Saturday, October 13, 2018

Homecoming Fun

Last week was homecoming week. Need I say anything else? It was just about as tough as the previous week returning from Fall Break. As one of my students put it, "I guess they are wanting us to have fun." Really? Is that what it's about now, having fun? Could very well be come to think of it. I still have not been observed so the constant stress pervails. My observer said to me that it will be possibly next week or the week after that. So we have been practicing our TEAM lesson plans every day and I'm sure they now have a clue of what I expect them to do on the day we get observed. I will do a few Plickers runs and the new Gimkit KidCollab to get them used to those assessments and I will possibly build them into my plans for the anticipated observation. If only I knew when, but what do you do? The observers don't seem to care that they stress us out with these uncertainties. Last year this went on for about four weeks and I remember about flipping out over the stress. Let's hope that won't happen this time. Life goes on, right?

Monday, October 8, 2018

Back from Fall Break

First Day back after Fall Break was tough. Kids were totally too talkative in my classes. I was informed that I will be having my unannounced observation in a week or two so I must bring the talking under control before then and get them used to the TEAM plans on a daily basis. On the bright side, we did get through all of the components of TEAM today, which was the first attempt this year. The French classes did have to take their family trees home to finish them there, but that part of the lesson went very well. German classes, are not used to extended quiet time for independent work, so that is going to be my focus for the next few days. I put another TEAM plan on the board for tomorrow. We will keep working on family and touch on housing. In the German classes we will work on giving directions to a variety of places here and in Heidelberg. I guess the first day back is tough for anyone so I should not be worried and just keep doing what I am doing. Three weeks from now, this observation will be ancient history...

Friday, August 31, 2018

LangFest in Montreal

Last week I went to LangFest in Montreal. This was certainly an exciting experience for me as a language teacher. It was good to share one's doubts and limitations in the journey of language acquisition. I met some famous language experts there who really changed my outlook on language learning. We need to stop trying to be so perfect. With my considerable knowledge of Spanish I never really had to face that. But now that I am doing French I see my limitations daily and realize how far a journey I am still having to go before feeling comfortable. There are questions that come up I cannot answer in the spur of the moment. What is a language teacher to do? Send them to Google Translate? The best strategy is to learn, learn, learn on my part by watching incessant Netflix movies. This surely worked for me for learning Spanish in the past. Well, one month into my French and German classes I do have a very happy feeling about this school year. Three of the four classes are a pure joy to deal with, one still needs a bit of a behavior adjustment which I will deal with next week. I did realize that I will not have any problems teaching German, my native language, though I haven't spoken it very much in the last 40 years. It's still in my head, not to worry.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Back home from El Camino de Santiago

I hiked El Camino de Santiago earlier in June. Lifechanger. I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little bit of a challenge and time to clear their heads from school clutter. What a fun and awesome experience it was. My friend and colleague Nancy and I decided to combine the Camino with the 100th Annual AATSP Conference in Salamanca, making this a three week trip in Spain. I will always cherish the wonderful people we met on the way, a mixture of nations and ages, a United Nations of sorts. I got to use all four of my languages many times in casual and often deeper conversations over the course of the 118 K we covered there. An occasional extra challenge, such as having to cross crazy high bridges as well as one on bolders made it even more interesting. I was surprised at how many Spanish school groups we met up with, and equally surprised that we were able to keep pace with them from one rest stop to another at one point. The varying Spanish landscapes we enjoyed crossing were astounding. At the highest point of the hike, a Roman village, we were invited by a catholic American group to join them to go up to the top and were able to only with their kind assistance. Had we not shown up there at this exact point in time we would have never seen the village and walked right past it. I will never forget the enthralling feeling when entering Santiago de Compostela and posing at the beautiful sign entering the city. What an awesome experience.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

School's out for the summer

So I am no longer a Spanish teacher at my school. I had a lot of fun messing with people telling them this yesterday. I was assigned to teach French and German next school year and it's such a wonderful shot in the arm to plan for that. I already am filling my new Google Classrooms with all sorts of good resources for next year and wrote up brand new syllabi. After so many years of Spanish, 27 more or less, there I have to retrieve the French and German out of my brain. It's great mental exercise. Luckily I am headed to Montreal in late August to boost my French a bit at the LangFest, which undoubtedly will be a blast. All packed for Spain to hike El Camino de Santiago and to attend the 100th AATSP in Salamanca, all I can do now it to relax a litte. Tomorrow I will spend some time with my awesome grandson. Let's see if he's up for a game of checkers.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

