Growing up, you lose time.
Quite literally you age, but beyond the passing of one year to the next you also start narrowing your interests down. As a kid, it was soccer practice, then ballet, then art class, then karate, then play rehearsals, right? Volunteering at the animal shelter, then guitar lessons, then practicing frosting designs on a batch of cupcakes for your friends. Swim team. Track. Even reading.
Growing up, you were told you could try anything--become anything. You had the chance to live as passionately as possible, to throw yourself into new ideas and see them through, either to ruin or triumph.
Now, these interests have a way of disappearing when you're so overwhelmed with living. You go to school and work, then come home to a list of errands and practical goals. Somewhere along the way we stopped making decisions based on what we enjoy, but rather "What's safe?" "What's my middle ground?" "What needs to get finished?"
"What can I put on my resume?"
We don't ask ourselves how we can draw everyday, or keep making lyrics like when we were bored in math class. We don't ask ourselves to mash music together like when we first started learning how to play the piano.
We work and we get tired, choosing to watch TV before bed. We are pressed on all sides to make a living then enjoy the fruits of our labor--a fancy car, a flat-screen TV, whatever.
And this isn't always bad. It isn't always the usual "creative-mind-becomes-trapped-by-the-nine-to-five" hellscape scenario. Sometimes that 9-5 lifestyle fits. Sometimes the creative mind finds contentment in their day-job.
But sometimes we feel a dull ache for the type of curiosity, physicality, and creativity we'd had when we were younger. We open our eyes one morning, excited for the change that a recent business merger provides, only to notice that something's slightly off--just a bit hazy, right there by the corners.
Everyone knows TEDTalks, especially teachers.
In regards to ELA, they're a great tool for exploring rhetoric--Does the speaker appeal to logos? pathos? ethos?--What are their strongest pieces of evidence, and where is such evidence placed in the speech? Beginning or end? This leads the classroom through a close-reading exercise, transferring skills learned in ELA to media, speechmaking, and argumentative language as a whole.
When it comes to ESL, though, you usually find a few websites that have ready-made, video worksheets catered to a student's fluency level. You can even find step-by-step lesson plans if you search hard enough. On TEDed, they have clickable quizzes paired to short videos (usually 10 minutes). Such resources are useful to have on hand, but sometimes their predictability can run a class stale.
Besides, a worksheet isn't always the most student-centered option. It's the equivalent of watching the video once, then again, then pausing at points to ask teacher-led questions. It turns what should be an engaging and real discussion into a hunt for the "right answer." With ESL, the "right answer" is important, of course. Our goal is always comprehension--but to extend that comprehension? It challenges students to understand and produce language.
Thanksgiving break is here, and Monday morning is an iPad class where I'm hoping to use videos on travel. Since all my students are currently travelers visiting the United States, let's cross our fingers that the theme will help them stay active. As you can probably tell, I'm thinking about drifting from the normal routine. Ditch the worksheet and the mind-numbing step-by-step questions that would play exactly into the boredom you'd expect from a morning-after-vacation class.
While searching for something to use, I stumbled upon this blog post entitled "10 Speaking English Activities using TED." I was immediately a fan of the Vocabulary Collection idea (as that has been an activity I use in reading comprehension task), the Post Speech Interview, and the Wh- Group Questions task.
In addition to the ideas listed above, I was also thinking about putting students into groups of 3. In these groups, they'll be assigned a different TEDtalk and must watch, take notes, and create a summary presentation of their video. This summary is then shared with the other groups. Actually, the more I think about this, the better I can see it working if I combine the task with the Wh- Questions activity.
And when you think about these types of lessons, they actually require less prep work but open up to more differentiation: Find videos at different levels. Students make their own interview questions using grammar points A, B, or C. This group creates a poster summary, this group a written summary, this group records their summary on the iPad.
I've got a few extra days to think about this lesson, so if anyone wants to share their TEDtalk-Go-Tos, let me know!
I admit I sometimes have trouble keeping track of the grammar focus in a conversation task. There are so many students mixed and matched, and, as a teacher, you feel compelled to walk between each group to correct them.
But then again you also don't want to interrupt the natural flow of English they're reinforcing. But then again that vocabulary isn't the focus today, the grammar structure is. But then again frequent corrections discourages students. But then again maybe this needs to be a more guided tasks with predetermined fill-in-the-blank scripts. But then again...
Yeah. Conversation lessons can be brutal. You have to think of an authentic scenario, balance all your students, and somehow give them feedback. Oh. And maybe, like, persuade them to talk instead of stare at you?
This past unit had been on Music, though, and I implemented the following two activities pretty seamlessly.
That's all I've got for you today, but next week's unit is sleep. If anyone's got some ideas for that, pass 'em along. Until then...
About two years ago I picked up some magazine with Lin Manuel Miranda on the cover. This was around the time that Hamilton had gotten big—like monstrously big—and Lin gave an interview about his work. He mentioned that it all started with teaching as he had been an educator before pursuing theater. He then went on to say that he quit teaching because he loved it. He knew this was something both safe and fulfilling, and it would have lulled him away from his more precarious dreams.
Sometimes I'm scared that I’ll fall trap to that comfort, that I will—for lack of a better term--settle for this career. I love teaching, and it’s safe, and I have a master’s at twenty-three and amazing mentors and networks within good school districts, and…
…and while I hesitate to say I’m good at it, I know I have some natural proclivity for teaching. Connecting with students, classroom management, content knowledge. These are the things that eat a novice-teacher alive. My big worries lay more on the administrative side of things. The ground work? The in-class? I love it.
But almost every day it feels like there's this gap in my chest, one that I don’t know how to fill.
I drive to work, and I think through my books’ plot-holes and weak-points. I go to a coffee shop, acting the epitome of some stereotypical English major, and read with longing. I look up yet another program for maybe a PhD in Linguistics, maybe in English Literature…maybe an MFA in writing. Then I check the time, see I need to do some lesson planning.
How can I love something that leaves me feeling incomplete? How can I love and leave and go back to a career that I hesitate over?
The answer is, as everything else in my life, a cliché:
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience