August 15, 2017
By Catharyn Crane
No matter what, it is always hard going back to school. I always try to look on the bright side though, and setting goals for the new school year helps. Here are a few ways that have helped me be a happier Spanish teacher. I hope they might inspire you as well.
1. Buy yourself some nice supplies.
Get yourself some flair pens, you deserve them! I get nice supplies for my students too. I always invest in a class set of Astrobright card stock paper, new markers, and colored pencils. Get your materials organized and express expectations that students take good care of the materials, too. I swear students put in more effort and are actually more respectful of materials when they have nice things to work with and take ownership for their use.
2. Set a goal to try something new in class.
Maybe you want to get students speaking more in Spanish, try out IPAs instead of traditional tests or quizzes, or introduce a whole class novel study or Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) into your classes. Maybe you’re getting rid of homework this year, flipping the class so all homework is assigned online, or have some new ideas for how to spice up homework. Maybe your goal is something more general like increased collaborative learning, more inquiry style learning, or aligning your lessons to ACTFL practices.
No matter the topic, your goal should be realistic and specific. How exactly will you accomplish it? How will you measure your progress? Write down your goal. Check in with yourself and revise your strategy as needed throughout the year. Take time to reflect on the journey. Nothing is perfect the first time around, but how will we grow if we never try anything new?
3. Build community in your classroom.
Making your classroom a positive, safe space for students is one of the best ways to be a happy teacher. Behavior problems go away and you and your students can really enjoy being with each other. It may seem a little tricky, because every class has such a unique dynamic of different students with their own needs, expectations, and personalities. Here are a few tried and true ways to create good vibes in Spanish class that have worked for me.
4. Observe fellow teachers.
I know it seems like you don’t have time to get into another teacher’s classroom to observe. But make time. It can be as simple as dropping in for 5 minutes to observe how Mrs. A starts her class or visiting for 10 minutes to observe how Mr. B ends class. This is one of the best ways to learn new ideas and reinforce what you’re already doing right (or what you want to change) in your own classroom. Oh, and don’t just observe the other foreign language teachers or your teacher friends. Get in a variety of classrooms.
5. Get more involved in extracurriculars.
Taking on a club, coaching, or volunteer position at your school can be such a great way to interact with students in a different way, outside of the classroom. Spanish club always needs a sponsor, right? Or think about starting up a Spanish Honor Society. If you don’t have the time or opportunity to do something quite so formal, consider attending more school events like student concerts, performances, athletic events, family evenings, school dances, etc.
6. Play more games in class.
Making my classroom a fun and engaged learning environment is a sure way to make me a happy teacher. So bring on the games! Plus, pedagogically, games can be an amazing way to provide comprehensible input in a way that really engages students. I use modified versions of classic games like Guess Who, Scattergories, and Taboo in Spanish. Or conversation Jenga is always fun. Maybe you get your students outside and play around with sidewalk chalk, prompting them to show their language skills in a way that doesn’t require boring paper and pencil. And there are always so many different ways you can play guessing games with Spanish vocabulary, ranging from Pictionary to learning stations to Scoot.
7. Collaborate more with other Spanish teachers.
You have great ideas to share. They have great ideas to share. Why not work together to learn and grow? Option 1: Attend your local conferences and workshops and get to know people. These tips for getting the most out of a workshop might help! Option 2: Connect with other teachers online. Not sure where to start? This step by step guide to how to get started collaborating with Spanish teachers on social media might help.
8. Get student feedback and change accordingly.
As teachers we must monitor and adjust! When we are responsive to our students’ needs, interests, and abilities, students are better able to succeed and class is more fun. That’s the perfect combo for a happy teacher if I’ve ever heard it. I am a data nerd myself, so always want to know more about where my students are at. I love Holly’s discussion of how she uses surveys in her secondary Spanish classes if you’re looking to start using these.
9. Eat lunch, please! And while you’re at it, go to the bathroom.
Enough said! Take care of yourselves, teachers.
We are in one of the most important professions out there, and deserve to be HAPPY! Thank you for all you do and have a great year!