After returning from iFLT18 this year, I noticed a different post-conference feeling. When I first began my CI journey eight years ago, I remember leaving big conferences with a full and exhausted brain. There was so much information and so many amazing ideas, I felt like I was walking around in a stupor. What should my take-aways be? What's most important? Where do I begin?!?! It was critical for me to remember to start small: implement one or two specific ideas into my lessons. Every journey begins with a single step, right? At the same time, the big ideas presented at these conferences helped me to develop my philosophy and shift my approach to my teaching. I knew what I wanted to do, and why I wanted to do it. Nonetheless, I was still overwhelmed.
Now I feel like I'm at a point where I walk away from days upon days of sessions and workshops energized. Seeing teachers in action allowed me to reflect on my own practice. And yes, I certainly had the doubt that Megan Hayes mentions in her post-iFLT blog post.
But when I flip the post-conference-thinking coin, I find excitement the other side. Apprenticing under the amazing Paul Kirschling during adult French beginner language lab was one of the most powerful experiences of my career. I received direct feedback on my teaching from a seasoned CI French teacher. (How often does THAT happen?) My co-apprentice teacher, Blair Richards, wrote up her reflections on her blog.
I have some concrete changes I would like to make in my classroom when the students return. Last year was a particularly challenging year for me, so I'm excited to feel optimism and enthusiasm about teaching filling my soul. The pre-school adrenaline has begun to pump through my veins. (But don't worry, I have PLENTY of summer left to enjoy, including celebrating my 40th birthday.)
I hope that all of you who attended iFLT this year (thank you Teri and Carol!) can find that excitement in all of that post-conference "overwhelmedness." For those of you who were not able to attend, it's a unique and powerful conferences and I hope you will have the chance one day soon. (And New Englanders/Northeasterners who are unable travel thousands of miles, there's a wonderful opportunity right around the corner at Express Fluency's summer teacher training in Vermont. I'll be there this year, dragging Movie Talk with me! You'll also be able to see Annabelle Allen and Justin Slocum-Bailey in action (two amazing teachers whom I'm lucky to call dear friends), as well as Martina Bex, Tina Hargaden, and Mike Peto.
In the meantime, may the CI force be with you.
I had the amazing opportunity to apprentice teach beginning French under the tutelage of the incredible Paul Kirschling, and work alongside Blair Richards at iFLT this summer. While I walked away with so many ideas and thoughts, the one that really stuck is the importance of going S-L-O-W-L-Y. For those of you who know me, you probably understand how difficult this is for me. My personality is such that I get super excited and carried away, and, as a result, talk super fast. But it took something as concrete and direct as "STFD" for me to really internalize the idea. (No joke, I literally wrote those letters on my hand during my teaching at iFLT as a reminder.) And some of you may have seen this photo on the Interwebs of the visual I created for my classroom to get me to, well, you know...
When I took a step back and thought about the importance of slow, I thought about my students. My high-flyers can keep up with me and enjoy my "carried-away-ness." However, I risk leaving a lot of students behind when I go too quickly. And what good is it to teach when you're losing kids? I love my work, and I hope that shows in my teaching. But if I get so wrapped up in what I'm actually doing and move too fast (as I am wont to do), in the end, I won't be comprehensible, or successful. And that's a humbling thought.
(PSA-The idea of slow really hit me hard when I was a student in Linda Li's Mandarin class at NTPRS in 2012. Being a student in a language that isn't one that I know was essential to my understanding of slow. If you have never had the experience of being a language student, find a way to do that ASAP. Seriously. It's a game changer.)
In addition to seeing Paul, the master of slow, work his magic at iFLT, I was also able to observe several other teachers at the Express Fluency conference in Vermont this summer who embody slowness: Tina Hargaden, Justin Slocum Bailey (who, incidentally has a blog post on this exact idea), and Elissa Maclean. Check them out, and then come back here in a couple of months. I plan on filming and posting more of my classes this year to hold myself accountable with respect to my speed.
I hope that this gentle reminder to STFD helps you reach all of your students and keep yourself grounded and, in the end, comprehensible.
Allison Litten, the 2019 VFLA TOY, teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This is her twentieth year teaching, and seventeenth at Marion Cross.