lforner


Languages conference: Day One

Thursday and Friday this week I was lucky enough to attend a conference for DEC new scheme languages teachers, held in Sydney (incidental holiday). Day one was a HUGE day. I left Deniliquin at 3 am for Albury, flew to Sydney, attended the conference, and then went and ate a LOT of different types of food in the afternoon (felt it was very fitting that I exposed myself to a range of different cultural cuisines!).

The best part of the first day was meeting so many other teachers-both new scheme (who could sympathize with some of the difficulties I am having) and more experienced teachers and head teachers, who were happy to provide me with advice, resources, and ideas about teaching languages. For me, this networking opportunity was particularly valuable. As those of you who read my blog frequently would know, I am the only languages teacher at my school. I have a very very supportive HT, however, she is an English teacher, and doesn’t have experience teaching LOTE. She tries her very best to assist wherever she can, but having other opportunities to gain leadership from LOTE head teachers is something I really appreciate.

I also managed to find other rural languages teachers to link up with via video conferencing and edmodo (and possibly an excursion….) in order to broaden my students’ knowledge of other cultures, and establish connections beyond Deni. As you can imagine, country kids can be slightly insular because they are so geographically (and culturally) isolated. But it is not only a concern for students, but also myself. Being able to chat to other teachers in Italian and in German was also helpful for me. I am constantly in fear that I will forget the fundamentals of my second languages through lack of practice. Establishing these connections (and there is even talk of us going to Europe to teach English over the summer holidays for professional development!) will allow me to practice and maintain my knowledge of both vocab and the cultural conventions, despite my opportunities in Deni in this regard being limited.

These connections will really help my kids to participate in more meaningful and authentic tasks (rather than exercises-a distinction which has been reinforced over the conference) meaning that kids can have an authentic audience for something like:
1. Introducing themselves in Italian
2. Recording and narrating a tour of the school or a place in town
3. Peer assessment of other students
4. Demonstrating their intercultural understanding

I have come away from Day One extremely excited!

Advertisements

A week of highlights

This week has been highly stressful, but extremely satisfying and very productive. Some of the best moments of my teaching career (although it is very limited!) have occurred this week, right on the back of feeling highly frustrated with myself for the year 9 assessment and feeling disillusioned about year 10, who, after building momentum and making great progress, have been disrupted by a couple of students who have returned to school after considerable truancy.

Tuesday saw a great lesson with year 8, who I have been frustrated with all term. I spent a period with them editing, discussing and sharing story writing tips. Most of them, even the often troublesome students, were excited to share their story with me, and with each other. Students’ stories were then submitted to a local program to be published. I was impressed with the stories which they were producing, and also with the rate of completion. Almost every student had submitted a story, and they had made a valiant attempt (considering their effort in previous tasks).

But the highlight of the week was having a notoriously troublesome student hand in their first seriously attempted assessment task on time in years. He stayed at lunch time to finish the assessment, and handed it in a day early to ensure he didn’t forget. After I helped him at lunch time with it, he thanked me several times, and then told me to have a good day. Another teacher walking past the classroom almost fainted. Then I got the warm fuzzy feeling from calling his father, who only hears the negative things, and informing him about his son’s achievement.

Despite having 2 other students completely off the rails that lesson, I also had the satisfaction of reading five or six students’ finished essays and seeing how far they had come from knowing next to nothing about poetry to being able to explain the humourous tone in a poem.

To top it off, I get to spend 2 days this week at a languages conference networking with other new scheme teachers and sharing ideas and resources.

Year 7, usually little darlings anyway, have been working on a task which requires them to expose themselves to a variety of cultures. In a little town like ours, this is a valuable (and rare!) opportunity for students to interact with something beyond football, netball and the river. The task has engaged some of the more reluctant kids, with 2 of the class clowns presenting their information as an Indian cooking show using images of food and teaching students some vocabulary (they are required to teach the class 5 words in the language of the country they have chosen).