly composed of people from those groups & the iFLT group. Do those things with me. It helps a lot.

I also grew my program, but I'm not sure if it counts since I'm just back up to the same number of Latin courses there were my first year- I scared some people off after that.
Year 1: 3 Latin I's, 1 Latin II, 1 Latin III
Year 2: 1 Latin I, 2 Latin II's, 1 Latin III/IV, 1 World History
Year 3 (projected): 3 Latin I's, 1 Latin II, 1 Latin III/IV

And finally? I think I succeeded for the first time in teaching Latin. Yeah, that's after four years of teaching undergrads when I was a grad student, and one year of teaching at my current job. Ouchie. But this year over and over again I heard "I'm actually learning Latin" "I actually know some things in Latin" "I'm learning so much more than I did last year." And my kids could all use SOME Latin, even if only a little bit. Even the ones who put all their effort into failing all their classes in hopes that mom would notice them (presumably- I'm not a therapist), could do some Latin. That's pretty incredible, and that's all thanks to CI and to the people in the Latin TCI community who have helped me figure all this out. I'm still really new and I still don't really know what I'm doing, but wow. Just... if you're on the fence? Try it. Try it a little bit. CI is magic. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but it is. And like magic, its power comes from what you put into it- if you put in love, and knowledge, and confidence, that's what your students will get out of it. How cool is that?

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