1st day of school – high-school level French teaching ideas

I remember reading last Summer about ideas of activities to do for the first day of classes. It seems both so long ago, and also not that alien. Here I am only about a week out from the 1st day again. I think I might have moved a little too slowly during the 1st week of school last year, using a ton of activities introducing the language and culture, and not getting into the book too much.

I say that because, looking back, especially for some of the younger students, they started misbehaving, and it might have given them the impression that it was going to be an easy or ‘blow-off’ class. I can see some teacher’s argument for not getting into the book on the 1st day, but I think I will this year (maybe have an exploring activity to help them get to know the book), and I’ll intersperse fun supplemental activities with book ones.

Luckily it’s a new book this year, and the book is great. The Discovering French series has a whole introductory section with reasons to speak French, an introduction to French geography and facts, other French-speaking countries, and a list of names (including some of North African or African origin).

I did an activity where I had a worksheet with different areas such as dining, movies, art, danse, etc., and students had to come up with French words they already knew. It worked pretty well, but some students were writing a ton of words down (like transportation, situation, which, yes, are from the French, but not exactly what I was looking for).

Here are my tips:

1) Parlez en francais. Teacher needs to model speaking in French, and get students speaking. In French 1, it can be as simple as greetings and name (Bonjour, je m’appelle, comment t’appelles-tu?). In upper levels, it can be 1 activity you like to do and 1 you do not (or food, or whatever).

2) Break the ice. Do some icebreakers, getting to know you, have students choose French names, whatever it takes to lessen anxiety and promote a friendly, interactive classroom. Just be careful to mix in enough educational, structured learning, with the fun stuff.

3) Establish rules. This is something I did, but not with enough of a system. I’m still trying to figure that out (I guess discipline is something that comes easier with every year of teaching?), but I know I will have a more clearly laid out set of rules and the consequences that go with misbehavior- as well as rewards for good behavior.

4) Find a good pace for each class. Some classes may not be interested in icebreakers at first. So if you try them and don’t have good results, get right into the book and assignments. Incorporating some fun things into the 1st week is nice so they aren’t overwhelmed. I think I’ll probably go over my syllabus on the 1st day. Actually I think I handed it out last year at the end of the 1st day for them to read as homework.

5) Take care of business items. Do hand out a syllabus at some point in the beginning. Create a seating chart (I think it’s always good to start with one, to get to know names, and to have order right from the start). There is other information you need to find out, and rules, and books and things. See how much you can do in a fun manner, or in the form of an activity (like having a worksheet to get-to-know the textbook).

I think it’s most important to do some activities to help students feel comfortable, and to get to know one another, before jumping into heavy grammar. There are lots of good vocabulary and other little language things to do before starting the book (classroom commands, numbers).

Here is a great link I found for tips:

About.com 1st day teaching french new and returning French students – it has great ideas for a level 1 classroom, and for upper level French students

1st days of school activities – this site has some great ideas. I really like the policy and rule question and answer match because it’s interactive, goes over the rules, and gives you an idea of which students might be more shy.

There are a lot of great ideas out there. I remember finding some very helpful ideas, and I hope my thoughts help teachers new and old alike. Nothing too fancy here, but it’s definitely important to think about the 1st day of school. It’s an important day- think first impressions.

What type of tone do you want to set for the year?

Summer’s flown too quickly, have to do lots in a jiffy

It is amazing to have a Summer, but you really do have to work during it if you want to have a good year the following year. I have not done this, and furthermore, I have to do some curriculum mapping, which is not going that well. I think it’s difficult to know how to pace if you’ve only taught for a year, and there is a new book this year. It’s going to end up being more of a guesswork guideline that will be changed with years of teaching.

I can’t believe how fast the Summer went. I had some very difficult times, including the sad news that my father has stage 4 cancer. I’m concerned about it affecting my ability to be present and balanced in the classroom. It all depends on how things go with him, as I guess it would whether I was a teacher or something else.

So here I am, cramming in planning and preparation at the end of the Summer. Do other teachers find the Summer flying way too fast?!

Summer Tutoring by Teachers- Ideas?!

Hey Teachers!

Have you tutored in the Summer?

Do you have any tips you’d share with me?

I know the “economy is bad” right now, but students (and/or their parents) probably still want tutoring, and some maybe even more to ensure success in school if they’re paying big bucks for it.

I read this article on Teachers Advertising Summer Tutoring which had a few good points (pick and emphasize a specialty area (mine could be French and possibly even Spanish), utilise word-of-mouth advertising (didn’t start that during the year which I should have), and creating professional literature such as business cards, a website, bumper stickers, and anything else. I guess I’ll have to be more committed if I really want success with it!)

