Saturday, November 12, 2016


November 11 is Martinstag (St. Martin's Day) in German-speaking countries.  It's a holiday where children make paper lanterns and parade through the streets in the evening singing traditional songs.  This was a long, tiring week at my school, so by Friday we were ready for a little culture, singing, and fun.  

In German 4 I showed this video from WDR to give students some background on the story of St. Martin.

For beginning levels, there is a good description of St. Martin's Day in English at

There are also handouts from Illustratoren für Flüchtlinge that have great picture vocabulary and some of the words to the songs.

There is a good matching activity for the vocabulary at

We watched and sang "Ich geh' mit meiner Laterne"

and "Sankt Martin Ritt durch Schnee und Wind."

There's also a longer text in German (with audio) from Deutsche Welle, but I haven't tried that yet with German 4.  

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Now is the November of our Discontent

I don't know what it is about late October and early November, but it seems to be the time of year when we all hit The Wall.

This foldable that I did Monday with German 1 pretty much sums it up for me:


Sigh.  It's a great foldable that I designed last year.  But somehow when I copied it this year, I didn't check to make sure the inside would be right side up before I made 70 copies.  Oh well, I guess it was an opportunity to model flexibility and a growth mindset for my students.

November is when the days are getting shorter and the concepts are getting harder.  Students who haven't mastered the material from the beginning of the year are really struggling now with new concepts that ask them to use those previously learned skills.  

Students who have decided to drop the class at the semester have pretty much given up: a student on Wednesday asked me if she could have a pass to go to the library instead of staying in class because "I really don't like this class."  I reminded myself not to take things teenagers say personally and told her no.

I get frustrated by the disconnect between the leadership making decisions and the teachers in the classrooms dealing with the day-to-day challenges.  Often it feels like I am at the bottom of a deep well, buried in grading, lesson plans, and forms to fill out, shouting up about what I need to the people who can provide it but who are too far away to hear what I'm saying.   

I believe that public schools are neither the cure for nor the cause of all the problems in our country.  They are more like a mirror, reflecting our communities back to us.  In places where communities are healthy, the public schools are doing well.  In communities that are struggling, the public schools are too.

Right now there's a high level of discontent in our country, so I guess it's not a surprise that I feel that at my school too.  Our leaders aren't able to find ways to disagree and discuss without disrespect and vitriol.  Is it any surprise then that teenagers are finding that hard too?

In short, it's November.

So, what do I do about it?

At least twice a week, I think about becoming an engineer.

But the rest of the time, I remember that I do view teaching as a part of my vocation, my calling.


To the best of my ability, I keep planning and delivering interesting and engaging lessons, like these foldables for German 1 about question words, so that students will focus on the excitement of learning a new language rather than the issues that divide us (or how to leave my classroom).

and guided notes for months and seasons:

I drink a lot of tea.  My instinct is also to eat a lot of chocolate, but my goal this year is to keep eating healthy food - lots of fruits, veggies, and Greek yogurt.  So far I'm doing pretty well at this.

I remind myself that most students enjoy my class.  Some even tweet to me from college.

I try to pray the Liturgy of the Hours on my lunch break (when I'm not watching a required video about teen suicide prevention).  

I exercise every day and practice yoga on Saturdays, even when I'm tired or sore or just want to drink tea and eat chocolate.

I keep calling out, respectfully and through the proper chain of command, from the bottom of the well, even when the response (if I get one) is that what I'm asking for isn't possible or isn't really what I need.

In short, I keep on keeping on...