Taking Up the #SMILEgoal Challenge!

Let's go nurture the new students! Naomi's photos
Let’s go nurture the new students!
Naomi’s photos

Sometimes I encounter a post that echoes exactly what I am thinking about. It echoes, but gives my thoughts a clearer form.

This time it was Josette LeBlanc’s brilliant post: “Play Big: The #SMILEgoal Challenge” . She cleverly created an acronym for the word SMILE that embodies a really practical approach to change.

What Josette also did, for me, was to give me a simple explanation for why I have this need to spend part of each summer vacation working on changes for the upcoming school year. It is true that every single school year that ends leaves me with thoughts of things that could be done better, easier or in a more exciting way. But that’s not the only explanation for spending time changing things.

I need to gather energies to start a new year in a challenging teaching situation. And I need to start the new year with a big smile and a feeling of excitement, despite knowing many of the difficulties awaiting, and the awareness that every single year previously unknown difficulties  (of various kinds) magically appear.

So, I should define my changes for this year using the SMILE approach, and the change will give me the SMILE I need!

Invest my time in the right things. (Naomi's Photos)
Invest my time in the right things.
(Naomi’s Photos)

So here’s one of my most dramatic planned changes, presented according to the acronym.

Background: I determined that what upset me most during the past school year was that all my hard work making interesting, varied, colorful, interactive and practical review & homework material for my students was going down the drain (after 3 years of success) because a large number of students stopped using computers at home completely. Entire families rely only on cell phones. It’s a long story but the myriad of tech problems and emotional reactions that arose was overwhelming and dispiriting. These exercises will now become classwork.

Simplify – Focus on vocabulary.

I decided to focus on the amazingly clever flashcard site /app Quizlet. Since deaf and hard of hearing students have a major problem retaining vocabulary when learning a foreign language (in a nutshell, there is no, or little incidental learning from exposure to the language outside the classroom, because they don’t hear it spoken) I am in the process of creating a classroom for every group of students, with words and collocations that appear in the material we will be studying. Quizlet has ready-made games and study modes, I don’t have to prepare them. I just add the study sets I want.

Measure – Quizlet gives data about the students. Not only who is working and who isn’t, but which items are causing difficulties!

Integrate – The students will see these collocations and words in their material in class & on tests. They will see the relevance clearly. It doesn’t take a lot of time for me to add a set so I can fit this into my teaching schedule (less time than what I was doing before!).

Lean in and let it go – I’ll have to adapt using Quizlet as I go, I can’t relate to this one yet!

Enjoy – I’m already pleased about trying this different approach. We’ll have to see what happens next, but it gives off positive vibes!

So what’s your #SMILEgoal Challenge for the new school year?

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