A friend suggested going to some local college campuses and putting up notices. If I’m not too lazy, that just might be a good idea. I’m hoping anyone with ideas will respond. Craigslist would probably have a low success rate, and I think they charge for job postings now. I’d love to hear input from seasoned tutorers:

1) Where do you find your clientele?

2) What methods of advertising your services did you use?

What worked? What didn’t? What might work?

3) What rates did/do you charge (if you’d please share)? Based on how much experience?

I’m trying to get some work, but not a regular job. Please let me know, thanks in advance for your input!!!

For Those of Us Interviewing for Teaching Jobs

Don’t have all the time in the world just because it’s Summer (like I had hoped I would). My aunt put it well: “Busy people tend to stay busy.” And such is my Summer thus far, but there is hope. Back to school matters- I had an interview for a full-time French teaching position today, and I have a lot to say about it (which I may have to come back to later to add to).

Things that I must get out now:

1) It went well, yay! After real teaching experience, you can feel more confident in talking about your personal educational philosophy and the like.

2) There are still tricky questions. Here are two I particularly liked (or rather, had to really think about on the spot!!) How do you think teachers of “core subjects” view Foreign Language teachers? and How do you think the principal/administration sees your role and your place in the school? I definitely didn’t have answers prepared for this, and ending up talking about what I “hope” that they would see. I think I stumbled at first by saying it depends on the teacher and the school (but hey, that’s the truth!), and I went on to share:

a. I think it’s a shame if they don’t view foreign language as an integral part of an education that can intermingle with other academic areas, and,
b. I hope that the principal views me as a crucial part of the faculty, and that faculty and administration alike can hopefully see FL as a positive experience for all to help build courage, tolerance, and understanding.

I worded it about that well (ie poorly 🙂 ) and you can see it was hard for me to avoid talking about what I hoped instead of what I thought they think.

3) You have to remember that you’re only there for a small amount of time and you can’t get it all in. Focus on the important things, don’t stray when answering questions, let your good qualities shine, and they will usually ask you more in a second interview- if you impress them, that is.

I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t get into some areas I was apprehensive about, and I think I did a great job answering the questions (though I need to focus on being succinct and giving answers that DIRECTLY respond to their specific question (so much overlaps it’s hard not to get into it, but anyway!)).

More on this later, as you can see, my path is heading in interesting directions. Maybe…

My Oh May!

May has come and (almost) gone away!

And tomorrow, Saturday, I’m going to the graduation ceremony.

All that’s left is grading, and I got a good head-start on motivating myself to do it, because I had to turn in Senior grades early.

I can’t believe it’s the end of the year (I know- it’s not over ’til it’s over) but it’s here. I’m done teaching my first year of 4 different French classes (French 1, 2 French 2’s, and a French 3) and boy was it a year!

Of course I wish I had blogged more at the time, but I have plenty I’m really itching to talk about and the best part:

I’ll have the Summer to blog!

I know that’s not completely true, I’m sure I’ll be doing schoolwork (prepping with a new book!), and I’m going to have some side jobs, but I am so excited. I’m already really excited, and I know I won’t even realize it until a few days from now most likely.

Well, I better go tie up some loose ends, and/or do some grading, OH BOY!

Once You Hit Spring Break, the Year’s Nearly Over!

This is what a cousin of mine in his second year of teaching told me. At first I didn’t believe him, especially since my school has a really early Spring Break (beginning of March), but now that my long Easter weekend is here, I see what he was saying.

As the year turns into countable days left (the kids have a very accurate count of exactly how many days, and how many more school days there are remaining in this first year of my teaching), I realize that I am now looking at working backwards from the end of the year, to try and figure out what’s most important and what overall goals I’d like to see achieved by the end of the year.

And it’s crazy to think how few weeks are really left, and how I have an upcoming project, some important concepts for all levels, a few neglected activities, and then BOOM- it’ll be exams before I know it. I guess my pacing this year is really a practice test for next year, when I hope to have a much more solid hold on my plans. I anticipate some good outlining of possible time lines for each level, both because we’re getting a new book, and because I know a lot more about what to expect.

So I guess there is some logic to that reasoning after all. It’s going to fly, and then I’ll be writing backdated posts all Summer to make it feel like a worthwhile site to have 😉

Organization- a crucial skill for an educator

I’m exhausted from coming back after Spring Break (went to California so there’s a 3-hour-jet-lag and then the time changed!!!), but I wanted to write something. I could complain about being tired and always feeling too busy to post anything, but instead I’ll share a few thoughts about planning and organizination and organizing planning!

