The best intentions

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Above all, my intentions are to be a great teacher.  Not a good teacher, not a mediocre teacher, or even just a favorite teacher.  I want to be a great teacher.  I know that is a lofty goal, but it is my goal nonetheless.  That said, I can honestly say my intentions have been good in everything I try in my classes.   I can also say, again in all honestly, that I have failed miserably in my good intentions more times than not.

I feel that this year has gone very well in teaching English 9.  I don’t mean to imply that every day and every lesson has gone perfectly, but more times than not I feel that I have been a “good” teacher in presenting the lessons that I have taught in both of my sections of English 9.  Surely there are things that I will change when teaching it next year (after all, this is my first year teaching it), but I am overall happy with how this year has gone so far.

Spanish, on the other hand, leaves me constantly feeling like something is missing.  And I can make all the excuses in the world about how I teach 6 different things every day (which, while a truth for my job, still feels like an excuse), but excuses don’t fill the empty space.  What am I missing? The 90% plus of Comprehensible Input.  I feel like a failing teacher because I just don’t do this and I KNOW that I should and that, if I really gave it my all, I could.  I get frustrated with myself and my students who just stare at me blankly when I try.  It’s most frustrating because I AM, in fact, careful to use only words that they know, and I supplement this vocabulary with visual cues.  This makes it hard to know if I am not truly being comprehensible, even though I feel that I am, or if the students are just being lazy in piecing together the language because they know I will eventually have to break down and tell them in English, or they can ask a “more apt” student.  Somewhere I know I am failing, I just don’t know where.

I also know that I should be using the TPRS method, but it is a constant struggle in my teaching.  After having read a recent post by another teacher about the things she loves and hates about TPRS (see http://musicuentos.com/blog/) and I felt like every word spoke to me.  Her “hates” are a lot of what has turned me off of TPRS and what has stood in the way of be being successful (sometimes with even trying to be successful) with the method. 

I guess right now I just keep on keeping on and try to continue reading as much as I can to try to do what I know I need to do in the class. This must be what they mean when they talk about it being a “process.”  All I know is that I long for the day that I can post awesome lesson plans and stories that have worked for me to help build the professional learning community.  Right now, I feel that I am just the mooch of the language teachers community. 

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12 thoughts on “The best intentions

  1. Dana

    Kate, I’m a fourth year teacher and I know how you feel. I’m incorporating TPRS and comprehensible input in my classes. The frustration and not feeling “good enough” mean to me that you want to improve – that’s a sign of a future great teacher.

    I have four different lessons a day. I think the key is not to feel overwhelmed or to feel like we are failing. In reality, the key is to pick one thing to improve per day, per week, per month or per year and rock that one thing.

    Your words in the last paragraph echo my thoughts as well. I am working toward those shareable lessons, but right now, I’m relying on other more experienced teachers. That’s why they are sharing their materials – they’ve been in our shoes.

    Keep your head up and I will too. 🙂 I’m glad you are sharing your thoughts as a first year teacher. It helps a lot of other new teachers to realize they aren’t alone!

  2. Hi Kate,
    I found your blog for the first time today and just finished reading through your blog posts. Your determination to not stray from what you know is the best way to teach your students, even though faced with challenges, is an inspiration.
    I am a Spanish teacher also and I base my lessons and activities on Comprehensible Input. TPRS is one of the ways I provide the Comprehensible Input. TPRS/CI was, and remains, a “process” for me.
    Have you heard of the yahoo groups forum called moreTPRS? You will find a whole community of TPRS teachers there that are willing to share their lessons, ideas, and support for other teachers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly recommend it, especially since you mentioned in one of your posts that there aren’t other language teachers to be your mentor at school.
    Keep up the good work!
    Cynthia

    • It is most definitely a “process” for me too! The more I look at it, and I do WANT to use it, I wonder if it isn’t, for me at least, A methodology… a tool in the proverbial toolbox. Obviously I know that CI isn’t a method, but something we need to just DO, but I feel like it’s not something I can make my number one priority/mode of presentation. Then again, who knows? I feel like my teaching “style” changes roughly with every hour that I teach 🙂

  3. I think it is commendable that you want to be a great teacher – I think it’s actually a goal that every teacher should have! Think how much better schools would be!

    I also can’t believe that you have 6 preps! Holy smokes! How you wake up every day and do your job is beyond me. I would cry every night and need to take many mental health days. I’m sure you do a better job than you think you are doing.

    Have you ever attended a TPRS workshop? I tried it on my own after reading descriptions last year, but didn’t fully understand until I went to a workshop this summer. I found that changing to this style of teaching cut WAY down on my prep time, which might helpful to you. I’ll confess I’m not 100% TPRS, but by adding the stuff and changing what I did my students are more advanced than previous years.

    I’m not a guru by any means but I’d be willing to help you if I can!

  4. Have you heard of Organic World Language? (OWL) It has some of the comprehensible input that I liked about TPRS and the actions. I, too, never really embraced TPRS because although there were things I liked, it wasn’t exactly… right.

    OWL also includes output and immersion. It is proficiency based and student centered. I recommend checking it out! It has made me feel like I am finally serving my students well. http://www.owlanguage.com has some info about workshops and as I saw you found my blog where I’ll be posting more info about my experiences. Glad to have met you here!

    • I actually just had or look up what OWL was after seeing your post! (A friend from grad school shared it on Facebook!) I’m definitely interested in checking it out!

      Thanks for the connection!

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