On this beautiful Mother's Day I thought I should reflect on the last stretch of school this year. After all, we are mothers to many of our students. We actually have more consistent contact with our students than their natural parents a lot of times, sad or strange as that may sound. Students reach out to us in a variety of ways. Sometimes they just blurt out their needs, and often their calls for help could manifest themselves in terms or odd or inappropriate behaviors. I am always keenly aware of such calls for help with my students. Earlier this semester one of my students was apparently abandoned by his mother who went off to Arizona for several days, stranding him in town with no particular place to stay at, nor with food or clothing for that matter. I was happy that our guidance department was able to assist in this case upon my gentle suggestions for help. So school is once again coming to an end this year. I have one week plus two days remaining- 32 years of teaching, with 17 in my county. I need a break from this and I will get just that with our upcoming hike of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the French Way as they call it. This morning I actually packed most of the stuff just to see if it would fit in my carry on and backpack. I think I will be fine, just have to figure out what to wear for the AATSP conference that follows the hike. One of my daughters suggested to get a plain black skirt with four different tops. That could work. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Last Day for Seniors (before exams)

Today was the last day for seniors, well, they still have to take semester exams. So another year is done. This was my 32nd year of high school teaching. This was a learning experience for me as much as for the students as I shared with my students many different new teaching strategies and tools for language learning. It's funny, I really never do the same thing from one year to the next. My students recorded videos on Flipgrid a few days ago to give the new classes advice on how to succeed in Spanish class. They practically all recommended they get a new phone since they will be doing so much work on apps. We did use apps for Classcraft, Metaverse, Google Classroom, Flipgrid, GooseChase and a few more. But I told them you never know what I will come up with next school year. After attending the AATSP conference in Salamanca, Spain this summer there's no telling what I will do. Teaching is such an exciting and ever evolving profession. It's truly incredible if you think about it. What a time to be a teacher! I really liked the station system we tried on Cinco de Mayo and the Hotel chapter. It was so much fun to have the groups come up to me and check into the Valle Youth Hostel. The one on one conversations helped a lot. And the students loved the rotations since they got to move around and do a variety of different tasks. So I will definitely do stations at least once every chapter. We will also keep playing Classcraft as it is the best classroom management system imaginable. And Gimkit, best game out there to motivate students to learn vocabulary, will stay with us. Of course, Google Classroom is the best way to keep it all together. So I will definitely keep using it with my upcoming classes. Other than that, I am wide open to new and better things in the world of language education. Bring it on!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The End in Sight

So we are entering the last real week of school for seniors next week. I will miss them a lot as we did have a very good school year. I am especially proud of our coninuing search for new tools to make our lessons interesting for the students. The are convinced now that I am totally obsessed with Flipgrid, Metaverse and especially Google Classroom. Honestly, those are my favorites right now. But how quickly they forget that we played boss battles on Classcraft every day for months! Well, when the rest of the flipgrid videos come in I will see what really made the most impact on them this year. My latest discovery, Gimkit, has been a hit for the past couple of weeks. I wrote an article about them last Sunday. Here is the link for it. I love that site, and to think that a junior in high school created it is just astounding. So what to do next week for the final senior week? Well, Monday we will finish the poster projects and present them to the class. Tuesday is an in-service day. Wednesday we will play some more Gimkit and StudyStack games to review for the semester exams. Thursday we will do Cinco de May stations, and Friday is Field Day along with a little food day in my classes. So then it's pretty much over and another year in the bag. This has been a good one, no doubt. Oh, today I did a 5K and came in 7th in my age group, not too bad, right?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring Break Update

