The problem here is, sadly, not actually the students. Well, it’s some of them. But most of them are perfectly capable of buckling down, listening, and learning. They’re even mostly willing. The problem is that I do not provide a strong enough structure to keep them on task. When I have all my activities ready to go and lined up and I time things, things go well. When I don’t, and I leave down-time in between getting Kahoot up on the projector or handing out copies or whatever… I lose them. Every day. Probably five or six times a class, I get them and then lose them because I’m not prepared.
Being prepared is extremely difficult for me for two reasons. One, my personality: I have ADD. That's not an excuse; it's a short, easy way of explaining what I’m like. I can barely stay on one track when talking to them if they’re trying to keep me on track, which they’re usually not. Routines & self-service for a lot of things like pencil-getting would help a good deal, but it’s hard for me to implement them and I’m constantly forgetting to actually use any routines I implement.
The bigger issue is that I'm untextbooked, so I am building my curriculum from scratch as I go. Without a textbook to rely on to provide readings and activities, it is functionally impossible for me to have all my activities ready to go for even Latin I, nevermind my Latin II/III classes. I could use what other teachers have made, but I always want to adapt them because I’m kind of a control freak, and then I end up rewriting them entirely because I hyperfocus on that instead of on preparing whatever I need for a given day’s lesson.
So, what do I need? What am I doing here besides telling you how hard my life is, waaah waaah, because I don’t focus well and teaching involves a lot of prep work? Here are some ideas I’m throwing around.
- Retextbook/teach more traditionally. It would give me structure, vocab lists, and pre-made activities to take a lot of stress off of me. My options are CLC, Latin is Fun, and Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata. That's what I have copies of. All of them have way too much vocab to really teach use in a CI-oriented way without adapting the readings heavily… in which case see above on how my adapting process tends to turn out. It’s REALLY TEMPTING until I look at the readings and realize how discouraging they would be for my students.
- Offer less variety and fewer choices. Pick a few activities and stick to them and always be prepared for them. Get in a rut, on purpose, until I have control again. Reintroduce new ones gradually. I get so much whining no matter what I do that maybe I should stop worrying about the brain craving novelty for a bit.
- Use novellas as textbooks. I kind of wanted to do these FVR style instead, but they do offer some structure for me to work with. I could use the rest of the year in Latin I to read a few novellas and that would free me up to focus properly on Latin II/III a bit. There would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth because “ugh reading!” but welp.
- Establish routines. I’ve got the Bellringer routine pretty well down, or rather I did when it was on paper. I just moved it to Google Classroom and it’d be working great if I actually always had them ready on time. It would help me to have timed sections of class that are maybe for speaking, reading, writing, listening, or some other arbitrary division. Or it could be by day of the week: introduce forms, do story, retells & re-reads, check comprehension & do culture. If combined with #2, this could work well.
- Establish rigor. I really want my class to be low pressure, but maybe it’s too low pressure. Maybe they need to have homework (even if functionally they’re allowed to work on it in class). Maybe they need to have weekly vocabulary quizzes. The reason we don’t is less about them and more about my own inability to stay on track well enough to prepare them for a quiz every week.
- Implement a graded behavior rubric. I probably won’t be doing this; it just isn’t likely to work for me. You can call it engagement or you can call it teaching them to take responsibility for their own effort in the class, but when it comes down to it, it's a behavior rubric that affects their grade, and it's subjective. Even if I could get past my personal misgivings, this wouldn’t work without my preparation being up to snuff as well, and I can’t take on the extra emotional or paperwork burden of grading it. Also, I’m not a very sweet, kind person (more sarcastic and cynical) and I think you need that for these sorts of plans to work.
So what will I do? I don’t know. Probably some of these things halfway and then forget what I’m doing and flip out again in a few weeks or days. But that’s what I’m thinking about, anyway. What do you think?