Written to the song: Mayores — Becky G

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow”
— Anthony J. D’Angelo

Hamilton, Ontario.

It has officially been one month since I have started teaching. While reflecting on my past month, I have learned so many valuable lessons which has shaped my first month as a language teacher.

  1. Make your students truly understand and appreciate the language that they are learning. Most French teachers put the verb conjugations on the blackboard and expect students to memorize it and move-on. If a teacher takes the time to explain the etymology of a word, the fact that romance languages are connected, and the reason why words change based on gender and number, it will help the students see a purpose in their learning. When students understand the reasons for language rules, it sticks with them and helps them become stronger language learners.
  2. Ask 5 coworkers for 5 pieces of advices, and apply it. Asking for advice is intimidating, especially when you are new to a job. I asked five teachers how they approach five different concepts in the classroom (ex: spelling tests, ipad-use, journalling, group-work, assessment) and they shared with me how they approach these concepts. Understanding their reasoning and listening to their past experiences have helped me to shape my own classroom routine. When you ask, people are always willing to share.
  3. Share how you truly feel, with everyone. This statement applies to life and work. The other day a substitute teacher asked me how I was feeling, and I honestly replied “overwhelmed”. I explained that I didn’t have enough resources, so I’ve been spending long hours creating worksheets and tests in French. The next morning she came in and brought me a binder of her own resources, offering to coach me through the process. When you share how you feel, the people around you support you — through the good and the bad.
  4. Use attachment language. When educators change their exact language they use in the classroom, they change the overall feeling in the classroom. Using words like “we can do this”, “we are a team”, “we support each other”, encourages students to trust each other and feel like they are a part of something greater.
  5. Good ideas often stem from a bad idea. Everyone has good and bad days. Reflecting on those bad days and badly planned lessons is the only way to grow. When reflecting on what went wrong, you can think of a game plan for how to make your lessons stronger for next time.
  6. Don’t be afraid to use a dictionary in-front of your class. Showing your vulnerabilities to your students shows that you are a real human being, and also shows that it is okay to use a dictionary. The other day I spelled the word connexion “connection” in French. A handful of students raised their hand and said “madame, isn’t it spelled with a ‘t’?” I looked the word up in the dictionary and there were two spellings of the word — one with an ‘x’ (how I spelled it) and one with a ‘t’ (how the students wanted me to spell it). The verb and noun for “connection” was spelled differently. This allowed my class and I to have a discussion on whether this word was a verb or a noun. Explaining to them that I make mistakes too and it is always okay to double check your work.
  7. Share your ideas! As a new teacher, at times, I am reluctant to share my ideas and work with experienced teachers as I feel like they may not be “good enough”. I shared a few of my ideas with other teachers and received positive responses and constructive feedback. The math test that I created was even distributed to every grade 4 and grade 5 class at the school!
  8. Actively celebrate differences. We are always taught to accept differences, but often forget to celebrate them. In my class, we have a daily “Math Talk”, where I put up a problem on the board and the students have two minutes to think of how they would solve the problem. After two minutes, we share our solutions and celebrate them. Last week I put the question “595–199” on the board, and my class came up with nine different ways to solve the problem.
  9. Offer extra help without making it embarrassing. I used to be the kid that would have a “see me for extra help” note on all of my math tests, and I hated it and felt embarrassed. In my class, there’s a safe space for kids that need extra support. It’s the cool red table in the back with comfy chairs where I work with them one-on-one and re-teach parts of the lesson, while the other students are completing their work. I even created secret handshakes with those kids to make them feel extra special. Making extra-help fun and not embarrassing is the key to trust and success.
  10. Have fun and relax. It is so easy to come home and spend the night marking or planning, but self-care and doing something other than teaching is so important. Cook, do yoga, see your friends. Life is good.
This time last year ❤