Lucas Hoffman, Beginning Teachers Committee Chair
The Beginning Teachers Committee was pleased to welcome the beginning teacher and university student scholarship recipients at the joint CSCTFL/OFLA conference. A couple of the participants share below their thoughts on attending the conference.
My First Time to Central States/OFLA
Kristina Carson, Ohio University
Before this year’s Central States and OFLA conference, I had never been to a conference before. I came with a friend who is also a French Education major at Ohio University and I asked couple of my professors about conferences, but I still had no idea what to expect. As a university student and first-time conference attendee, I was intimidated because I thought everyone would know what they were doing and, surely, I would stick out like a sore thumb. I also had the image in my mind that people at the conference were going to be like the characters from “The Big Bang Theory” but for education instead of physics and that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with their professional jargon. The second after I left the registration booth, I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was pleasantly surprised at how encouraging, friendly, and uplifting everyone was. People who gave presentations, people I ran into while walking around, everyone I encountered greeted me with a smile and seemed genuinely interested in swapping stories, giving advice, or even just talking. Watching teachers who were currently teaching, retired teachers, and/or university professors interact was also a heartening sight to see. It was great to see how people were constantly encouraging each other in the sessions and conversations throughout the weekend. I can say without a doubt that I took a lot away from the conference, not only in terms of educational techniques and practices, but also in terms of having better idea of what it means to be a foreign language educator, and an effective one too.
A Beginning Teacher’s Experience at CSCTFL
Katie Lawrence, Dayton Christian High School
“90% target language”; “You could have used the target language while you introduced that lesson.”; “Try not to use so much English in class”; “Make sure you are teaching towards authentic assessments”; “Yea, I took Spanish in high school, but I don’t remember anything!” These phrases and more from cooperating teachers, supervisors, and former Spanish students haunt my thoughts as I prepare every single lesson. This is my second year teaching Spanish at Dayton Christian High School and my daily struggle is how in the world can I incorporate all of these essential pieces of quality world language instruction in my very own classroom?
With a little bit of resentment that my student teaching supervisor gave me a B for student teaching because I didn’t speak enough Spanish, I set out to prove her wrong and make her proud. I entered my position like most first-year teachers; the students’ previous teachers didn’t really speak Spanish at all. They simply learned lots of vocabulary and did some grammar drills. I quickly gained rapport with my Spanish 2, 3 and 4 students that first year and they insisted that they liked me as a teacher and that they learned a lot of Spanish from me. However, I knew we were a long way away from 90% target language and language competency that they could use in the real world.
This year I was blessed to receive a beginning teacher scholarship to attend the OFLA hosted, Central States Conference. I decided to go all in and take both Thursday and Friday off of work to get the most out of the conference. I even registered for the LinguaFolio workshop. I attended sessions on maintaining the target language, authentic assessment and circumlocution. I learned the true need for setting objectives for the students that they want to achieve and giving them time to process and reflect on their progress towards those objectives from the Linguafolio workshop. I’ve begun using the “I can” statements to write rubrics for the students and on their last writing assignment was leaps and bounds better than their last piece of writing.
I also learned some really practical tips from a maintaining the target language session. The most helpful comment, “You have to give them something they really want to talk about.” I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to me before! So the first day after my return from the conference, we talked about cars. Another helpful comment, “Keep them accountable and be specific with your directions.” So I taught them one question about what kind of car they would like and they had conversations about that car in 30 second spurts, over and over. Another important detail, if the time hadn’t ended but they finished their conversations they simply had to start it over until the time ran out. No “we’re finished” excuses for speaking in English. Then, I randomly picked some students to answer the same question, but to me. They received a point if they were able to answer the question that they were supposed to have practiced with multiple partners. I thought they might get bored, but do you know what happened? We spoke in Spanish almost the entire class and the kids were laughing and smiling! To me, it was a small miracle and it filled me with joy.
Another great session was called “Whatchamacallits and Thingamajigs”, teaching us how to teach circumlocution. Just today, I introduced the concept to my Spanish 4 class and we had so much fun practicing and creating a list of words that the students would need to describe other objects. They are already invested and can see how helpful this skill will be. They asked if we could improve their conversation skills and I feel like I can actually help them!
The weeks since the conference I have been slowly implementing the new strategies and activities into my lessons. Overall, I feel like I am a more competent Spanish teacher who has something valuable to offer her students. I have laughed more in my class, spoken more Spanish, and heard more Spanish from my students than I ever have since the conference. I know I still have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to the summer to prepare more comprehensive units and those authentic assessments that create community involvement. But, for now, I’m energized and hopeful that maybe these students might be able to say that they actually remember some Spanish from high school.