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Although it is not the first thing my students will see, my syllabus is the first thing I prep for the new school year. This year I followed the amazing lead of Dustin Williamson and made my class syllabi on Canva. Canva is a poster/publishing/infographic-making program. So I have definitely got the prettiest syllabi this year that I’ve ever had. Check ’em out!
You can download a PDF of my Español 4 Syllabus 2015 here.
You can download a PDF of my Español 3 Syllabus 2015 here.
What’s the deal with making a collection of posters as your syllabus? I know that having a pretty syllabus doesn’t make a Compelling class, but I think handing out a text-filled white page doesn’t do much to hook students into the course.
Which got me thinking about the engagement we strive for in our classes. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a classroom as a student. But looking back at most of my classes, even those I enjoyed or teachers I really liked, there didn’t seem to be much emphasis on engagement. In 7th grade, my math teacher left an indelible mark on my soul, thanks to a couple small and one large incident that I considered bullying and abusive. While he didn’t cross the line legally, to this day I remember the unfair treatment I received, his snap judgement of me, and the tears I shed as I was kicked out of his class. Me! A good kid! It was traumatic–the incident is still clear in my mind to this day. As a student who always struggled with numbers, these scars took quite a while to heal. My 8th grade math teacher was a sweet but strict woman, but I was still reeling from my experiences to fully engage in her class. My freshman algebra teacher, Mr. Lee Harth (God rest his soul), spent most of the class period sitting at his overhead projector at the front of the room, working through problems and formulas with us. But it was obvious to me that Mr. Harth was a good guy. He cared about students. I felt comfortable asking for help. But was the class compelling? No. It was the opposite of that. Sure, he would make up entertaining story problems to illustrate the formulas we used. I liked Mr. Harth. I did not feel engaged or compelled in algebra.
Another teacher, Mr. Jeff Elmer, came along my junior year. He was one of the younger teachers in our building, teaching physics. He was engaging. Our physics class was filled with active participation, goofy videos, and life examples. One of our first lessons had him showing the stability of a brick by balancing it on it’s flat side, long side, and end, standing on it. And falling off of it! We saw how centripetal acceleration worked by spinning ourselves on a turntable. We could SEE the impact of the formulas and concepts we were studying. Often our story problems made fun of him (“Uncle Elmer”) and the author of our textbook (Paul Hewitt) who was a goofy guy that appeared in the ancillary videos for the book. Seriously, who remembers the name of their high school physics textbook author about 25 years later ?! His class was compelling. It was inspiring. Although it was very difficult, I chose to take Physics 2. I did NOT have talent for this class, but Mr. Elmer made it COMPELLING.
I had lots of good experiences in school. I enjoyed learning. I really liked a lot of my teachers, but there were very few teachers throughout my career who went all the way to “compelling” in their instruction. So what makes a course compelling and engaging? For me it was teachers who put themselves out there. Those who weren’t afraid of being silly or goofy in class to forward their goals. They cared more about their students than they did about their image. They would be “uncool” for their kids. They would put effort into making the class connect with students. And they would get to know the people behind the young, sometimes not-so-eager faces in front of them. And that is the best part of CI teaching. As I have attended workshops and conferences, I have been impressed by the language development that students can have in a relatively short period of time. But what is even more impressive is the “Teach to the Eyes”, “We teach students, not curriculum”, PQA-centered instruction that goes such a long way to making our CI activities COMPELLING for our students. I feel blessed to be a part of such a caring, student-centered community.
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