Fearfully and wonderfully made

TLDR: Using other people’s ideas is great….so long as you remember to be yourself!

 

There are few things I love more than birthdays. For me they involve waking up to Pillsbury

IMG-3252

My darling sister got me a cake that honored my favorite movie of all!! Can you guess in the comments?

cinnamon rolls (which I now have to make myself. A HUGE downside of not living with mom and dad anymore), big family get-togethers, and singing that is in reality probably more like screaming. But this year was a big one for me, and for the first time in my life I did NOT want it to be my birthday. I was going to be 30, which in my 29-year-old mind meant being old, outdated, and worthless. But no matter how hard I tried to avoid my birthday, it came just the same. And what I most dreaded, all that fear and anxiety, turned out to be all for not. Turning 30 was the best thing that ever happened to me! I LOVE being 30!!! My new mantra: “I’m an adult”. It is such an empowering mindset for me!

 

Even though I had been an adult for a number of years, I never felt like I had “grown up”. When my students would say they needed an adult, I would look around for someone more adult-ier than me, when asked at family gatherings to separate kids and adults I would walk towards the kids side before realizing I was no longer a kid…I felt trapped between being a kid and being an adult. But turning 30 totally changed all that. Instead of trying to fit myself into the mold of who I thought I should be (or who others thought I should be), I finally felt empowered to embrace who I was and to be me – to “grow up”, stand up for myself, and take care of myself because I was an adult! That by no means should suggest I act like a “grown up”. I still go outside and spin in circles during the first snowfall, or wait with anticipation for the the next Disney movie to be released (or ugly cry during Emma Watson’s rendition of “Belle”). But I felt like I finally could grasp who I was as a person without trying to fit in a mold. Sounds silly I know, but for a people-pleaser like me, who would leap through hoops to fit in the mold I thought people had for me, feeling empowered to be ME was a BIG deal.

My professional life changed 2 years ago after attending Jim Tripp‘s fantastic session at Comprehensible Iowa about using Comprehensible Input in the world language classroom. I finally felt like I had found a way to reach my students in ways that using the textbook wouldn’t and couldn’t do. I spent countless hours falling down the rabbit hole of blogs, books and

IMG-0449

Me neglecting my dogs to watch another Tina Hargaden video

videos of teachers who do amazing things in their classes in an effort to add to my teacher toolbox. But, then I took what I saw others doing and tried to do exactly that in my classroom. I tried to fit into their mold and into their shoes. Instead of finding the success and happiness I saw from the authors, I constantly seemed to hit a wall of frustration. I felt like I was a bad teacher, that perhaps I had made a mistake in job choices. I felt like I had found what was best for my students but was not able to teach them with this method and felt so deflated, unhappy, and miserable.

 

But then I turned 30. I realized I can’t spend my life being someone else – I can only be me. I realized those teaching tools I had been collecting didn’t have a “one size fits all” tag – I had to take them and use them with my own style and my own flare. I had to take them and change them in a way that would work for me, in my classes, for my students. My goal for my students is for them to see success and grow both in language acquisition and in being conscientious of the world around them (shout out to Señor Wooly‘s keynote speech at IWLA for solidifying this goal!).  What I didn’t fully understand was how what my students needed most to meet this goal was for me to be ME, then they needed me to take the time to get to know them and who they were, so then I could meet them where they were to guide them toward success. I had to stop trying to be everyone else and instead take the tools and use them with my own flair.

This was literally drilled into my head when I was in my Krav Maga class last night. We were sparring, and we had a new guy in class that day. As he was watching us practice on each other, the instructor made the comment “I love how everyone moves differently because it really keeps all of you on your toes”. It was like a lightbulb moment went off in my head (right before I got kicked in the head). We all had the same teacher, we all learned the same techniques, but we all executed that technique differently and with our own flair! WHY ON EARTH WAS I NOT DOING THIS SAME THING IN MY CLASSROOM!!??? I can’t be someone else, but I can take what I learned and use it with my own flair!

Saturday I left the Iowa World Language Association’s 2018 conference and I now feel more on fire for teaching than ever before. I have added so many tools and practices to my teacher toolbox and have so many ideas of ways I can work with my students to help them be find success. And as I take those ideas and move forward with them, it is freeing to know that I don’t have to implement those ideas in the exact same way the presenters do. I could never radiate Bryce Hedstrom‘s poise and calm, but I can take the time to

IMG-3874

Guys – Bryce was RIGHT THERE

radiate love and care for my students through the use of his passwords and empowering students to be readers. I could never imagine developing units that encompass Project Based Learning like Laura Sexton, but I can little bit by little bit help my students be empowered to harness language to make it their own as they strive towards biliteracy. I loved watching María Surma and Allison Weinhold‘s energy as it reminded me of me when I teach, and I love how we are all energetic and happy and have different ways of showing it when we teach.

 

This blog will be a release for me as I try to collect my thoughts and reflect on the methods I use in my classroom and a reflection on what worked, why it worked, and if I would use it again. Perhaps someone will find this blog and find it useful, perhaps not. But my hope is whoever finds this remembers they have been fearfully and wonderfully made, placed with purpose, and that they SHOULD never be anyone but themselves.

IMG-3419