When Magic DOESN’T Happen

Things were off to a great start in my heritage Spanish classes. Students were reading and writing, and talking about reading and writing. They wrote beautiful letters and many finished reading their first complete book in Spanish, ever! And then, sometime in week 3, we seemed to hit a rut. The magic faded. Students started pushing back about reading in class, many were clearly not doing ANY reading outside of class (and that is their only homework for my class), and So. Many. Students were wasting their writing workshop time, even when they knew they had an impending deadline.

At the same time, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with planning, grading, my AP Spanish Lit class, my own kids’ busy schedules, and so many other pieces of my busy day-to-day life. I knew I needed to plan the next writing unit, but I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go next. I had planned to have students write their own author bios, but they just finished doing that in English class, so I decided that would probably feel redundant and not be well-received. However, since I had already started those plans, I was really short on time, and that made me feel even more overwhelmed.

Monday was the due date for the final draft of their name stories. We used “Mi nombre” from Sandra Cisneros’ La casa en Mango Street as our mentor text. We spent all of last week working on using similes, metaphors and imagery in our stories. Then on Monday (which, apparently, was yesterday; why does it feel so far away?), we sat in a circle and each student read their story aloud. While many students struggled to incorporate the rhetorical devices that we had practiced, they did a good job with their first attempt at sharing a story. And although I was disappointed that several students did not complete the assignment, others blew me away with their beautiful imagery, excellent metaphors, and overall well-written, creative pieces.

The name story read-aloud gave me a bit of a boost, but I still had no idea what I was going to teach the next day, and Monday night was parent night. I got home, beyond exhausted, at 8:00, just in time to start the nightly battle that is getting three school-aged kids to bed. When that finally happened, I decided I was too tired to think, and just got myself ready for bed.

With my anxiety growing (about everything: lesson plans, a million upcoming kid appointments, AP work, the 100 name stories I now have to grade…), I made some decisions on a whim. First, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I need a break from the bad news and distractions of my digital life. Second, I decided I also needed a break from writing workshop. I’m not giving up (I AM NOT GIVING UP!), but I am giving myself the space to pause, reflect, and yes, fall back to lessons that are already planned from last year, so I can have a small mental and emotional break.

So today, during our daily reading time, I sat down and read instead of conferring with students. We did a quick write that was already ready to go, and then I introduced some pre-listening questions that I created last year for a Radio Ambulante episode that fits nicely with our essential question for this quarter.

I’m giving myself 2 easy days of reading, quick writes, and listening to a podcast. Last week, my students showed signs of needing to slow down and regroup, even before I realized that was exactly what I needed. Next week, we’ll jump back in with renewed energy and focus, and we will love the crap out of our workshop classroom!

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