What is an upcoming professional development that you are really looking forward to?
I took a break from professional development this summer. I am going through some things medically that have really limited what I'm able to do. The short version? I have extra bones in my feet that caused an injury two years ago and I am still dealing with it. I am quite restricted in the physical activity I am allowed to do and, to be blunt, conferences aren't very friendly to that kind of thing.
That being said, I have presented once this summer and am presenting again in about a week and a half for my district.
What are the ways you have or are considering expanding or contracting your social network to benefit you?
This is a big topic, and I think there are two levels to it:
1. Ways I will edit my social network to benefit me as a teacher.
2. Ways I will edit my social network to benefit me as an individual.
So, let's get to it :)
My Professional Learning Network
I think it's important to curate your professional social networking to make sure it works for you. On Day 7, I showed you my personal favorite resources, but I saved this part of those resources for today. Not only should you make sure you are adding only resources that are actively useful to you, but you need to not be afraid, if it turns out a resource isn't useful, to remove the resource.
Now that I've been impossibly vague, let me be much more specific!
In my twitter account (@rachelcinis), I follow 329 people. I follow other Latin teachers and language teachers primarily, but there's a healthy mix of other types of teachers, teacher-educators, and methodology theorists. Whenever I find a person who offers insight and helpful thoughts on teaching, I follow that person, and my twitter feed stays pretty busy with 329 people. However, once in a while I find that someone I follow tends to post fewer things about teaching or educational policy, etc., and more random offerings about their interests. Which is fine--no judgement here--just not helpful for my personal twitter feed. For example, I followed a history teacher who is really creative and writes songs for her history classes that I think are great and really appreciate. However, lately, she mostly posts artwork she's working on. While I appreciate her and am glad she has found a secondary outlet for her creativity, I am not personally gaining anything from her posts. So I am removing her from my feed.
The big thing is to not think about your professional network as personal, but as something that is meant to help you grow as an educator. As long as your feed is giving you useful input, it's helpful. If it is getting clogged up with things that make you reluctant to read it, then it is not helping you because you are not even using it anymore.
The same thing applies to reading blogs, or any other social network that you dedicate exclusively to teaching--you need to curate what you follow so you are getting what you need from these resources.
So I've already been adding some twitter peeps to my feed this summer, thanks to my conference experiences, and I plan to go through and clear out some that are off-topic (which is usually the only thing I find less helpful). I am also going to go through my educational blogs from my feedly and clear out those that I find less useful--I need to make sure that when I go to feedly I am ready to read what shows up there and don't skip it.
Social Networks I Maintain for Mental Health
I really only keep one social network for my own private happiness: Instagram. But my insta account is definitely exclusively for me to share my hobby (cosplay) publicly, and I'm bringing this up because I think it's important for us as teachers to be okay with carving out a place for us to exist outside of our identities as teachers. Maybe not just important, but essential. I follow sewing blogs and a few cosplay groups on facebook and keep my Instagram cosplay-focused and it's been nice, when I've had a stressful day, to go escape for a bit into something that's not related to education. I don't keep the account secret, and many of my friends and other teachers follow me there, which I appreciate (and I love seeing what they are doing in their lives). But I absolutely do not share teaching materials or teaching-related images on my Instagram, nor do I share thoughts on teaching or education there, because that is not what that particular account is for.
When professional networking found its way onto Facebook, it made it less of an escape and more of another place that I continue my job, and, again, while I love my career and don't mind devoting real time to it (hence this site and journal, plus the books, the blogs, and my various board positions), there is value in finding a place to connect with people over a shared interest that is not 80% of your life.
So I'll continue to expand my Insta offerings (I'm working on a new cosplay!) and as I find local cosplay groups, hopefully join them. I think everyone should consider finding a hobby or secondary passion and making sure you cut time out for it. It's really easy to let a career like ours, built on passion and service, become our entire identity.
What social network/person/new group have you followed or joined and enjoyed?
What is a social network you have followed and enjoyed?
This is a tough question for me (as you will see in the next post as to why :) )... I haven't really been following social media for Latin as of late except in specific instances. So, when I reflect on the new social media accounts and networks I've started using, the list is most likely un-Latin related. That being said, I want to take some time and reflect on the things I have been following and why I find them interesting and compelling.
What is something you wanted to spend more time on?
This is another easy topic for me. In my Latin IV classes, we ran out of time on the House of Atreus unit. Though, to be honest, I would have been glad to have delved deeper into all of my Latin IV units (you can find the Roman Food and Harrius Potter Units here!) except the role play game we did, which was simply exhausting and, while wonderful and a true chance for my students to delve into a world while interacting in Latin, I was ready for it to end when it did.
But for the House of Atreus, we really only got around halfway through the story, and had only heard the men's stories, before the end of the school year. As good as those stories are (and I am developing the entire thing into a horror novella), I was disappointed not to spend some time in Clytemnestra's eyes and, of course, in the eyes of Electra, a character so intriguing that multiple plays have been written about her (and she has her own complex!).
Instead I had to rush and summarize the ending of the story for my seniors who would be graduating at the end of the school year--I couldn't even hope to finish the unit with them the following year.
