As much as I love my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, “Quick and Easy” is not exactly how I would have titled it. But this year, I’ve discovered some super tasty Indian simmer sauces at the grocery store. Whoa. Guess what? My family loves them. They gobble up chicken in simmer sauces from a jar as much as or more than the recipes that take me an hour and a half to accomplish.
If there’s one transition, strategy, philosophy, whatever you want to call it, that is improving my teaching and my overall well-being this year, it’s this: let your network do (some of) the work for you.
Allison has blogged and tweeted about this many times, and as a mom of two very young guys and a teacher with a full-time load, she knows what she’s talking about. However, maybe there’s something about my personality (control freak much?), I don’t know, I still have habitually put in way too much work and don’t sleep enough because I feel like I have to do everything. Not just in teaching. And not just because I think I can do it better than others. I don’t even re-use my own stuff. I’ve continually recreated stuff, year after year, because I… I do not know why.
I’m changing (still!), and it’s a thousand breaths of fresh air.
For one thing, I’m finally following Thomas’s advice to stop sacrificing the good on the altar of the perfect.
For another thing, I went back to my own textbookless curriculum planning model and I planned out the whole semester, including weekly assignments. The syllabus says things like “Writing: 3 things someone sees” and “Listening practice.” I didn’t know what that listening practice would be at the time, but I knew I’d find something. And now, as I go to post those assignments weekly on Edmodo, when I find something that’s a good-enough listening source, I do know there’s something better out there. But I refuse to put in the time to find it. And this has been a good, good thing for me.
For another thing, I decided to regularly use other people’s stuff whenever it fit. Even partially fit.
I’m using TPRS novels again this semester, including starting off my middle-grades class (ages 9-12) with Craig Klein Dexemple’s El ratón Pablito. Before launching into Craig’s stories about Pablito, I thought I’d start off our first day with a one-hour intro to the Spanish tooth “fairy,” Ratoncito Pérez. “Ah,” I thought, “I’m sure I bookmarked stuff about that from Bethanie.” And yes, I had.
“Ah,” I thought again, “I bet someone has put out something for this on Teachers Pay Teachers.” And yes, they had, and it happened to be my amiga Julie at Mundo de Pepita.
Here’s how I took others’ simmer sauce, added my own spices, and made a lesson we all enjoyed exploring:
- I read through Bethanie’s materials, which were mostly too hard for my learners, but which led me to the Veinte mundos version of the original story. It was simple for me to use this resource as a foundation for a novice mid version to use with my students. We started class with the real story.
- I bought Julie’s minibook ($5.50). Now that we had the background on el ratoncito, my learners and I enjoyed Javi’s story, especially re-enacting with the stick puppets.
- I only see my students 60 minutes a week and then send them home with a set of assignments to explore until we meet again. Work again with the story and do a comprehension check? Super easy – just give either/or answers for that very story we’d done in class.
The lesson went very well, and I got more sleep the night before class than I think I did any Thursday night the previous two semesters.
Last week in my secondary-level class, we were on the Fiesta fatal chapter involving the market, which includes a lot of left/right, and I remembered the market unit I’d created with a couple of colleagues as part of Participate Learning‘s flipped-model, culture-heavy PBLL Spanish 1 course. (That course, by the way, is now an Open Educational Resource. There’s at least a full year of free material there – that’s some serious simmer sauce.) My lesson for last week, along with several of the at-home assignments, practically wrote itself. Check.
Not sure where to find help with your simmer sauce and wary of the rabbit hole that is Pinterest? Start with this authentic resources spreadsheet of activities created by teachers. There’s a lot of Spanish, some French too, and a bit of German and Japanese. It’s ready to help you, and it’s ready for you to add something to the sauce.
Unlike cooking, the more chefs in my language teaching kitchen, the better. That recipe makes for a faster and effective simmer sauce. And a healthier, happier, better teacher.