January 27, 2017
So the last few weeks have been insane and a bit stressful, as evidenced by my lack of activity. Today is the last day of the semester and while my last few classes take their Midterms, I have decided to reflect on what has worked so far and what hasn’t.
I started out the year hopeful that this new method of teaching for me, Project-Based Learning (PBL), would be an engaging new way to teach my Spanish 2s. It started out okay, and I was thankful that my administration–as well as my students and their parents–were on board for a little experiment. It started to go okay, and while there were some concerns and tweaks that I made based on feedback I received, things slowly started to unravel.
Constructive criticism that I received included things like “there’s not enough direct instruction”, “we need more pronunciation practice” and “is it possible to slow down a bit? I’m not sure I have enough time to process everything that we’re learning”. That last one really made me think. And make some more tweaks.
By the second chapter, I thought I had the hang of it and we were finding a good groove. However, the parent emails continued expressing concern about how their child “feels like they’re not learning as much as they should”. By the end of that second chapter, I had to come to the realization that this was just not working out.
I had given it a valiant effort and it didn’t work. I got particularly frustrated after a meeting with a parent, their student and both administrators. The parent was concerned about her daughter’s progress because of the methods we started the year off with. I was back to my “regular” method of teaching that I had used before, but it still wasn’t “good enough”. The student was getting a B+ in the class.
Fortunately, my administrators backed me up and supported me. “I like that you tried something new. Yes, it didn’t work out, but at least you tried,” my principal told me after the meeting. That made me feel better, but it’s still awkward between the student and I.
So here we are back at the beginning again. Sort of. Monday starts a new semester–and the way I see it–a fresh new start. Time to show these kids what I am truly capable of with my teaching methods. If I start them out strong this semester, we can finish strong together at the end of the year.
I have still not given up hope on using PBL. I would like to continue thinking of new ways to incorporate this technology that my students have at hand. March brings the MACUL conference to my area, and one of my pedagogical mentors, Matt Miller (of Ditch That Textbook) is scheduled to be a speaker. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. Maybe he has some more ideas that can get me inspired to continue moving forward. I refuse to simply give up. In the words of Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”