Saturday, December 2, 2017

Benefits of being a “new” teacher

“New” is a relative term, obviously, since I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years. (How did that happen? 😂) But this is my first year teaching high school, and while there are a number of differences between teaching at the college level and teaching at the high school level, one of the bigger differences is the amount of prep time I have. Because I’m teaching all day, any prep (and grading) needs to be done during my 55-minute plan period, or outside of school hours*. By contrast, I usually spent 9-15 hours per week actually teaching at the college level.  This may sound ridiculous, but I easily filled the remaining 25-30 hours/week with prep, grading, meetings, etc., without taking into account all of the research I was supposed to be doing to publish enough articles to get tenure.  The great thing about my schedule is that I have students in class 55 minutes/day 5 days/week. Both the amount of time spent in class as well as the fact that we meet every day have huge advantages for language learning, and I have been amazed at the difference it makes in terms of students being able to use the language!  But the comparative lack of prep time has meant that I’ve had to scale back a lot in terms of how elaborate my lessons are, because I physically don’t have enough hours in the day to plan everything I’d like to do.

So I’ve been doing a lot of recycling and repeating, and guess what? My students actually remember things, because we’ve gone over them more than twice! For example, at the college level, I spent two days max going over the alphabet in Spanish 1. The most that can be said is that students were familiar with it, but they didn’t really know it, because we had to move on to other topics. It might seem silly, but it’s really crucial that learners know the alphabet to be able to function in another language; without it, they can’t exchange contact information, because they can’t spell out usernames or email addresses. So we’ve been going over the alphabet, numbers, days/months, and other basic language elements that are essential to be able to function in another language, and my students are rocking listening comprehension!  I use bingo a lot because the students love to play, and it means that they hear the words over and over so that they can actually understand the words when they hear them, as opposed to reading them but then not recognizing them when they hear them. (As I add more bingo games, I'll post them here.  Other resources: memory/Go Fish cards, flash cards, and crossword puzzles.)

That’s not to say that I won’t be glad to have a little more experience under my belt so that I can come up with more interesting ways to recycle content. But I'll need to remember that me having more experience doesn't mean that I should move faster through the content.

*It's worth noting that I'm more fortunate than many teachers in that I actually get 55 minutes of uninterrupted planning time every day, as well as an hour or two of uninterrupted work time almost every Friday afternoon. (I love my job!) This Cult of Pedagogy post indicates that many teachers end up with little or no planning time, and have to do all of their planning and grading outside of school hours. Food for thought from the same Cult of Pedagogy post:

"But isn’t that just the nature of the job? Not everywhere. According to a 2010 research brief from Stanford University, U.S. teachers spend 80 percent of their work hours delivering instruction to students. The average in other high-achieving nations? 60 percent. And brace yourself: In South Korea, Japan and Singapore, that average plummets to a staggering 35 percent. Yes, you read that right. In these countries, just 35 percent of teachers’ time is spent teaching students. The rest of their work hours are spent collaborating, studying, and planning, making their instructional time as good as it can be."

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