Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Time and Energy Management

The last two administrators who have come to observe me have commented on the energy that I give to teaching an engaging language class.    I have noticed over the course of my whole career that I have to "gear up" to get ready for my classes.  In recent years, as I've attended a variety of professional development experiences, including a Rassias method class that talked about Rassias' own background in acting that he brought to teaching, I've thought more and more about how important it is that I continue bringing energy, enthusiasm, and playfulness to my classes.  However, it is also essential to practice self-care, as the energy to teach by regularly varying activities and using methods to engage students in actively using language can be exhausting.  Here are some things that I try to do make sure I can continue to maintain the energy needed for teaching:
  • Prioritize:  I have a practice of making a daily list of the six things I'd like to accomplish.  To be honest, it is rare that I get through all six, and I also keep a running list of the other thirty things I need to work on as well.  However, the practice of making that list each day reminds me of what is really important for that particular day.
  • Practice self-compassion:  I often cannot do even my six main priorities each day.  However, I remind myself that it is more important to put the students and adults who are in front of me first each day, rather than focusing on accomplishing everything on my list.  I take a lot of deep breaths and remind myself that I am doing the best I can with the time I have and with everything on my plate.
  • Time for myself:  At least once a day, I forget about all the "to dos," and I do something for myself.  It may be taking a walk with a friend, doing a meditation, practicing yoga, going for a run, or treating myself and my daughter to a manicure.  I have found that putting these events on my calendar ensures that I actually drop everything and do these things for myself.  
  • Family time:  I also prioritize spending time with my family daily, usually over a shared family dinner.   Now that I am done with graduate school, I find that the time I used to study has been taken over with preparing dinners, but I am glad to get back to doing that with my husband.  Cooking is also one of my favorite ways to nurture my family, so I am glad to be back to prioritizing that.  
  • Sleep:  For me, sleep is a necessity, and I seem to need more sleep than most.  With rare exceptions, I am in bed for eight hours a night - even though that means going to bed without finishing my work.  Notice I say that I am in bed for eight hours - even though sometimes I can't sleep.  I used to have terribly insomnia, and one way I got out of that pattern was by forcing myself to stay in bed for those eight hours even if I am not sleeping well.  On the rare occasions that I can't set aside eight hours for sleep, I am sure to get no fewer than six hours.  For me, it makes a huge difference in my health and energy.  
  • Time management:  I am a religious user of an electronic calendar to organize my work time and self-care.  As a matter of fact, the first thing I teach new advisees is how to get their Google calendars to sync with their phones.  In the first month of school I teach them to get their classes to sync with their phones since we have a rotating schedule.  When they make an appointment with me, I have them create the calendar event and share it with me, so that it will appear on both of our phones.  When I have an important task to be done, I block out time on my calendar.  I have found the calendar to be an essential tool for sustaining my life as a teacher.
  • Teaching students self-efficacy and responsibility:   Finally, I remind myself that students don't need me to do everything for them.  They are responsible for their own learning, though I may need to instruct them on how to do that initially.  The more I can teach students how to do things like manage calendars and utilize learning tools, the more they will be empowered, and the less I'll need to spend my energy on things that students can do for themselves. 
What tips do you have for making sure you have the energy to teach?  

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Rassias Method Workshop Experience

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Rassias method class at Belmont Abbey College with Nancy Llewellyn, Jason Slanga, and Carson Thomas.  Here are some of my thoughts after the weekend:

·      It is most useful to learn new skills and then have the opportunity to practice in front of and get feedback from colleagues.  I have too few opportunities to do this, but whenever I do it results in powerful learning.  This was a great reminder to me of how I need to be more intentional about creating these opportunities for myself as a teacher and learner.  It also was an important reminder of how imperative formative feedback is for my students.  The Rassias method drills provide great ways to give non-threatening formative feedback to students during their process of constructing linguistic knowledge. 
·      Observing other teachers is amazing professional development.  The opportunity to see Nancy Llewellyn teach a class to her seminarians was essential for helping me to build my understanding of how these methods could combine into a lesson.  We were given that opportunity to see her teach early on in the workshop before we had been taught many of the methods.  That observation was important for building my own motivation to learn the techniques.  Motivation is essential for all learners, and I need to make sure I am paying attention to that with my own students.
·      Language learning should be fun.  Nancy’s students were clearly having fun during class – at the same time as they were being challenged.  This made the challenge feel non-threatening to them and clearly amplified their learning.  When we were practicing the methods ourselves, we teachers also spent a lot of time laughing together.  The fun we had learning motivated us to be more creative in our linguistic production to keep the fun going, contributing even more to an already powerful learning experience.  I want to recommit myself laughing more with my classes.

