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.
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 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!