Joy in the Journey

We’ve all seen the quotes. “It’s not a journey, it’s a race.” “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, just don’t stop.” “Life is a journey, not a destination.” We actually get bombarded by them so often that they lose their effect. We’re immune to the message. We start to just look past it.

But in education, it is true. We are on a journey. Every day in the classroom, we do a little bit better, we try another new thing that moves our students along the path to proficiency, we add a bold new unit or reader… but we feel overwhelmed, rushed, behind. The teacher next door is using 4 readers and I am only using one. The teacher on Twitter posted pictures of her students discussing green energy and mine are just learning to talk about their family life.

No more comparing!!! You’re on a different path than the teacher next door, the one down the hall, and the one on Twitter!

If I can convince you of any one thing this summer, I hope that I can convince you to embrace change at your own pace. If you’re beginning a CI journey (or a textbookless journey, or a deskless journey, or any journey), considering the journey, or are ready to dive in head first, set a pace that you’re comfortable with and add new units, readers, skills, classroom set ups and activities slowly. It’s tempting to throw everything you’ve ever known out the window to try to achieve the same results as another teacher but the changes that are most impactful and longest lasting are the changes that we take a little at a time!

My “CHANGE EVERYTHING” teaching journey started in 2005. I had failed the National Board process and I felt lost. I loved my job and my students. I loved grammar and worksheets. I thought I was doing a good job. I began to research some of the terms that had come up in my NBCT testing centers and I realized where I had gone wrong. I was teaching a curriculum, not my students. I went through the book at the same pace year after year, leaving everyone behind who wasn’t strapped in and ready for the roller coaster! In that research, through some simple dumb luck, I stumbled my way into best practice.

I began attending some sessions at my state conference with Susan Gross. She got me excited to “peel the banana” differently! I went back to my room and began by telling a couple of stories and doing some TPR. The next year, I blended story telling with the textbook. Then I added a reader… Then I got bold and ditched the textbook because I felt like it was holding me back from talking about the things my students wanted to talk about… Little by little I purged my curriculum and turned it into what I wanted it to be! I’m now 13 years in and every year I still add new things and make a few more changes. It is definitely a journey.

I’ve been walking the CI path for 13 years now! It wasn’t easy to get started but I’m glad I stuck with it!

I teach in a small, rural school. My challenges are different than the challenges you face if you’re in an urban district. I am in a department of 3, you may be in a department of 20 or a department of 1. Remember that we’re all working within the framework we’ve been given and that whatever changes we make for the good of our students have to be framed within the context of that department.

I hope you plan this summer! I hope you plan a TON of input for your students next year! I hope you plan to read with them, to build community with them, and to fill their cups with language input. I hope my scope and sequence for Wildcat Spanish can be of use to you. But mostly, I hope that you know it takes time. Every year, rather than rushing yourself to get it all done at once, stop to smile back on the successes you’ve seen through the pieces you managed to add to your curriculum! Did you ditch the chore chapter and add a reader? HOORAY FOR YOU! Find joy in that victory! Did your department agree to skip ‘the house chapter’ in favor of Viviendas del mundo? Just keep taking steps!! Watch for the joy in your journey to more effective practice!

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at gmail.com.

5 thoughts

  1. Thank you as always for your words of wisdom!

    I have been happily on my own journey but I was just told I need to make all my units align with the 6 AP themes (we are on a 6 week grading period schedule).

    I am using SOMOS, EMETM, readers and some Adiós Textbook and Im sad to think I can’t use these units anymore (I have been assigned set sub themes for level 2).

    Any thoughts/ideas for how this could work?

    Thank you! Rebecca

    El jun. 4, 2019, a la(s) 5:45 a. m., Somewhere to Share escribió:

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    1. You can ABSOLUTELY align those with the 6 AP themes! The great thing about the AP themes is that they are broad and they are relevant!! Everything you do can easily be tied to them! Whether it is the robber in the house story in Somos 2 – Contemporary life (add a related news story plucked from the headlines), EMETM – ALL about the AP themes from families to science and tech to global challenges, look at the themes and sub-themes and you’ll see that they’re a great fit for what we do! We’re giving them the stepping stones of language they need to talk about those greater themes! There is not ONE grammar based AP theme! You’re totally safe! Remember it is how you market what you’re doing. Word it right, they’ll be able to see the value!

  2. Thanks for that fine piece of optimism! Slogging thru the last 10 days. Needed this!

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