Friday, January 15, 2016

How Can I Stay Involved?

Maybe you're like me.

Your life is changing directions very quickly.  
You're a young wife and teacher.  You are learning new things in the classroom and you love pouring your energy into getting better and trying new things.
You're looking for your first house and you search online for something that could be part of your future.
And BAM.  One day you find out your pregnant.  And your life priorities and energy and five year plan sorta kinda goes down the you knew them, anyway.  Perhaps you go back to work after having your baby.  Or perhaps, like me, that wasn't a sustainable way to live for your family.  So, for now, you are no longer the young wife and teacher who loves to learn new strategies for formative assessments and search for inventive new apps.  Maybe you are now the young wife and mother who goes to baby music classes and says "please don't play with the trashcan/outlets/cough syrup/permanent markers" a lot lately.

Maybe, like me, you still feel like that young teacher.  You still have a heart for teaching and learning and traveling and languages and students.  You're not ready to be DONE but you are choosing something different (and better, for you) for now.  You've been wondering things like How can I keep using and improving my target language? How can I keep a foot in the door in my local school corporation?  How can I keep connected with students I've invested in?  How can I stay involved?

I've been there.  Actually, I'm still wandering around there a little bit.  But, here are five ways I have found to stay connected to Spanish teaching, even while staying at home with my baby.

1. Social Media:  While teaching I created a "teacher account" on Twitter and Instagram.  Even now, I re-tweet articles I have found about traveling, jokes in Spanish or resources for students.  Sometimes I post pictures of my daughter or things I'm doing with Spanish captions to engage students in reading a bit...and often times they will comment me or message me, which keeps those lines of communication open, safely and professionally.  Plus, I participate in Twitter chats where I'm still interacting with teachers and administrators in this area and learning what is going on in their classrooms.

2. Group Tutoring Classes:  I had heard people say before that companies might hire a tutor for their employees to learn Spanish, but I actually had better success within the church.  A local church and organization sends missionaries to the Dominican Republic and they were looking for a teacher to help them learn what they need before going on short term and long term trips.  One night a week, 1-2 hours at a time, and ADULT LEARNERS who are very motivated.  Hello, dream job.

3. International Travel:  I had planned and enrolled students in both my Peru and Spain trips before deciding to stay at home.  So, I kept my word.  Education First (EF) has been amazing at helping me prepare for meetings, communicate with parents and make a near flawless transition.  One meeting a month, a few emails in between, and a bit of organization.  EF does not require you to be a teacher to lead these trips, so if there isn't a program in your area...consider heading it up. I get to promote my tours in the schools, meet new students and travel. to. other. countries.  So.

4. Individual Student Tutoring:  I sent an email to all of my teacher/friends in the Spanish department at two middle schools and the high school, letting them know they could pass my information on to students and parents who needed additional tutoring.  I meet one night a week for an hour at Starbucks and help the student re-learn what they missed.  It's ideal for me (additional income & practice), the teacher (ain't nobody got time for that), and the student (additional reinforcement).

5. College Supervising Teacher:  The Christian college in my area has a strong education program and sends many prospective teachers into the public schools to complete their student teaching.  I get to observe them 5 times throughout the semester, evaluate them, mentor them and then eventually recommend them to pass student teaching if I feel they have earned that. It's entirely on my own schedule and allows me to not only know what is going on in the area public schools, but also keep up to date with what is expected of prospective teachers.

I didn't include the reading, ESL volunteering, conference attending and other ways I have enjoyed practicing Spanish and learning how to improve my teaching.  Obviously, you find options that work best for your family and passions.  I have loved my decision to step back from full time and even part time teaching "officially" and spend this time learning and growing "unofficially" as I soak up every minute possible with my precious daughter.

If you're like me, maybe you can find ways like this that you didn't know existed and enjoy some of your favorite aspects of classroom teaching...without the actual classroom, for now. 

What ways have you stayed involved in your temporary, or long-term, absence from classroom teaching?

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