A large part of this is due to the amount of testing that happened at the end of the year; the AP tests took up a large part of the year, as did state and local tests, plus finals and performance finals, and it was all I could do to get half a unit in. But it was disappointing; this is my first real foray into horror, and these students have been with me through four years of trial and error and experimentation. I can trust them to tell me what works, what doesn't work, and what can make it work.
Now I will have to train an entirely new generation.
What I did do:
Read sections of House of Atreus
However, I had only five weeks in reality, instead of the nine in the books, and had to make do.
What is one thing you wanted to spend more time on?
This might be the easiest prompt for me during this time of reflection. The answer is easy: I wish I could have spent more time on our last unit on religious cults. Simply put, we, quite literally, ran out of time. I ran it right up to the final. We finished it, and I cannot stress how literally I mean this, the day before final exams started and then my students took their final exam on what we'd read for this unit... Which is not something I'd normally recommend... And yet, it was a major success for me and my students... So... allow me to break it down.
Essentially, we spent this unit doing a mystery type Role playing game (RPG). Students were in groups and spent a day creating a detective character. They build their character using the Roman virtues and qualities we'd spent all year working on. Students chose skills as well which played a major role in how things went for them.
Every other day (yes, a quick turn over!) they'd get a new piece of the story and they'd have the period to work through the story and come up with their character's immediate next steps. I would then spent the next 48 hours reading their responses and, based on their skills and qualities, I'd respond in some way. Either with a fail or success or with more details. Without giving too much away (as I am planning to turn this into something else), it kind of went like this:
Story 1: description of crime and crime scene. Introduction of some major religious characters.
Story 2: description of all the other people (Romans and others) who are at the crime scene.
Story 3: There's a commotion.
Story 4: You follow a certain group of characters to the woods
Story 5: You meet the witch.
And... that was all we had time for.
Again, without revealing too much...
First off, let me say that this is something that probably 99% of my students had never done before. There was a lot of anxiety with that, but... we developed a system. I'd provide the support in the alternating classes with vocabulary and culture. On game days, they'd get the stories and about 10 minutes in I'd start to circulate. Sometimes I'd provide lexical support only, other times I might help them with a clue on what to do next. Then... we took the final, but more on that in a minute. Here is some of the feedback I got:
What I wish I had time to do.
Oh man... I could have expanded this into at least 5 more stories. I had plans of after the witch encounter.... they might encounter the Christians, go to a ritual of Isis or Proserpina... perhaps they'd get dragged into a thing with Mithras... The possibilities were endless. This was a point we both lamented: teacher and students... If only we'd had more time!
What do you want to add to your physical classroom?
I want to add more types of seating! This one is easy. Whenever I am in Wal-mart or Ross or anything else that has cheap pillows or anything of that sort, I'm always checking the prices of things like dog beds (they always price them lower than big pillows) and anything else that could be considered seating because I want more alternatives for my students.
That is not to say I have a lot, because I don't. I have a large dog bed and a big fluffy pillow and a small pillow and a rug. Because using my own money limits what I can buy. But when I find a deal, I'll hop on it and buy.
What I dream of is a room full of exercise balls and big pillows and beanbag chairs and those back-rest looking things that I don't know the name for and anything else that might let my students find the right seating for them and, yes, regular chairs for students who are more comfortable that way. I want my room to communicate to students that it is a room that is different than the testing-centric rooms they have come from and might be going to, and that I want each of them to be their own person in my room and I care to find out who that person is, starting with what kind of chair they want to sit in. Or not. The floor is fine too.
Last year I started a journey. I decided that everything on my wall needed to be of direct use to my students. If it didn't serve a purpose, it had to go. Now, before I go on, if you'll permit me, there are a few things you should know:
Lastly.... this year is going to have some other MAJOR changes to the layout of my room. I have moved my desk to the back of the room and the supplies to the front. I've made a reading nook of sorts, and I am reconsidering the placement of many other things. I am excited, and I hope my kids who are stubborn about change don't hate it too much :)
What topic for next year are you most hesitant about?
I am in a strange situation with this because I have less topic control than I have had for four years. Since we have five teachers, and we are rotating writing duties, I am the teacher between writing duties this coming year. I have no assigned grade level to write, and in many ways that is a relief and in many ways for my control-obsessed self that is terrifying.
I am hesitant about fables. A lot of people love Aesop's fables. I can get into them, so don't get me wrong, and my favorite fable by far is the "Rana et Bos" because exploding frogs are just naturally compelling story pieces. But I have had some real struggles trying to get students to engage with fables in a meaningful way, and for me, a lot of fables are just not compelling to students like they are to me. It's like I can care about them because I see where they fit in terms of Roman society and morality, but that falls flat for students and, really, when you have to explain a story to death before it has meaning for someone, it stops being all that interesting.
So I tend to be wary about the fable units. I know people that don't have these misgivings, so it's definitely a me thing and one of the things that can come up from teaching with some really great colleagues who are amazing and creative is the bad habit (it's a really bad habit--you can read Keith's Toda's musings about it here) of comparing yourself to them and their strengths. This is one of those. Both Bob and Miriam are really good at bringing depth to their units without it feeling like they're dragging the students through a morality lesson; I tend to somehow stumble around and rehash the information so it feels sermony. Which is totally a word.
Since I won't have control next year, I both won't be able to just avoid fables and won't have say in which fables will be chosen. That scares me a bit, but these things make us grow, too.