My first reflection of iFLT focused on observations people made during debriefs of my learning lab. This second reflection is to focus on the overall “feeling” of this conference, and is a message that I have been wanting to write for quite some time.
Mark Mallaney and I sat together on Wednesday evening and talked about the debriefs of our labs. A reoccurring comment that seems to always surface, sometimes in a group, and sometimes during one on one chats with people is, “you’re just such a natural” or “it just must come so easy to you”. This is SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO FAR FROM THE TRUTH. Obviously, nobody that ever says this means to be offensive, and probably quite the opposite. They probably think they are being quite complimentary, however, it is one of the most untrue, and frustrating comments we hear after labs or classroom observations.
This (what you see) took YEARS and years of work. Where I am now in my teaching career and my CI journey is so incredibly different to where I was three years ago and lightyears ahead of where I was when I began on this adventure 8 years ago!!! Mark recalled Jenny Wetzig and I sitting with him and presenting him with pages and PAGES of scripting out our lessons and our EVERY word trying to grasp what the HECK this whole comprehensible input thing was during our student teaching.
I used to cry and cry at night and feel totally useless reflecting on my day, as my students were disengaged, heads on their desks, phones in their hands, rolling their eyes at my every request, desperately trying to motivate and move them. I would call Diana Noonan and tell her that I thought I was totally incapable. Diana would tell me to shape up, she’d buy me a glass of wine, and say over and over that it “takes work” and to be patient with myself.
This takes work. This takes time. I am a BABY…. The other learning lab teachers at iFLT, are some of my greatest mentors. People I admire and look up to SO MUCH! They are so inspiring. We are ALL learning and growing, continually. The coaches and presenters who blow your minds, are ALL who they are today because of years and YEARS of hard work. What I love about iFLT is that it values teachers for WHO they are.
- You don’t need to have my energy and style of enthusiasm to engage your students.
- You don’t need to have Justin’s charisma and BIG BOLD MOVES to entrance your kiddos.
- You don’t need to have Paul Kirschling’s enchanting eyes and soothing voice to captivate your students and make them feel peaceful, loved and accepted in your space.
- You don’t have to have Grant Boulanger’s laid back attitude and cool ponytail to foster the same beautiful relationships he does.
- You don’t have to have Sabrina Janczak’s beautiful French accent and loving smile to make every student feel safe and willing to take risks in your classroom.
- You don’t have to be Mark Mallaney and completely “wing it” with your lesson plans to learn to create flexibility within them and allow students to drive the authentic conversations in your room.
What you CAN do is take pieces of what you love about each of our teaching styles and “moves” and make them your OWN. Know yourself. Be AUTHENTIC with your kiddos. THAT is what they need. They need to see you as your genuine self. Your focus should be first and foremost, knowing yourself, then building relationships with your students as your authentic self seeing and valuing their authentic selves. Once you have those relationships built, once you have the rapport with them, then your focus can be on delivering highly compelling, comprehensible input!
Here are some of my favorite tweets which really support this idea that iFLT is a conference that values teachers for their authentic, varied, AWESOME selves!
One of the most important things I say during any presentation I give is that you don’t have to be ME to incorporate these strategies, tips, tools, or ideas into your teaching. You don’t have to be anyone but you. I hope that you all feel empowered, excited and appreciated going into this school year! I hope that your classrooms are filled with love, respect and JOY. I hope that you learn to fully love yourself and have GRACE as you continue on this crazy journey that is CI. YOU are enough!
I am so lucky to be on the same journey with all of you!
Until next time,
HAPPY TEACHING! and HAPPY REFLECTING!
La Maestra LOCA