I feel that I have been a very good boy this year. I haven’t gotten into any fights (if you don’t count interactions with parents) and have gotten along with my peers. I remember to do my homework nearly every night and help my students out whenever they need it. I have chosen to learn more whenever I have had the opportunity to do so. I have shared my knowledge with my fellow teachers and even have shared my materials.
I have given every waking moment that I have to ensuring the success of my students. I have spent nearly every night grading, planning, or preparing. I have even dreamed about delivering the absolute perfect lesson, only waking up to reflect on what I could improve for the next class. I have sacrificed time with my own family for my profession.
I have met with students to improve their abilities. I have met with parents to explain more about language learning and to show them how their student is doing. I have gone to countless meetings about students and have spoken to other teachers to access any information that might help out those students.
I would like to ask for one thing and one thing only for Christmas this year. I would like to be recognized as a professional by the general public. I would like for everyone to know the amount of education that I have received and continue to receive. I would like to have the authority to teach as an expert in my field. I would like to have parents support me because they believe in me. In short, I would like to be respected as a vital part of our society.
I don’t think that’s asking for a lot. I do realize that you might be strapped for time this time of year. If you think it might be too impossible to fulfill, could I just have a new air freshener for my classroom? It smells like Axe® and hormones in there.
In society’s service,
Shannon R. Ruiz
I’m not sure if at this time I really want to be thankful for anything. It’s been over two months since our last break (Labor Day) and I’m still counting down the hours until Thanksgiving break begins. It’s a really long stretch to go without a break. By about now, many teachers are ready to start the coloring pages and videos to babysit the kids so they can have a few moments of relaxation (or to just get caught up on grading). I’m not that kind of teacher and never really have been. Instead, I dig down deep into the dark matter of my bowels to find that last ounce of spark to keep going at 110 miles-per-hour. I’ve found that it’s the only way to keep the kids focused on the true reason we’re in school…to learn how NOT to grow up and be a politician.
I am thankful, though, for many things in my life. I have an amazing wife and a wonderful family. I have a job (in this economy, anyone with a job should be thankful), a house, a car, and a computer. I have the sense of humor of a thirteen-year-old boy. I have killer looks and a dazzling smile (ok, that last one might be an exaggeration). I’m thankful that I never have to be a teenager again. It’s far too rough to do it more than once. I’m thankful that I don’t have, nor ever plan to have, teenage girls living in my house. I’m also thankful that most people realize when I’m joking (I’m not joking about the girls-in-my-house thing, though).
So as we get closer to Thanksgiving break, I encourage each and every one of you to take a good look at your life and your career. Are you barely scraping by on fumes or are you energized each day? Do you look forward to what you’re doing each day or do you wish the day was already over? Do you, too, thank the Lord that you don’t have teenage girls? In any case, you should most definitely take a moment for yourself, read something funny, tell a joke, or just laugh a little. At the very least, remember that you have stunning good looks and an addictive personality.
As I write this, I am attending the Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers (CCFLT) Fall Conference. I really like going to conferences like this every year to learn more about best practices, collaborate with fellow teachers, and eat a buffet lunch. What I have realized through the years is that each conference emphasizes what I am still not doing well. It’s very humbling to be reminded that you are not perfect.
By the end of a conference, I’m usually so fried that I end up forgetting half the information from the day. I even try to go through my notes the next day, but quickly realize that the last few hours of the day were spent creating pen drawings of nature scenes.
At this particular conference, I was announced as the CCFLT Colorado Teacher of the Year. I will represent Colorado in a regional competition in April. I am honored that I am being recognized for my hard work, but I also realize that there are many other world language teachers in my state that work just as hard or even harder to increase student achievement.
So that’s the point of this month’s post. It is time to give a hug to your local world language teachers. They are working hard to create a society of knowledgable, diversity-embracing people who will become the leaders of tomorrow.
Enough of the sappiness…
If you don’t want to give a hug, cookies do just fine.
