What Makes a Teacher of the Year?

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20 thoughts on “What Makes a Teacher of the Year?”

  1. Bob said:

    …this whole journey is about getting the man/woman to come out from behind the curtain and face their students with meaningful messages in the language we want them to learn….

    True dat. If we had a calendar I would say we put that up on there for this month.

    I really enjoyed reading the exchanges above. It makes me see how really radical we are, but, when one thinks about it, we’re not radical at all – those who teach the old way are the oddballs, at least from the point of view of the only people that count, the 96%ers.

  2. I can only say that as a 4%er myself, and lover of grammar, I was bored to death by that!!! OMG, I can’t believe I used to teach that way too! (and on occasion I resort to something similar so the kids know what it is like for when they move on).
    Thank you for sharing that!

    1. Now that we’re toward the end of the year, I am planning to spend a few minutes every Wednesday in doing some conjugations along with pop-up grammar on dictations. Not because I think it is useful for acquisition, but because my students will be getting full doses of that next year in Spanish III. When I did this a few times last year, two kids loved it and the rest hated it–but it made them appreciate “boring” stories or novels better!

      I have to watch myself, though–I am a fan of linguistics and I need to remember not to get carried away with the minutiae…

      1. If you find yourself getting into some obscure grammatical point, trust that that is the moment to get out of that idea and leave it alone. Even the four percenters often can’t go there with some of that stuff. Take it slow. I know exactly what you mean. Grammar Man lives in many of us. Are we not four percenters?

        1. “If you find yourself getting into some obscure grammatical point, trust that that is the moment to get out of that idea and leave it alone”

          Unless it’s April Fools’s day. I m totally having so much fun pranking my kids today. So I told them I had to give them a grammar test today and asked them to conjuguate 3 verbs in the present and passé composé, told them it s worth 25 points and it counts in the gradebook . I asked them to not be mad at me b/c it was the district that asked me to do this and it is timed, they had 5 minutes. Of course they didn’t believe me and said it s April fool . But I continued with a very straight face until they gave up , some were soo mad ( took 10 to 15 minutes to convince them it was not a joke) . I timed it , got their paper and graded it out loud , failling them all .
          OMG, by the end they were cheering everytime I took another paper and said ” failed” . They totally knew by then it was a real April s fool joke.
          I told them to appreciate what we do b/c next year the April fool s joke may be a weekly occurence.

          I have too more classes to do this to. April is not starting badly after all!

          1. “Next year the April Fool’s joke may be a weekly occurrence.”

            Sadly, that is also what my Spanish II kids have to look forward to.

            I had a post-evaluation with my principal today (who really appreciates, though doesn’t understand CI–appreciates mainly b/c he sees that the kids respond); he asked me how my students transition when they come back to me after a year in the other Spanish class.I said next year will be the first year I will get to have that opportunity. I don’t know…what will my former students be like after a year of non-CI, conjugating and tech projects? Will we be able to pick up where we left off? I don’t know…

          2. They will have gotten used to mechanical learning. Thus, the juice will have been sucked out of the apple. I’m not sure many of us have had this situation Lori. It will be interesting. I am thinking that you will win most back, just with one fun story to start the year. Know what I mean? And a few will want you to go back and be like it is for them this year, easy memorization, easy grades, absence of rigor, absence of having to show up as human beings in a classroom, the usual for them. Those few could be placed in another section, perhaps? Otherwise just those few, even one, who wants to do projects, can derail an entire class. Take this seriously. Level 1 and 3 are soaring years in CI instruction. Level 2 not so much – it’s a hard year for CI. Nobody knows why but my theory is that sophomores suck in general. 9th graders still have that 8th grade fun gene (8th is by far the best for stories, in my experience), and 11th graders by then have developed a more finely tuned sense of humor, but those 10th graders, I don’t know. I’ll pass on a level 2 CI class with 10th graders. My intuition says that you’ll be ok with them only bc they’ll be more discerning and mature juniors. Just get ready to transfer out, even to an independent study, any stubborn ones who don’t want the kiddie stuff that most “academic” language teachers see CI to be. And I think that no matter how nice this colleague is, the kids have gotten at least subliminally the message, the opinion of the traditional teacher, about what you do. Don’t doubt that for a second.

          3. Thanks, Ben. These kids will be seniors next year–I had them as sophomores (weird, but sophomores are my favorites to teach!) I am not at all worried about their attitudes, as they are the ones who signed petitions to get enough names so that I could teach a real class of Spanish IV instead of an independent study with the other teacher. They really want to be there; all eleven of them. There were supposed to be a few more, but I was told that they “hate Spanish now.” Makes me sad.

