Summer teacher feature

Responses provided by Dr. Zach Polsky & Karen Proehl

What kind of PD did you attend?

Zach: The sample curricula we [Zach, Karen, and Willie] got showed us how to do a whole unit on each of the six key themes that make up the overarching content of the AP French exam, including exercises ranging from simple fill-in-the-blanks to group discussion and written reflection. We also got lists of websites where further practices activities and resources are available. If anything, I am now spoiled for choice in terms of what I can ask the students to do. It will be very different from last year where I scoured the web during my prep period looking for good exercises (the AP French curriculum relies heavily on using ultra-recent material that generally appears on-line rather than in print).

Karen: I also attended a retreat on my own at the EarthRise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA on June 25 – July 1, 2018. The retreat was focused on our practice and how we can bring mindfulness to our school communities and classrooms.

What are 2-3 things you can do to implement what you’ve learned in your class next year (teaching specific)?Karen Proehl Willie Vandoren Zach Polsky AP Seminar.JPG

Zach: Among the best new practices, I learned strategies for how to approach stressful elements of the exam:

  • Student-Designed Questions. For my AP students, these stressful elements include the exam and the persuasive essay. The most valuable of these strategies involve the students themselves in finding topics that interest them and designing their own speaking and writing prompts that imitate the format of the exam itself. Nothing helps to understand how an activity works than having to try to design one yourself.
  • Stop Obsessing Over Perfection. Once students realize that they themselves can recreate the activities on the test and that the AP French exam puts culture on an equal footing with language, they can stop obsessing about trying to read, write, and speak perfectly and begin to indulge themselves in an enjoyment of and familiarity with the culture of French-speaking countries. Then I can bring in exercises such as songs and videos and students will not see them as yet another exercise or worry that they don’t understand every word right away. All this will ultimately make them feel more relaxed and confident when they do the more challenging speaking and writing tasks on the exam.

Karen: Some of the workshops that I attended included State of Mindfulness in Education, Attachment Disorder, and Having Difficult Conversations with a mindfulness lens.

  • Mindfulness Practices. Anchored attention, sitting/walking/eating, small group facilitation in practice, 1-on-1 teacher student time.
  • Compassion-based Practices. Relational mindfulness, compassion through song and games.
  • Mindful Movements. Examples include Taichi Qi Gong, yoga, community hikes, dance.
  • Facilitation Workshops. Small group safety, “hot seat” activity practice facilitation, reflective listening, guiding questions in youth.

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