Teachers know that it is incumbent on us to model lifelong learning for our students.  Attending this workshop was a great way for me to experience being back in the classroom.  If you ever have the chance to attend yourself, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.  I know they already have dates up for an October workshop, which you can see here.  My recommendation is to start thinking now about what grants you can apply for to get there.  - Parva

Thursday, December 20, 2018


This year has given me lots of opportunities to think about mentors and mentoring.  First, I took a course called Mentoring last spring.  Although I had been asked to mentor fellow teachers many times, I had never really received anything more than a few cursory instructions about how to be a good mentor.  On the other hand, I had received very good mentoring in my transition to teaching from Gaylan DuBose and in my transition to college counseling from Darryl Borges.  I am profoundly grateful for the influence of both of these gentlemen on my life and career.  In that course, I was surprised to learn that there are well-researched, agreed upon practices for mentoring.  Unlike my previous experience with mentoring programs, most experts agree that a mentoring programs should extend over a period of years - not just one school year.  However, I was not surprised to learn that both Gaylan and Darryl had been using many of the agreed upon best practices, whether they were aware of it or not. 

After that intense semester of learning about mentoring both in theory and in practice (since we were assigned undergraduates to mentor), I have had several moments to reflect on mentoring during the second half of this year:  as I received my silver bowl for attending 20 NJCL conventions, as I prepared to graduate from my Master's program this fall, and when Gaylan passed in September.  I couldn't have been more thrilled when the Texas Classical Association began a teaching award in memory of Gaylan or more humbled to be the first recipient.  I hope that I can help to carry on his legacy of mentoring.  Now that I have a bit more time since graduating, I hope to work to help set up mentoring supports and relationships in a variety of ways.  We all need to be asking these questions, among others:

In what ways do each of us as teachers, JCL sponsors, coaches, and classicists need mentoring?  
How can we set up formal and informal supports for each other?
What organizations can have a part in creating mentoring relationships?
How can we support younger teachers and more veteran teachers through each phase of their careers?

To help continue the conversation, I'm pasting my own personal mentoring credo below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about mentoring as well.

Mentoring Philosophy and Credo 
Mentoring is one of the central foci of my life.  Like my teaching philosophy, my mentoring philosophy centers on building relationships.  If I am a good match to support a student or fellow teacher who seeks mentoring, I believe it is incumbent on me to do so even if no formal mentoring relationship exits.  Part of my role as mentor is to serve as a model for others.  I must model a good work ethic and cultural responsiveness;  I must model both giving and receiving critical but respectful feedback.  However, the most important thing for me to model is mutual respect and valuing of each person for who he or she is and for what he or she has to offer the world.  

My philosophy of mentoring is focused on the idea of collaboration.  Mentoring relationships must begin with a discussion of the needs and expectations of each member.  My preference is to move each mentoring relationship towards collaborative co-mentoring as each mentee becomes ready for that phase.  Mentoring relationships exist between two people who both have a great deal to offer, no matter the situation.  The mentoring dyads I have been a part of have taught me a great deal and will continue to enrich my life and work.  Mentoring should not be a one-sided relationship.  If a relationship is built on shared work, learning, and respect, then both parties can benefit fully without issues surrounding power and accountability.   - Parva

Saturday, November 10, 2018

TCA 2018 Presentation: "Ludi Romani: Bringing Ancient History to Life"

Here is a link to a Google Drive folder for Jennie & Lauren's presentation. It includes our slideshow, as well as numerous files covering the three different versions of the game that we've played with our students, in class and at our annual Latin Banquet.

