Tapping into our interests…

interests

As a kid, I can always remember being asked to write or talk about my interests, which then went hand-in-hand with what I wanted to do when I grow up.  And then that kind of went away. Classes consisted of outlining chapters, memorizing formulas, translating from native language into target language and tests and quizzes. Until recently, I was following these same patterns as an educator. (And of course some of the habits are still occurring..baby steps!) But, now that there is so much research available for educator about unveiling the interests of our students and then creating activities that will benefit them, the lesson planning process has changed. Sometimes when I am presenting a new grammar topic, through lecture, I look around the room at the faces of my students and think I must stop immediately. Their boredom could be contagious!!! I sometimes feel pressured to meet the curriculum requirements. But, just this week I allowed my interests to motivate me to re-invent. I mentioned, a few ago, my interest for service work. Well, another interest of mine was (and still is) swimming.  I have so many students, with so many different interests, ranging from sports, to music, to YouTube channel (including who knows what), to video games, to cooking and so on! Therefore, I have started to create their next, or should I say first “play.” When teaching grammar I either take the traditional path and write their notes on the smartboard OR I implement a flipped classroom and encourage the students to watch a video, created by me, at home so that class time is strictly used for practice. When starting our next chapter, students will watch the grammar- filled video at home and then play in school. They are going to individually or in a group, depending on their interests, create with the new content. They will have choices like a “how-to” video or discuss there future plans. I know I would have really enjoyed a project like this because I would FINALLY learn the Spanish vocabulary for things I am actually interested in! (I plan to share their work here once we get started in the next couple of weeks). I feel like if, as educators, we rely on our own interests to help us create new experiences for ourselves then we can certainly do this for our students. Reflecting on what we would have changed in our own educational experience provides that “ah-ha” moment and drives us to teach what interests our students. Our interests, our students’ interests..they hold power! And that power engages them in their learning and their creation! I came across this blog this week, Learner Interest Matters: Strategies for Empowering Student Choice. The last line of the article says it all! ” If this approach is good for professionals, why not use it for our learners?” It’s so true! When I am interested and engaged, I dig deeper and so will our students. The research says it works so now we just have to do! And then add our positive experiences for all to see!

We are encouraged to motivate ourselves and our students through interests, and after reading some passionate letters from the site Letters to the Next President 2.0, I can identify their passions, their interests, their engagement. I want, I truly want, what is best for my students. I spend a lot of time reflecting on what I can do to make learning fabulous and fun and meaningful. I’m not going to lie here..I do not consider myself a political person at all. At first I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and write about unfair pay, immigration, feminism, etc based on the letters I was reading, but instead I am going to focus on connections I made after reading Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.

To whom it may concern:

I always wanted to be a teacher. I was driven to become a teacher. My interests drove me to want to become a teacher. I studied to be a teacher. I, now, am a teacher. I want to teach. And I want to teach what I am passionate about. I am struggling right now. I am struggling to teach my students what I think they need to be taught by me. There are many obstacles in my way. Other teachers are facing these obstacles as well. How are we supposed to teach our students when we are told what we need to do in our own classroom? For example, we are told that we need to teach to nationalized standards, including how to approach and answer questions on standardized tests. I don’t want to be told what to teach and how to teach it. Just like in college, I didn’t want to take the class “How to teach Spanish,” but instead how to implement some already-established techniques in the classroom. As well as experiment. I wanted to investigate what would work and not work in MY classroom. And I still feel this way. Another obstacle we face is being placed in meaningless and useless inservices that are thrown together last minutes in order for the district to meet its requirement. My students have a lot to say. I hear them. I want to show them that I hear them and create what is best for them. Teachers are constantly reflecting. Let us reflect. Let us rethink and reinvent. Rather than telling us what to teach and how to teach or mandating that we participate in an inservice that is not relevant, let us connect. Let us reflect, together, in a way that is authentic and efficient, in a way that works for us, in a way that will be best for our students. Encourage and motivate us to implement the interests of our students. Provide us time to reflect. Then, mandate that we share our findings and brainstorm what to keep and what to change. And then, let us get back in the classroom and do it all over again. We are teachers. We are passionate, caring, hard-working, committed, dedicated and want what is best for our students. WE have so much to learn from THEM! Let them show us! “Once a fire is lit under students, they easily pursue further opportunities to support peers, find shared purpose, network and produce with others, and connect their passions to academic achievement” (Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom 11).  It’s time to light this fire, they speak of, under teachers so that we can pursue more opportunities to support colleagues and our students and achieve greatness in our classrooms for our students, the ones we are teaching for.

Antero Garcia, Christina Cantrill, Danielle Filipiak, Bud Hunt, Clifford Lee, Nicole Mirra, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, Kylie Peppler. “Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.” (01 Feb 2014).

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