Planning for me takes way too much time. I guess first-year you’re coming up with a lot of lesson plans, activities, and ideas, and I could use them next year. I also have a textbook from 1998 that I really don’t like, and we did order a new one so even though it’ll be different I know that will cut down on planning demands. (They have much more comprehensive supplementary materials and it’s not old and confusing).

If I really focus and do my planning in large chunks, I can get it done earlier in the afternoon/early evening and not feel like that’s all I do. Grading is still a changing variable. So the first step is trying to organize planning into 2 or 3 small segments (maybe one right after teaching, one 1 1/2 hour chunk in the early evening, and one during a prep or free period?). This is something I aim to do (when I focus solely on planning and don’t get distracted it does go quickly and is somewhat enjoyable).

Organization is also very important in readiness and preparedness. I find that I can end up with tons and tons of papers and handouts. I need to do a better job of recycling and organizing. If you start of by making an extra copy and a “key” for some sheets and promptly file it away into a binder, you’re already ahead of me! I suggest to anyone who is not that organized to try this, or to pencil in 30 minutes in your schedule to organize notebooks, your office, etc…very important. And you must have a system for keeping handouts/graded papers/papers to grade in order. I’ll admit I’m still working on this (unfortunately I’m not terribly organized in my outside-of-school life). But I’m getting there.

It’s not just materials that need organizing- it’s also the little side things like make-up work, rewards, and that other administration stuff (emails, blablabla). And of course lesson-organizing is a whole other subject.

Organization is something teachers preach to students, and it goes both ways!

Too Young To Teach?

I’m just past the mid-20’s mark. I know there are teachers under 20 out in some classrooms. But I occasionally think I’m too young to teach. Now what does that mean? I feel like in general young teachers might not get as much respect as older teachers. On the other hand, I think they can be respected and be part of a healthy classroom environment because they might incorporate more technology or be able to relate appropriately to the students.

In my case I literally feel like I’m too young to believe in myself as an efficient, quality disciplinarian. I also realize that I shouldn’t have cracked a smile before Christmas.

I think I’m doing a great job of bringing in technology and balancing learning with fun in ways they can relate to. I have a website that I put up the homework, reference links, and also online games and activities they can hopefully enjoy (while they’re texting and IMing and watching TV and everything else).

I’m not good at being stern. Sometimes I’m too tired to care. Other times I’m more tempted to laugh. And I do not have a good teacher’s look mastered.

It’s something to think about, and I’m not married yet, and I’d like to be someday, and I’m not going to find anyone at the school to get into a relationship with- they’re all either married or old 🙂

I could see myself coming back to it later, but maybe I should give it 4 more years! before I hastily give up. We’ll see how the next few months go.

Back to school after the holidays

I guess I could have a worse feeling about going back to school. In fact, as I watch myself write it, I think that I’m kind of in the middle. Definitely leaning more towards another week off, but I am not horrificly panicked. I haven’t planned enough, but I know that students are going to be slow to come back as well.

Christmas vacation was great, but it went way too fast and I did not do hardly any planning.

Oh well, my cooperating teacher from student teaching (who I talked to about getting together soon) said it takes her a few days to really get back into it after such a long break.

We’ll see how it goes, there are a lot of changes coming!!!

Busy and discouraged. I guess this is normal?!

Is this the right profession for me? Or is this the normal hard-first-year-tons-of-work deal? Conversely, am I in a situation in this school where I’m almost being exploited? It’s unintentional, I’m sure, so is it just a flaw with this particular language program? Possibly. And the teacher who has been my “mentor” has added some interesting bumps along the way. This is not one of those blogs where I complain about my superior and they find it and I get fired. It’s more of an open dialogue about what it is to be a teacher, what it is to be a good teacher, and what it’s like to really teach, in a variety of situations.

Right now I’m having a time. Some ups, some downs, and in general not enough time. It’s also about balancing having an existence outside of school, with doing enough work to do a good job and improve a lacking existing program.

One positive note- I’ve started the process for getting a new book, which will help a lot.

And the personal positive note- Christmas break is coming up, and if I didn’t have that as a hope, I would be quitting.

Back to the question- is it just a difficult first year? A difficult ifrst 5 years? Am I up for that at this point? I have to evaluate a lot of things. I guess I won’t decide anything right now, but I would like to let them know in advance if I plan on not being there next year. And if it was going to another school that I was doing- would I be able to get recommendations? I do not know. Tricky to say, since a lot of situations involving colleagues and administration have been “tricky” instead of cut and dry.

Maybe I’m not explaining myself that well- I do want to be true to the situation, and to share it clearly, so I think at this point I’m too tired (literally) and too tired (figuratively in an emotionally distorted way) to accurately paint a picture of my situation.

Two more days until Christmas break. Boy do I need it.