Ludi Romani TCA 2018 Presentation

Jennie and I welcome any questions about this game and its variations. The rules are constantly in flux too, as our students find loopholes that they want to attempt to close or exploit! Lastly, many thanks to Mark Damen for the original inspiration of these iterations of his game.

Friday, November 9, 2018

TCA 2018 Presentation: Opportunities for Inclusion in the Latin Classroom

Here is a link to the digital handout for my 2018 TCA Fall Conference presentation, Opportunities for Inclusion in the Latin Classroom. On it, you'll also find a link to the slideshow from the conference.

I welcome feedback and follow-up questions about any of the topics from that presentation. I would LOVE to know about additional strategies that you and your colleagues are using to make Latin more inclusive!

- Ashley

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Declensions Roundtable

I have just recently taught my Latin IA students about the first three declensions. We are using the textbook Latin is Fun, and it introduces the cases in a piecemeal fashion. My students were doing great with the nominative, accusative, and ablative, but weren't going to be able to do much without learning about genitive stems for nouns, so I decided to go whole-hog with them.

After doing two days of talking about case uses, applying them to some short Latin compositions, and writing the declension chart in our notes, it was time for my students to do some declension practice.

For this "Declensions Roundtable" activity, I made large-font pages with 2 animal words on each page. They were from declensions 1-3, but didn't include neuters (for obvious reasons). I had each kid get out a special pen/pencil/marker color and told them they should write three answers on a page before heading off to find another page. Their answers could either add to the paradigm that had been started or make corrections to previous answers. There were a lot of corrections to be made! I put on some Taylor Swift and monitored as they moved around and declined. I had them turn in the pages once all of the answers were written correctly.

Pretty fun lesson, and a very low-stress way for my sixth graders to get in declension practice.

Here's the list of vocabulary words that we declined.

And here's a short video of my students during the lesson.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Monumenta Funerum

Each year in Latin 3 at the end of October and beginning of November, we do a unit on Roman funerary monuments.  Although it's a bit morbid, the students seem to enjoy thinking about how we memorialize the dead versus how the Romans did it.  They make great connections between Roman customs and the celebrations we have at an Episcopal school such as Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.

I start the unit by using this Powerpoint to introduce the concepts, to get them thinking, and to start looking at some simple Latin epitaphs and talking about the specific vocabulary need to read the next epitaphs we'll look at.  Students really enjoy reading and learning about people they would not hear about otherwise.  Another plus of the unit is that we get to reinforce all of those praenomen abbreviations that we talked about in preparation for our Dies Lustricus celebration last month.

After the Powerpoint, we move on to looking at several tombstones, for which I have created tiered readings. I introduce the first two with a Movietalk for each and then a Dictatio with a simplified version of the Latin, i.e. the first tier.  Here are those materials:

 MovieTalk for Monument I
Dictatio for Monument I

This first monument is a riff off of Pacuvius' epitaph so we take a look at that too.

MovieTalk for Monument II
Dictatio for Monument II

(Many thanks to Bob Patrick and Rachel Ash for sharing the templates I used to create those MovieTalks and Dictationes.)

Students have lots of fun with this unit, and I supplement it with the singing of Parvula Arachne and Arida Ossa which both reinforce vocabulary.  "Ossa" is used in that first monument and "parvula" helps me teach about diminuatives, which is also reinforced by the word "saxolus" also in that first monument.

Following the reading of these epitaphs, students are tasked with creating their own epitaphs in Latin, which I display on the wall in my room.  They create a first draft, and then edit that with peer help.  I then proofread the second draft for them.  Google classroom makes that process pretty easy.  Then, they simply use an appropriate font, large size, and all caps to print out the tombstone.  After cutting it into the shape they want, they add appropriately an spooky black paper backing with glue or double-sided tape.  Assembly takes 10-15 minutes since there is a printer in my classroom for their use.

This unit ties in nicely with the season of Spooktober.  I find it also has many connections to the letters of Cambridge Stage 35.  I'd love to hear about what others do for Halloween in their Latin classes. - Parva