Thursday, March 10, 2016

World Language Week: Coworkers & Administrators

When you are taking on an endeavor to promote awareness of your program,  it helps to have HELP.  Some of you are blessed with entire departments of teachers in your language and possibly multiple other languages;  they should be every bit as passionate about this week as you are!  Delegate, brainstorm, and as soon as this week is over...start dreaming of an even better next year!

However, some of you are a courageous department of one.  You PLC with no one.  You swap resources online with whoever you can reach out to.  Ideas and initiative fall to you alone.

Whichever boat you are in, there are ways of utilizing and equipping those around you to support you.  But, there is a strategy to doing so.

Getting Volunteers:
I have had success getting donations of time, food and materials when I have asked well in advance.  For example, my cultural breakfast always involved TONS of helpers, even outside of our language department.  I suggest choosing carefully and specifically here:  Don't send out a broad email of "help if you can!"  Rather, email (or better yet, visit in person) specific people that you think would be good for a specific job.  Keep it simple, keep it cheap and keep it focused on the STUDENTS that will benefit because of it.  Also:  it helps if you are known for returning the favor later on.

Involving Administration:
Each building is different, and each administrator has their own preferences on how involved they like to be.  However, in my experience it can't hurt to inform and invite.  I sent out handwritten or emailed invites to any activities we were doing throughout the day, including project presentations in class.  If they come, thank them.  Engage them with students so they can see the learning taking place and the value that your program has in the lives of your students.  Take pictures of them interacting and print them to send with a thank you note in a week!

Other Teachers:
Don't assume that because someone teaches Math or Choir, they haven't had international travel experience.  I found out (quite to my surprise!) that nearly 20 teachers in my building had studied abroad, gone on missions trips, taken vacations or studied a foreign language in another country.  They had amazing stories of cultural misunderstanding, language bloopers and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that they were eager to share with students.  I compiled them via email and made them into a scavenger hunt of sorts.  Instead, you could video interview them during their preps and play them for your class throughout the week.  Or, you could just orally read off statements about them and have students try to predict who you are describing.  Another idea might be to have a map and paste teacher's pictures close to the country they have traveled to.  The more people you can incorporate the more that students can realize these opportunities are for EVERYONE.  Plus, who doesn't like reliving a crazy story from their youth?! :)

Regardless of how many people you do or do not get involved this year, make sure to go out of your way to thank them for their level of involvement.  I love picture thank-you cards so they can hang on walls and sit on desks for the following year, reminding the recipient of a great memory.  Have a running Google Doc of people who were involved and people you would like to include in the future.  Next year, it will make your planning process easier!  In fact, include all kinds of ideas and comments there so you don't have to start from the beginning all over again next time.

These quick summaries don't even mention the world that is the staff at your school, parent volunteers, area schools, social media and the immense amount of communication that all play important roles as well.  Don't limit yourself.  You might be surprised by the way the right question at the right time can yield a huge reward for you.  Reach out!

Who knows?! You might end up with a nice little video crew like my high school did...see the genius I came into?!  I truly deserve little to no credit for any success of our program.  Take a look-see:

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