So it's Thursday of our Spring Break and I thought I would post an update. Last Saturday I had a lady come over to do some spring cleaning for me to get the break started nice and fresh in the house. It took her 7 hours to just do the kitchen if that's an indication of the status of my house. She rearranged everything in there and washed everything. I was thrilled to put it mildly. After 10 hours it was time to quit, so she will need to come back some time to do the bedrooms. I was a little inspired by this and did organize my bedroom somewhat. We did get a lot of miles in for Walk Across Tennessee. Yesterday was the highlight of the week I guess with a walk around the Indian Boundary twice. That was clearly stretching it for me as today I find myself exhausted. But with the Camino de Santiago hike coming up in June, I must get out and get used to the higher miles. Three to four is fine, but anything longer and my back doesn't like it much. So we will probably take lots of breaks there unless I can build up my miles. School work, well to me it's not actually work, I just love doing stuff for my classes. It's truly fun for me to create stuff for my students. Upon request from the tech guy I had to re-do my Google Classroom with the new school gmail account and I can honestly say that this was a blast. Since Friday of last week I have posted three Quizlet sets, a StudyStack set, a Flippity random name picker wheel for each class, two Metaverse quizzes disguised as augmented reality experiences, a few videos with questions and a host of other items for my students for the next chapter and the last one we will cover in my Spanish II classes. I also managed to go by the finance department to see about the retirement policy and my status as of now. Turns out I should work three more years to qualify for free insurance, so I am guessing that's what I will do then. They caught a small error where I was jipped two months one year and fixed that for me, so it was good I went in to check this out. Also, I was tired of going by random rumors about the retirement policy in my county. So all is well. Oh, let me not forget my Easter activity. I stuffed plastic Easter eggs with Spanish sentences from the next vocabulary section and Hershey's kisses for Monday. Students will choose an egg, then translate the sentence and read it to the class in Spanish and English. They then stuff the eggs again for the next class. Two of the eggs actually have no sentence and instead have two kisses in them as a surprise. This should go well. Ok, so what else can a teacher do on Spring Break? Let's see, I need to go to establish an account at a new bank since mine just merged with another bank and will shut down the local branch, booo.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Spring Break

We finally made it to Spring Break. I was a hectic Friday, but we did it. So now the question is what to do for Spring Break. I have no plans except for my Monday night class. The rest of the week is wide open. When we return to school it will be April. Seems like this year is already coming to an end. We had a wonderful teacher PD the other day which was actually appreciated by the participants. We gave them some great ideas on how to teach their standards having more fun, specifically with some innovative game ideas. I used these myself in my classes yesterday and all went great in 1st and 2nd periods. Then in 3rd, they got tired of this and the last 10-15 minutes were a struggle. I was so exhausted by 5th that we only did one game. I guess the students need a break just like we teachers do. So I will try to re-charge over the break and then finish the year strong. At least that is the plan. Tomorrow is the final day of my Dave Ramsey financial peace university class. I am proud to say that I was able to save a couple of 1000 Dollars and pay off a couple of $1000 on my car during the nine week course. This is definitely progress, that much closer to being able to retire from teaching. Estimated date of retirement is December 4, 2019, unless I feel so super excited about teaching still at that time. You never know, especially with the upcoming German class.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Identity Crisis on the Horizen

So this week brought a few surprises for me. I have taught nothing but Spanish for the past 28 some years except for a little Upward Bound class of German last summer. On Thursday, my guidance counselor emailed me asking if I would be interested in teaching a French class. I couldn't believe it. After all of those years. How? Why? I immediately responded with a resounding "yes" and added that I am also certified to teach German, by the way. Next thing I know they are putting on social media that sophomores and juniors could sign up in guidance. By Friday morning we had enough for a German class and about 12 for the French. I am certain their list has grown since then. They told me that German is definitely on, and French could also be offered as long as the Spanish numbers allow for it. Pretty sure they do actually. I am so happy that my department head supports this and even had her students create wonderfully beautiful posters to post in the halls. I just love her. Interestly enough, many of those on the German list had already taken Spanish from me. So the German or French class will be their 2nd foreign language. We are really moving up in the world if all of this comes together. Well life as a teacher, you never know what comes next. May the new adventure begin. Oh, and last night's Spanish Honor Society Initiation Ceremony was out of this world as well.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring is Near- why is it so cold?

