Monday, December 21, 2009


I just got word this morning that my district is willing to pay my registration for NTPRS! I am so excited to immerse myself in the method surrounded by experts and supporters. Now I just have to figure out the money for the hotel, food, and transportation...and if I can bring my husband with me!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Super-fun interaction

I just had to share something that I did with my superstar class today. I have a question of the day each day to practice common phrases or current vocabulary. It's my way of taking attendance and makes the kids talk at least once a day. I know there is a lot of debate about making kids talk, but I've had great results so far...

Anyway, today, my question of the day was "What did you buy Mme Hayles for Christmas?" If they said "nothing," I said that was impossible and made them come up with something else. These kids, who know how to play the game, came up with crazy answers from past stories or competed with others to come up with the best gift. At the end, I received chocolate, a hippopatamus, a car, a round-trip ticket to Paris, yellow snow, and vanilla ice cream. Sometimes I acted disgusted at their "gift" and berated them while they laughed...other times I said they were my favorite student and "gave" them an A+. We were all laughing while I essentially took attendance and talked to them in French! Good times....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Loving kids makes my life harder...

Here is my predicament for today: I have some students who are making my life a living hell. I hate planning for their class because they are negative, disruptive, etc. I have been working with them on their behavior, but I really feel at this point that it would be better to kick them out of the class altogether. They are not showing enough improvement to show me that they really care about being in my class. Here's the rub. After almost a year and a half teaching these kids, I care about them. I don't want to give up on them, but I'm beginning to think it is a lost cause. I'd much rather take that love and give it to the rest of the class by creating a fun, positive environment instead of the angry place that that class is right now. How do I feel good about either choice? What would you all do or have you done? I have to decide soon because 2nd semester starts soon.

NPR talks about education

On my way to work this morning, I heard an NPR report on the sad state of teacher certification programs. Well, it might not have been entirely about that...but that's what I heard. The part that made me say "Amen!" was when they were talking to an "effective" teacher in rural North Carolina. I wanted to quote him perfectly, but NPR does not have a transcript of the interview yet. He said something along the lines of, "When visitors walk into my class, they might see chaos, but I call that engagement." How true it is!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow day!

Yesterday, it was snowing. For my students, that means lots of craziness as they think about having a snow day. I was considering showing a video or some other cop-out because I didn't want to deal with their insanity. Instead, I stayed with my original plan of doing re-tells and a quiz. Because of the nature of TPRS, I can use their excitement in my classroom. Instead of driving me crazy, it drives the craziness of the story. Hooray!

And, we did get our snow day today...yet another reason to love teaching as I sit with my coffee and laptop and look forward to making Christmas cookies with my own 4 crazy kids...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

THAT student

I have a student...we'll call her Sally. She is a case and a half, I tell you. I don't know fully what's going on at home, but I know that she doesn't like it there and she brings her anger and bad attitude to my class quite often. She lashes out at classmates and me at times. But when she's not having a bad day, she's the most inquisitive, lovely girl you'd ever like to have in class.

Last week, on one of her bad days, she used her free-write time to write to me in English about how much she hates my class. She doesn't understand why I won't let the other students help her (read: translate what we're saying to English). She doesn't understand how she's supposed to learn French if I won't allow her to speak English. She went on and on about how unfair my class was and how much she hates it. All of her points have been addressed in class and the rules have been agreed on as a whole. I tried not to take it too personally, because I knew that she was not angry at me, but at someone or something else.

Today, she came into class and wrote on the board, underneath my "agenda" for the day (an administrative requirement that I find tedious most days) 5. Story time. She asked several times before class started if we were going to have story time today. At the end of the hour, somone else asked her why she like that so much and she said, "I like sitting on the floor like it's kindergarten and just listening." Aha! my inner voice said...she DOES like my class, or at least she should like it, because that is essentially all we are asking our students to do...sit and listen. I can imagine how my class should be a wonderful place to come at the end of the semester when so many other classes are cramming curriculum down the students' throats to try and get everything covered before the final exam. And we allow them to just sit and relax and listen...

So overwhelmed...

I have been feeling really overwhelmed these past couple of weeks. I feel like I'm never going to get caught up! Even with as little written work as I assign, I'm behind in grading. I don't have to "plan" for my class if I don't really want to, but that makes me feel like I'm not accomplishing much. It's strange. I've read and I've heard and I know that the most important thing in my class is to speak French so that the kids can understand. I'm having a really hard time feeling like I'm teaching them anything that way. There are days when I see it and I go, "Gosh! I'm teaching these kids WAY more this year than I ever did last year!" There are days when my colleagues (non-TPRSers) praise my work and ask me questions about what I'm doing. But those days are in the minority. I need to embrace the good days and focus on increasing them instead of focusing on the bad days and thinking about how much better I could be. Rationally, I know that I'll get there. I know that I will be an exceptional teacher one of these days with wonderful, loving relationships with my students...with great classroom management... I'm just impatient to get there. And in the meantime, I read all the blogs and I watch the videos and I research as much as I can about this wonderful teaching strategy that I'm so stinking excited about. And my grades are a little late...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book talks in the TL

Every day, I have the students answer some question of the day and I count that as their participation for the day. It's a great way for me to take attendance, get to know them a little better, and reinforce whatever vocab we're working on (or review old stuff too). On Mondays, I ask about their weekends and on Friday we always talk about what they are going to do. I get lots of reps in on the past and future before the other teachers are teaching those tenses...

Anyway, yesterday my question of the day was: What do you like to read? It took much longer than I thought because we got to talk about the main characters of the books, what they liked about them, what type of book it they like to read magazines, etc. Essentially, we had a book talk in French (something my district is heavily pushing). Reading is something I really enjoy, so it was fun for me and for those kids who enjoy reading as well. The ones who don't like to least they were listening to French!

Kids say the darndest things!

In our school, we have a class before school officially starts one day a week that is supposed to be all touchy feely. It's the class where we talk about bullying and feelings... I have a group of girls that I don't teach and only see for 15 minutes maybe once a week. Hard to get really close to them under those circumstances, but I digress...

Today, we were having a book talk and a girl who is taking French from another teacher asked me for help. She said that she's just not getting it and her word order is always messed up and she just feels like a failure because she has an 80%. I can certainly feel for her! I was exactly that way in high school. French was my favorite class, but my lowest grade.

Our conversation spread throughout the room as other students joined in in their hatred of language. It made me so sad. I tried to tell them that they've only had the language for maybe 2 years. And of those two years, they were only exposed to the language for maybe 50 minutes a day. I tried to tell them that there's no way they can be fluent at this point and the best they can do is communicate using whatever vocabulary they have and using gestures to help them get their point across. They are so afraid! Especially those Type A students who are used to being perfect. I really think that this is where TPRS comes in. We don't expect them to be perfect. We don't grade them on being perfect. We focus on how much they DO know instead of what they don't. How do I share my feelings with these students or my colleagues without alienating them? It all goes back to the standards we're trying to teach. Are we teaching for grammar or are we teaching for communication? If we're teaching for communication...should we count them off if they make a mistake, but they were able to communicate their thoughts and feelings?? It's a whole can of worms... and I don't have the balls that Ben Slavic does (literally and figuratively) to step out in front of the firing squad.