Last week, I had the great opportunity to attend the Ohio Foreign Language Association’s annual conference in Sandusky, Ohio. Though I live and work in Michigan, it’s only a short drive from Detroit to Sandusky and as a new-ish teacher, I’m trying to soak up all of the PD I can. ACTFL and Central States weren’t feasible this year, so OFLA it was!
I learned so much in the two days I spent at OFLA, and the best part is that everything I learned feels so doable. That’s one thing about conferences and workshops that I’ve struggled with in the past – it’s kind of an information overload and though there are a lot of great ideas, it’s a lot to process at one time and actual implementation tends to fall by the wayside. I think the things I learned will fit in easily with what I already do in class, so adapting them to suit my students’ needs will hopefully feel very natural.
Going beyond “What’s in your backpack?”
The highlight of my conference experience was getting to learn from the amazing Carrie Toth. I attended her Thursday evening workshop entitled “An Inch Wide and a Mile Deep” and her Friday morning session about Global Giving. Carrie literally uses the entire world as her classroom in a way that I had never imagined, and really emphasized how important it is that we bring our own passions into the classroom, whatever they may be. Carrie’s students use their target language skills to connect with other cultures, make cross-curricular connections, and they also give back to those around the world who need it most in the spirit of global giving. One of the things that I love about where I work is that we make a yearly tradition of Charity Week; for one week in February, everyone’s attention is focused on giving back to a charity in the community that could really use our help. This year in ONE WEEK we raised more than $57,000. I am excited to try to bring that same enthusiasm for giving back into my classroom.
Something else I really appreciated about Carrie’s sessions was how I felt both validated by her comments yet also pushed to question some of what I do in the classroom, all at the same time. I can’t wait to really take a look at some of my units this summer and see what I can do to make them better reflect my passions as a person and educator.
Honoring students’ work doesn’t always mean grading it
Something I struggle with is always feeling the need to assign a grade to anything I collect, yet never having enough time to devote to all of that grading! One of my most practical takeaways, from an AP Strategies session, is that honoring students’ work does not mean that it always needs to be meticulously graded. Recognize the effort, do something with the work that shows you honor what was done, and then move on if you have to.
Do it with passion or not at all
The keynote speaker was Dave Burgess, the author of Teach Like a Pirate, who was absolutely electrifying to watch. His message was reminiscent of Carrie’s message earlier in the weekend – we need to remember what makes us excited to teach what and who we teach and tap into that emotion at all possible opportunities. We need to harness that passion and infuse it into our curriculum so that students literally cannot help BUT learn and what’s more – so that they can’t help but WANT to learn! We want our classrooms to be the ones that students would buy a ticket to get into. We need to teach with passion and let students see that passion, or else reassess why we’re doing what we do.
All in all, it was a fabulous weekend of PD and collaboration. I’m really looking forward to CSCTFL16 in Columbus!