            So I’m not worried that I’ll have any kind of behavior problems; I am worried that their auditory skills have shriveled up; that they won’t be able to unlearn bad habits they’ve picked up. But we’ll see. I don’t think it will be a true level 4; probably more of a level 3. Guess I’ll just see where they are and go from there.

          4. Hi Lori,

            you wrote:

            “I am worried that their auditory skills have shriveled up”

            I wouldn’t worry too much. I think that when we start doing this kind of work (mostly auditory) with our kids, their brain starts wiring in a certain way. And just like muscle memory , it always stays with you, and can be reignited any time, even if it hasn’t been used for a while.
            Our brains are so flexible . I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. I know its easier said than done.

          5. It’s called omniscient learning. Like, you can play the violin for 20 years, like I did, and take off ten years, and, during that time, the wiring there actually KEEPS making connections from stuff learned during the 20 years. Connections keep being made, even when the person is not actively doing the activity. I guess there is validity to the term rusty, but as the rust dissolved, the original input would be there bran spankin’ ready to be used again. So yes, as I understand it, nothing is lost and it really can be “reignited at any time” like Sabrina said.

          6. I’d add, this is the test of learning vs. acquisition. If merely learned, then it doesn’t stick (unless it’s the memorization/chanting of charts accompanied by emotional trauma and.or humiliation by a teacher). But if it’s acquired, they will remember it next year or in 10 years.

          7. thanks for the encouragement, Sabrina (and Ben and John). I guess this will be a contest of learning vs. acquisition. I’ll have to update you all next fall…

            And I agree about the “omniscient learning”–new term for me–I used to play piano, and though I have a tough time with new songs, I can still play (my fingers must have a memory) the old songs that I knew well. Muscle memory–must be a real thing.

          8. Robert Harrell

            Yes, muscle memory is very real. So is place memory. When I was working at Medieval Times, I helped train some of the horses. Our head trainer said that when a horse did a correct movement in the arena, immediately reward the horse and move on but don’t ask the horse to do that movement again until reaching the exact same spot in the arena. Keep doing this until the horse has thoroughly associated the cue with the response, then begin asking for the movement on either side of the spot in the arena. Gradually begin to ask for the movement in random places. When I have actors, I find that it really helps to clearly differentiate the places where things happen; just “going to” a particular place helps students remember both the event and the language associated with it. (Another expression of place memory is when you go to another room and forget what you wanted; return to the place where you first thought of it, and usually you will then remember what you wanted.)

          9. I’m responding to Robert’s post about place and muscle memory–I used to have place signs for stories last year and have neglected that this year; I will start doing that again.

            Also–does muscle memory have anything to do with why TPR gestures are so ingrained? I told my students about Laurie’s “5 stages of acquisition”, telling them I wanted to test my theory. Sure enough, the TPR words were all at level 5, (as were phrases from oft-repeated songs…perhaps memory in conjunction with melody is similar to place memory). Fascinating stuff…

          10. Lori,

            Haha! your post made me laugh. I m the exact same way! I learned piano by ear, so I can’t read music and the only songs I can play are the ones I learned before or by ear. My kids are so sick of hearing the same tunes over and over again…. It s a shame really, b/c my mom is an incredible pianist and so was my grandmother . I was just too lazy to learn to read music. Indeed it is a case of muscle memory b/c sometimes I don’t play for a while yet my fingers know where to go when I m in front of the piano! I think TPR is also muscle memory.

          11. And what Robert said about the horse needing the place to perform the action, that Lori commented on – this is why we have the story in three locations. When we actually remember to do that, and we should in all stories, the story works better.

      2. I have two extreme four per centers in one of my beginning classes. On Thursday one of them stopped by during sixth period and asked me to explain the German case system. We talked for about an hour-and-a-half, and he was fascinated. I still didn’t give him absolutely everything – adjective endings, for example. Now he will be more content with the stories and PQA because I gave him the additional assignment to listen for the different endings and try to figure out why I chose the one I did. There is no way I would have taken class time for this. (BTW, he’s the first student who has ever come in for the grammar conversation; even most four per centers don’t come.)

        Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for a while; the last couple of weeks have been packed, and it isn’t over yet.

        I’m going to SWCOLT next weekend. Anyone else going? I even signed up for the luncheon to hear Mimi Met, but I don’t plan to go to her Focus Session “What We Can Learn from Driver’s Ed”.

  3. It is a great reminder that “in context” does not mean, “in a phrase or in a sentence.” I love this description ” Instead of trying to become more proficient in Latin, she wanted me to teach in a way that valued her perceived superiority. She wanted to feel better than everyone else and wanted me to make sure that she got that.” It perfectly describes a) how many people teach b) how many language departments function c) how our 4%ers feel and d) what many parents (and administrators) expect us to do for their children. No wonder they need re-educating.

    with love,

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