I know you’re here to share knowledge of Comprehensibly Enriched Instruction but let me share about myself as well. I have been teaching for over a decade in the same public school district. I’ve taught beginning Spanish at every level K-12, but my experience is greatest in the elementary, specifically fourth and fifth grades. When I began teaching I clung tightly to my textbook. Maybe you did too? I did not get my teaching license through my undergraduate studies, so my first year was really spent trying to figure out how to manage a classroom. I needed that book, and honestly believed my students did as well. I did a lot of reflecting and modifying my methods as I went along and got more comfortable in my management style. The one thing that stayed constant through my first 7 years was my commitment to my textbook. With a few college level exceptions, all my experiences as a language student taught me that my books were the key to language. I never doubted that textbooks were the right choice for my students. Down to the core of my teaching soul, I believed that the publisher must have employed writers that knew far more about language acquisition than I ever would. It was a surprisingly strong belief… Until it didn’t make sense anymore, which was an earth shattering moment for me.
After the better part of a decade teaching, I still loved my students and I loved my assigned schools. But, no matter how I changed the way I taught my textbook, I just couldn’t love what I was doing anymore. I’m just not the type of teacher that can do the exact same thing every single year, regardless of how my students live, act or learn. Ultimately, teaching the same chapters every year felt wrong no matter how I taught them. I was stagnated, and worst of all, my kids could tell how bored I was. I decided it must be Spanish that I was tired of, so I decided to get my Master of Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Multicultural Studies. It was amazing how different the methods in my graduate classes were from what had been shown to me in my language classes. These classes were all “Every student can succeed” and we agreed that bell curve grades were a pathetic excuse for justifying improper teaching methods. We dealt with topics like critical pedagogy, and teaching with a focus on social justice. I was inspired, and it was so clear that my classroom would be a better place if I balanced the language the students needed for the next level of study with the language they wanted to learn. Every day I wondered why these ideas don’t, and, as was implied, shouldn’t apply in my classroom too. I felt set on fire for the first time in years. Surely, someone else agreed with me, I just had to figure out who that was.
It was about that time that I was handed a copy of The Big CI Book. I have still only tried a handful of the ideas in that book, but it inspires me every day. It was the first quality tool that I had on how to change my language classes from something that bored me to something that inspired me. The next was Ci-Liftoff, their bite-sized books made ideas that intimidated me (like OWI) seem more feasible. (Side note: I love OWIs now!) Over the summer I made the brilliant decision to purchase The Natural Approach to the Year (NATTY) which is a perfect complement to The Big CI Book. Moreover, NATTY completely changed the way I view and implement classroom management. I’m not perfect yet, but after a summer of reading, I’m a much more efficient teacher than I was before. My biggest take-away was how micro-managing my classroom the way I did was disenfranchising my students. I could never have guessed how powerful a student would feel if I handed them a responsibility. I am constantly seeing ways for my students to improve their role in class, in ways that streamline our procedures. I am doing less work outside of the school day and my students are doing more than ever before. My fluent speakers are writing for their peers, my learners are showing off their mastery by taking over set routines such as calendar reviews, and I am back to loving everything about my career.
I still have a lot to learn about these techniques, and there are still plenty more books in my to-be-read pile about teaching methods. But, I also have seen how powerful these changes have been in my classroom. I want to surround myself with people who have, or want to have, the same changes in their rooms. I want to build a community of teachers and pre-service teachers focused on enriching their classrooms with comprehensibility. I would love to see us visiting each other’s classrooms, sharing ideas, and bringing quality trainers to our valley. I am so hopeful that one day I will listen to your story, the way you’ve listened to mine, and that we will be able to improve out classrooms together.