ACTFL Reflections and Takeaways

This past weekend was amazing! I learned so much, connected with so many, and I recognize that ALL of it was a privilege that so many don’t have. It was something I grappled with all weekend long. As someone who paid for EVERYTHING out of pocket, I know for a fact that if I didn’t have a full time second job, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the conference. I spent the weekend meeting, hugging, and thanking Familia Loca members for helping me get there. It is SO expensive when you add up the plane, the accommodations, the cost of the conference itself, food and all the extra expenses that come with travel. So, if you’re at a school that doesn’t have the PD money to send you to big conferences like this one, know that you’re not alone.  I hope some of these takeaways from some of the sessions I went to will benefit you!

I’ll start by sharing BIG HUGE thank youuuuu  to everyone who showed up at 8 am on Saturday to see Bertha Delgadillo and I present on Infusing JOY into your classroom. There was standing room only by 7:45 and our hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude! One of my favorite moments was guiding everyone in a TPR/Gesture activity to the song Volar by Alvaro Soler. Here’s a video of that. Señorita Ashley Racicot created this amazing notes page while attending. You can find tons more of her stunning notes pages on her twitter account!  

If you’re intrigued and want to know MORE about how to use Music to infuse JOY in your classes, you can check out our course! Bertha and I put it together when we realized that what we want to share on music will NEVER fit into a one hour session!

I went to so many great sessions! Did you know that ACTFL reviews sessions blind? They don’t look at the names when reading through proposals. I love this! ACTFL is in Chicago next year, so if that is near you and you think you can get your school to support your attendance, DEFINITELY submit a proposal!!! 

I’ll start with the LAST session I attended. I went to Abelardo Almazán-Vázquez’s session on Sunday. It was all in Spanish (first time attending a session in a language other than English for me) and he shared reflections and testimonies on using inclusive language in the Spanish classroom. Ever since attending Françoise Thenoux’s workshop on inclusive language a couple of years ago, I’ve been extra intentional about this in my classroom. 

Here is a video he shared:

His session was powerful and I think the most important thing I took away came from the very end. He said that this work is not just important. It isn’t just important to create classroom spaces where all identities are honored, celebrated and valued. It is URGENT. This work is URGENT. After leaving his session I learned about the atrocities that happened at Club Q and the five beautiful lives that were taken. Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh, Rest in Power, went to work or went out to dance and never got to go home. This work is URGENT. Kids need to see people who look like them and DON’T look like them in our classes. 

I truly believe that sharing texts, images, articles and stories about and FROM voices of a variety of gender and racial  identities in our classroom (especially of communities that have been historically marginalized)  is one of the only ways MANY students will learn to accept, celebrate and empathize with people of different identities and appreciate the differences that make this world beautiful. I am grateful to have listened to and learned from Abelardo! Thank you for doing this URGENT work! I learn a lot about inclusive practices in the classroom on Instagram from Ace Schwarz of teaching outside the binary, and Françoise Thenoux the woke Spanish teacher, and I encourage you to follow them and support the work they’re doing. 

Profe Morgan Bennett shared about using social media in the classroom. She finds compelling, current content on Instagram and TikTok and shares it with her students. Engagement is naturally high because this is how our kids consume content regularly now, and she crafts questions to recycle high frequency vocabulary and stay comprehensible in the Target Language. She also uses social media to expose students to various identities and communities of the people of her target language culture. One of the things she is very intentional about (which I love) is stating upfront for her students how the people in the videos identify themselves so there are no assumptions made. If she is unable to find the person’s identity in the video she uses they/them pronouns. You can connect with Profe Bennett on Instagram. 

Michelle Olah and Lisa McHargue had a presentation titled: Use MInimalist Principles and Rediscover Your Joy For Teaching. The impact on my professional AND personal life from that session has already been AMAZING!!! I came home and cleared my closets of 7 TRASH BAGS FULL of clothes. Lisa also said the next time we say “I’m keeping this ‘just in case’” in reference to any classroom resource (digital or physical) ask ourselves these questions: “Can I “easily” replace this item for less than $20 or make it in less than 20 minutes?“ and if you can, then just pitch it! If you haven’t used something in a YEAR, get rid of it! I also opened up my drive while IN the session and went to list view, then sorted by “last time opened by me”. I found files I hadn’t opened since 2013!!!!!!!!! If you’re not signed up for Lisa’s emails, you can click here and get signed up! She’s truly remarkable!

I went to an impactful session on Examining Whiteness and Privilege in the World Language Classroom with Christopher Jahdai Jeffords and Adrienne Brandenburg. I started my journey to examine my texts, practices, and resources in my classroom, and to examine my own privileges and biases 5 years ago when I attended a workshop with Matthew Kincaid of Overcoming Racism. Christopher and Adrienne shared a lot of great questions for teachers to start considering as we examine our curriculum for representation of different racial, and ethnic identities and pushed to think about the ways in which those identities are shared with students. Whose voices are sharing the stories of these historically marginalized communities? A push I have for myself after attending their session is to also examine my texts for diverse body types. If you’re new to the work of examining your own biases and racist tendencies, I encourage you to check out the book “Me and White Supremacy”  by  Layla F. Saad and the accompanying journal. 

To close out my Friday, I went to a session on Self-care with Chiara Monticelli Dabney, 2021 DCPS World Language Teacher of the Year,  who was dynamic, personal, and vulnerable. We sat in a circle and she led us through activities to support SEL learning in our classrooms in easy ways that also benefit us as the teacher. She helped me to realize that some of the things I do on Instagram are causing me more unnecessary stress and anxiety… I worry so much about society’s views on the perfect classroom that 9 times out of ten, when I record a video that will be on my social, I find myself quickly cleaning off tables or boxing up everything on my desk to not appear “messy” or to give the illusion that I have my sh*t together when the reality is I definitely don’t. It will be so much healthier for me to allow my authenticity shine through in THAT way and not just in the words that I share with y’all… All that is to say that moving forward, you’re going to see an even more “real” La Maestra Loca! Grazie, Chiada!!! ????

On Saturday afternoon, I went to a FIRE session with OWL, Darcy Rogers (we have SO much in common) and Chiara who led us in an Italian circle and it reminded me of the power of pushing students to lean into the ambiguity that comes with language acquisition and that taking risks can feel scary but SOOOO rewarding!! One of these days I’m going to attend their bootcamp in the summer!! 

The highlight of my weekend was connecting with all of you. I am so grateful for those of you who came to share your truths with me, to mention what I’ve shared that has been most impactful in your classes, for encouraging me to keep going to with my podcasts, and for being so vulnerable! It was a dream come true to meet more of My Familia Loca PLC members in person. We walked to a Holiday Market and shared mulled wine, and laughed and cried together! I am so lucky to do the work that I do and grateful to share and inspire educators like you. Thank you for supporting me! 

Sending you lots of love and hugs. I hope that if you get a break this week you will commit to several full days off of work. Several days of rest and doing what brings you the most joy! I am so grateful for some days to just focus on playing with my kids! Yesterday I took a three hour nap with Memphis and we played board games all day together. It brought me so much joy and comfort. Isla and I have LOADS of science experiments lined up for this week after she spends Thanksgiving with her mom and on Friday we will be decorating for the holidays all together. 

Here’s to rest, dear teacher, I am so grateful for you!

Annabelle

I got to meet my FRENCH TEACHER the one and only Ben Tinsleyyyy!!! 

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