So I just recently looked at the site to make sure it was functioning correctly before sending my students there to play some of the games on the links page and I noticed that my September post was gone! I have no idea where it went. It was a good one too. I gave a lot of insight on some recent apps that I’m using in class to give myself a more efficient delivery. Well, much to my chagrin, the entire post was lost. That’s just the way my September has been going. Technology has been really fighting against me. Just this week, I gave an assessment using an online system we use in our district called Schoology. Yes, I spelled it right. And yes, it would be better if it were called School-ology, but hey, they didn’t ask me.
So I was saying…I was giving an assessment on this system and ran into many problems with the program deleting submitted work, preventing playback of video, and all-around just being a complete tool. And I don’t mean the good kind of “tool” either. I always tell my students that technology is a tool and many times acts like one. So with the technical glitches aside, I am planning to give them another writing assessment to supplement the sporadic samples that the program left me.
It’s really important to me to get an accurate representation of their proficiency levels so I know where to go from here. Without that data, I would be like the old-school teacher just “covering material.” I would be asking the same old questions like “Why don’t you know that? We covered that in September!” Now I use the data to drive my instruction. It really wreaks havoc with our aligned curriculum, but hey, I’ve never been one to completely follow the rules. I especially waver from the straight and narrow when I know that my kids’ needs are different than what the curriculum says I should be teaching at that time.
That’s the nice thing about being a professional. We have the ability to modify what is happening to fit the needs of the students. In fact, it should be a right of every professional educator to use their professional judgment in modifying the pace of the curriculum. So what if we don’t get to the end of the book? I’d put my students’ abilities against any class that “covered” the entire curriculum. I’d even wager a cookie on it.
By the way, for those of you who want to know what apps I originally wrote about, check out ClassDojo, Genius Scan, and DuoLingo for the iPad.
I’m sure everyone is just as excited as I am about getting back into the swing of things as the new school year looms near. If you’re not feeling the same way, obviously, you have no children at home. I have two young boys and we hang out all summer long…day after day…hour after hour…minute after minute…and so on. As you can tell, by now, we’re pretty much sick of each other. When Mom comes home each day, I hand over the reigns to her and slink off to my basement “man cave” for some quiet time. Sure, some of that time is spent on the computer doing research, updating web sites, or otherwise getting things ready for the upcoming school year, but much of the time is spent sitting on the couch leaving my brain to only drive the most necessary functions of my body.
I started counting the days to the new school year as soon as I saw school supplies set out in the local stores. That was on June 15th. Seems the stores are taking a page out of the “Christmas Season starts in September” book and getting their school supplies out earlier and earlier each year. I’m amazed at the selection that kids have these days. When I was a kid (yes, I said it…so call me old), we were lucky to get the 16 pack of crayons and were all jealous of the kid who had the built-in sharpener. We also had cigar box pencil holders (many kids even had real cigar boxes that still smelled of tobacco), Big Chief tablets (not today’s type of “tablet”), and fat, round, black pencils. I remember my Big Chief quite well as I wrote thousands of “I will not talk in class” sentences in it. Sadly, my penmanship never improved.
As we begin this new year, I challenge each and every teacher to look at what they are doing and see where they can make themselves better. Even the seasoned veteran can improve in one way or another. I’ve always said that the year I feel I don’t need to learn more is the last year I’ll teach. For those of you wishing to add more technology to your teaching strategies this year (or even for those of you who already do a lot of it), I pose this one question: Why? I believe that with technology, as with other modalities, we need to make sure we are using it for education’s sake, not for the sake of showing that we can use technology. Some of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had never used a computer in class. Let’s try to improve our abilities to reach students and show them how to love to learn. Let’s become the leaders in educational reform by showing what a good teacher is, not what kind of “tools” we need to spend money on. Personally, I’d rather the taxpayers spend the money on good teaching than the latest technology or the next great assessment tool. I agree that technology has its place, but let’s make sure that we know its place as well.
I wish you great success this school year. May all your school days be productive, all your students be attentive, and all your potty breaks relaxing.
Beginning August 2013, I will be writing an monthly blog on the funny side of teaching. Check back here each month to view the new entry. Hope everyone has a great start to the new school year!