Photo credits: Dahiana Castro, Karen Rowan, Jason Tamez.
When I came back from iFLT in St. Petersburg, FL, one week ago, I wrote about how I don't always have a positive relationship with summer. As I lounge in my sweet Airbnb in Pau with a glass of rosé, I happily sit with the realization that this summer is turning out to be pretty amazing. The Agen Workshop wrapped up yesterday and while I’m so excited to have a few days of relaxation and hiking, I will readily admit that I’m both exhausted and energized from the past week.
Last year after iFLT in Cincinnati I reflected on my phenomenal apprentice teaching experience. I had the pleasure of working with the calm, cool, and collected Paul Kirschling and the genuine, generous, and gentle Blair Richards. All three of us have extremely different teacher personae but we enhanced each other’s lessons and everyone benefitted. The adult students in our French class noted in the debrief on the final day that they appreciated and enjoyed our three different personalities and what we each brought to the class.
This year I was honored to teach alongside Sabrina Sebban-Janczak. She and I complemented each other with seamless transitions between our lessons, additions to each other’s ideas, strong collaboration, and similar energy and delivery. I gained so much from working with her, from new techniques (Readers’ Theater with simultaneous drawing during a Story Listening-type activity) to reminders of some strategies that I know work but may have let fall to the wayside (student/class jobs of responding to certain words with individual/choral responses). It was extraordinarily reaffirming to hear her reassure me that part of a class I taught that I thought had been a total flop was engaging and rewarding for the students and she considered it a true success. Merci, Sabrina.
I did not (regrettably) attend any of the evening coaching sessions, but one morning I heard about the amazing demos that had happened the night before. The last night, a group of us ended up in the evening coaching room as they were wrapping up. The room was packed, and it was clear that it had been a productive two hours for everyone involved, and the energy was palpable. I have had the opportunity to coach several times this summer and it never ceases to amaze me how beneficial it is for all parties involved: the demo teacher, the “students,” the observers, and the coach. I look forward to more opportunities to help teachers see their strengths and feel positive and empowered.
There are so many people I want to thank for helping to make this such a special experience, but I especially want to extend my appreciation to Sabrina, Karen Rowan, Jason Tamez, Justin Slocum Bailey, Dahiana Castro, Teri Wiechart, Alina Filipescu, and Reed Riggs. And of course, the largest thanks goes to Judith Dubois for organising such a unique and powerful conference in a very special location.
For those of you headed back to school soon, all the best for a strong start to the year. There are some of you who still have some summer left and I send you wishes of relaxation and restoration. If you went to a conference this summer and have anything to share, please comment on this post!
This is the second draft of this post; the CyberMonster ate the first, but maybe my frustration and poor memory yielded a better post. Thanks to Justin Slocum Bailey for showing me the Panda cheese commercials to make me laugh!
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.