It's almost Spring time, though really cold here this week in East Tennessee. I love our chapter 4 in Así se dice, El restaurante. I have a fantastic StudyStack, Quizlet set, Boss Battle, and a Padlet to get students to order food at a Spanish-speaking restaurant. We tried out some of that today and it was really enjoyable. Hopefully, they will be familiar enough with the words by Tuesday and Wednesday of next week when the observers for accreditation come to visit. I am kind of excited to show off what we can do actually. I am planning on doing the PowerTeach lesson on the board, the Padlet to have students post their favorite foods and restaurants in Spanish, then play a few StudyStack games followed by an imaginary restaurant scene where one student plays the role of the waiter/waitress and students order off a Mexican Restaurant menu in Spanish. I am looking forward to finishing the school year strong. Just a couple more months with my seniors. Their last day is May 11. I will truly miss this group.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

UN Sustainable Development Goals Game

This morning I found a great game that teaches students about the SDGs. This is found at I ran it off for my students to play next week, maybe on Friday, we will see. On Monday my students in first period will present their ideas to a group of students in the Dominican Republic. This will be the first time for that group to do a Google Hangouts talk and I do hope they will be assertive as they present their group's ideas. I did have a problem with one student not buying into his group's ideas yesterday, so I will probably allow him to do his own project. Had a bad school nightmare last night. I was a roaming teacher with a class of 45 students who were out of control while I was being observed. Well, it was only a nightmare so all is good.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Flu Hit East Tennessee

So what do you do on a flu day? Update your blog. Upon returning from Hong Kong I was promptly greeted with a walk-through observation in 5th period class. We had just finished making a cafecito and finished drinking it as my teachers' aides were still in the hall, cleaning the expresso pot. Well all turned out well and they assisted the groups with their assignments. I just found out on Friday I will be presenting at the 100th Annual AATSP Conference in Salamanca. I am going to present on using Classcraft: “Turn Your Class into a Cultural Adventure: Creating Random Events, Boss Battles and Quests with Classcraft.” This is so exciting!! I haven't been to Spain in many years, not since I was a teenager actually. While volunteering for RAM I booked a hotel room there on my down time. So now of course I will need to spend the next few weeks actually creating the presentation, a challenging task, but doable. There is a long way to the end of the semester. If only we were actually at school. It seems that since we came back after Christmas we had one great week of school and then it all fell to pieces with ice and the flu. The forecast seems to be ok for the next 15 days and perhaps we can actually get back into the swing of things. Friday I had only about 2/3 of every class there and we did have a fabulous time dreaming on what to do with the SDGs. This morning I woke up around 8:30 AM and remembered that I still have to teach my night class. I had completely forgotten about them I guess and got up to grade all of their quizzes and MySpanishLabs work as well as the work from the online class. This, in between washing dishes and talking a shower. Wow, it's only 11:16 AM and I am all done, woohoo. Great flu day so far.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What I learned in Hong Kong

This was my third time at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong and I must say that is was as expected, just fabulous. I enjoy being around teachers who are excited about teaching and who love trying new ideas with their students rather than complaining about how terrible their students are and how unfair everything is. My greatest take away would be to limit cell phone use rather drastically and to have the students spend an increased amount of time on problem solving and communicating constructively with each other on a common goal. AR and VR are big, but only if you have the students being the ones who create the experiences rather than some pre-created items on apps. I loved presenting my Genius Hour project to the teachers and they had many good questions for me at the end. My next conference will be the AATSP in Salamanca, Spain. That will be the most extraordinary place for a conference. I encourage all of the teachers to participate in at least one conference per year in order to learn and progress in our profession. You simply should not teach the same lessons year in and year out.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018

Here's another new year upon us. I do so hope this one will be a good one. I try to think good thoughts and maintain a hopeful attitude about the upcoming year. My Christmas tree will still be up for a few more days, until the next weekend. Back to school is upon us on Wednesday as we are going through some kind of arctic blast here in Tennessee. I am seriously wondering what to wear on Wednesday. I will probably be bundling up as we will be in the teens. I just found a great handout to attach to my syllabi from that explains 10 things Spanish teachers want parents to know. There are many people who seem to think that students ought to speak fluent Spanish upon the completion of the second year of Spanish. Their handout is really fantastic as it brings this thinking down to reality. I am so glad I found this on Twitter. So, my New Year's resolutions for my classroom are: 1. Stick to the target language, 2. Don't be so serious; laugh more again, 3. Be very careful how to share successes at school; no bragging. I believe those three resolutions will definitely work for me this second semester. You live and learn as a teacher. It's a never ending process. Well, unless you are like my former teachers in Germany who seemed to never change their lesson plans over the many years that they taught. But then we are not in Germany.