Everyone is doing their best to make learning better for their students.
No matter where my colleagues are in their career or in the process of writing or rewriting curriculum, we are all working hard to take the baby steps necessary to make huge changes. The way we teach language has changed drastically over the past years and there is a lot to take in and learn. It isn't just about what and how to implement ideas, but an incredible shift in the way we view language teaching. Just accepting this shift is a huge accomplishment. Diving in and making those changes is just a part of the process. Each time we take a small step, we really can't have a big impact on the students learning. Just the small steps can lead us to where we want to go with her teaching to where we want our students to go. It doesn't have to happen overnight and we, As teachers, have to be OK with making one change at a time to reach our bigger goal.
Sometimes all we need is a spark.
As I started the weekend at Central states, I was feeling a little lost as to what I really wanted to get out of the conference. I feel really good about where we are in our curriculum as a district, but it just isn't enough. I really couldn't decide what it was I wanted to focus on. After Amy Lenord's presentation on ditching the vocabulary list, however, I realize that I wasn't looking for a solution, but a spark. Just one idea can have a huge impact in changing the way we think about curriculum and how we teach. Why was I picking vocabulary (seemingly out of thin air) when I could use my authentic resources to dictate? Add this to Laura Terrill's idea of starting with culture and content and the pieces begin to come together. Neither one had the whole answer, but each of pieces begin to fit together to help solve the puzzle of how to push students to higher language proficiency.
Don't forget the conversation
The amount and variation in the sessions offered at Central states was incredible. But sometimes conversation after and between sessions is more valuable than attending twice as many sessions. Not only is it a time to continue the learning from the session, but to brainstorm ideas and connect with other colleagues. The more connections we make, the more potential there is for sharing and collaborating down the road. I am a person that likes to process information with other people; I like to talk it out to help formulate ideas and thoughts. Without these conversations, I’m not sure I would necessarily come to the same ideas or conclusions that I do when sharing and brainstorming with others. Not only do they have different perspectives and come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds and situations, but also they have differing experiences that lead to seeing material in distinctive ways.
Social media isn’t just a distraction
Despite constant commentary about millennials and technology, Twitter played an extremely important role in Central States for me. Not only is it impossible to attend all of the sessions, but it is also impossible to take everything in over the three day conference. The backchannel Twitter conversation provides an archive of thoughts, ideas, conversation and more that occurred during, between, and after sessions. Days, weeks, and months later, I can return to that “archive” under the #CSCTFL16 and review these ideas or moments to spark a new idea. Not only that, it is a great way to process ideas and have conversation even if you aren’t sitting next to the person in that moment. The amount of sessions I was able to “attend” was expanded just by virtue of reading the ideas or thoughts of others. Moreover, everyone hears the information differently, even if they are in the same room. The ability to read another perspective opens my mind to greater possibilities.
Central States this year didn't really feel like a regional conference. It was amazing to hear from some of the top people in the field and to connect with those who are facing the same everyday struggle to make language learning more effective and authentic for our students. Looking forward to next year in Chicago!