Action Plan

Back to School

Whenever I speak about my experience in Cohort21 this year (and I do a lot), I tend to get a bit carried away. I start speaking louder and faster, and every other sentence is punctuated with,“ I have to show you…. “  Being French, I tend to speak with my hands anyway,   but these days it is best to exercise caution when walking by me if my tech trek is the topic of conversation.  Au Secours” (Help), is on list of high frequency words in my class, and I have IT and my tech savvy students on high alert as I wrestle with the challenges of trying to embed videos and create  weblinks to upload Smart Notebook lessons to  a webpage.

So what am I telling everyone and anyone who will listen to me about Cohort 21?  I tell them that I knew when I started this adventure that it would be a steep learning curve for me. Then I tell them without hesitation that Cohort21 is the quintessential PD experience. It exemplifies the growth mindset philosophy and requires teachers to experience firsthand those 21st century skills they hope to embody in their students. I tell them that much more than just contributing to their awareness of best practices and current research, Cohort21, will bring it all to their classroom.  And, if they think it will be all about mastering new software and technical jargon they will never use, they are in for a surprise.  The face to face full day sessions, the impromptu hangouts twitter conversations and encouraging blog feedback has proven that technology does indeed have a warm and fuzzy side. In Cohort21, no one is anonymous or forgotten, and any notion that you need to be an expert is quickly dispelled.  It is all about leveling up your own expertise no matter what your starting point is, and  help for just about any problem is only a tweet away.

I sincerely believe that in order to inspire students to take risks, to be persistent and to be resourceful, the students need to see their teachers doing the same thing. If teachers will risk putting themselves in that role, they will gain new skills to share, and have a better sense of what their students and colleagues need to succeed.  Perhaps it was this belief that pushed me to include my students in the process of realizing my action plan to create a French website for our Middle School. The project is not complete; but it is well underway.

The twist in my initial proposal to include the students in the plan, development and contributions has certainly made a task I set for myself more fun than work.  Of course there have been the inevitable challenges and frustrations. Giving up control to my students hasn’t always been easy.  I like results, so my lack of skill and dependency on the help of others, either slowed progress or halted it completely.It is also bit frustrating to realize that the project will never be done. It will always be evolving, just as students’ skills, interests and needs do.  In the meantime, though, I’ve decided to enjoy this “out of the book” opportunity to offer a French enrichment experience and the chance to connect with my students on a different level— where they are the teachers, and I am the learner.

Joining the Cohort has meant going back to school, complete with assignments, homework and learning challenges.  I just didn’t expect how often my students would be doing the teaching.  I am grateful to Cohort21 for helping me to grow my teaching practice and technology skills.  I have a long way to go still, and I am definitely not in the lead of this race, but surprisingly, I am okay with that. I’m on the team, and moving in the right direction, and for now, that’s enough. While this year’s experience is coming to a close, I am reassured that in a just few short months I'll be back to school facing a new crop of students eager to show their teacher how to level up.

 

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WHICH MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT ISN’T LOOKING FOR HIS/ HER RAISON D'ETRE? WHO DOESN’T WONDER WHAT AND WHO THEY WILL BE? WHICH MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT ISN’T WORRIED ABOUT WHO THEY ARE AND THE IMAGE THEY PROJECT OR TRYING TO BE LIKE SOMEONE THEY ADMIRE? SO YOU’D THINK THAT MASTERING THE VERB “TO BE” AKA “ETRE” WOULD BE IMPORTANT.

OVER THE PAST 26 YEARS, I THINK I’VE EXHAUSTED ALL THE WAYS I COULD POSSIBLE TEACH IT. WE’VE DANSED IT, SUNG IT, WRITTEN IT, READ IT, TRANSLATED IT, ACTED IT OUT, SPELLED IT WITH TILES. YET, I NOW REALIZE I’VE HAD IT ALL WRONG. IT IS ABOUT HELPING MY STUDENTS TO FIND THAT “RAISON D’ETRE” NOT CONJUGATING IT.

I GUESS MY ACTION PLAN COULD BE TITLED “REDEFINING ETRE” – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A LANGUAGE STUDENT IN THE 21 CENTURY?

IT CERTAINLY ISN’T ABOUT BEING THE VERB CONJUGATING CHAMPION. I WANT THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE IN MY CLASSROOM TO BE A VIBRANT ONE. I DON’T’ WANT QUIET STUDENTS COMPLETING WORK SHEETS. I WANT CHILDREN TALKING ( IN FRENCH), ASKING QUESTIONS, BEING CURIOUS ABOUT SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FRANCOPHONE COUNTRIES. I WANT THEM TO CARE ABOUT BEING ABLE TO COMMUNICATE IN A SECOND LANGUAGE AND TO BE PERSISTENT IN THEIR LEARNING. I WANT THE ACTIVITIES AND THE RESSOURCES TO BE VARIED AND INTERACTIVE. I WANT TO COMMUNICATION IMPORTANT CULTURAL EVENTS AND OFFER SELF PACED PROGRAMS TO ADDRESS THE DIVERSE NEEDS AND LEARNING STYLES OF MY STUDENTS. AND I DON’T WANT TO ASSIGN A NUMERICAL MARK TO THEIR EFFORTS.

I DO NOT WANT FRENCH CLASS TO BE SYNONUMOUS WITH IRREGULAR VERBES, BUT RATHER THE PLACE WHERE MULTIPLE TOOLS ( INCLUDING THE VERB “ETRE”) WILL BE THE TICKET TO GETTING THEM TO THEIR NEXT AND CHOSEN DESTINATION IN THEIR LEARNING AND IN LIFE.

HOW TO HELP TO GET STUDENTS “TO BE” IN THE PLACE THEY WANT TO BE AND “TO BE” WHO THEY WANT TO BECOME… THAT’S THE CHALLENGE. I’VE DECIDED THAT MY STARTING PLACE TO MAKE THE TOOLS ACCESSIBLE, INTERACTIVE AND SELF PACED WILL BE TO CREATE A WEBSITE FOR OUR SCHOOL’S FRENCH DEPARTMENT, AND I AM HOPING TO INCLUDE SEVERAL OF THE TECHNOLOGIES I’VE LEARNED FROM MY INTERACTIONS WITH COHORT21.

NOT A NOVEL IDEA, BUT A LEVEL UP IN MY OWN LEARNING AND HOPEFULLY A FIRST STEP IN REDIFINING MY OWN “RAISON D’ETRE” IN THE FRENCH CLASSROOM.