Making the Calendar

Calendar Image

I am really trying to stick to writing a post a month and have been struggling for the past week with a topic. The idea finally occurred to me after staring at it every day since May 1st.

The image above is from a calendar we have at home on the refrigerator. One of my daughter’s chores is to change the dates at the start of each month. She makes note of any important dates we need to remember throughout the month – family birthdays, doctors appointments, or school functions. However, when I got home from school on May 1st and saw the updated calendar, I was surprised at something my daughter thought important enough to go on the calendar.

I covered the name to respect their privacy, but you can see that on May 2nd a birthday is marked. This is my daughter’s teacher, and along with making her an elaborately decorated pop up card, she also added her birthday to our refrigerator calendar.

After helping my daughter get her things ready for school the next day and make sure the card was packed safely in her book bag, I decided to take a picture of the calendar and email it to her teacher. I figured she would appreciate knowing that one of her students placed her on the family calendar. She quickly responded with, “Oh my gosh! I feel so important! Thank you :)”.

For the past week,  I’ve been thinking about the positive impact we can have on students. An impact strong enough that they not only remember our birthday, but think it important enough to put it on a family calendar.  For me, school and birthday never go together because mine is August 11.  I do not expect any of my former, or future students, to think of this during the final days of their summer break. I have been wondering, though, about other ways they might remember me and how I might have an impact on them.

I don’t mean to sound like I am looking for acknowledgement from my students or parents. I think the only reason I emailed a picture of it was because I am a teacher and I know how much a little gesture like that from a student can mean. The image above and this blog is more about having a reminder of the importance we might have on our students and never know about it. And the importance of passing something like this on to a teacher, especially when it is Teacher Appreciation Week. To get an email like this can do wonders to inspire a teacher, or give them the motivation to get through a rough day, week, etc. I also have this image printed out on my desk now to remind me that maybe I am on someone’s calendar. Maybe I made an impact on a student like this. It’s enough to change my mood and get me back into a more positive frame of mind. Making the calendar – a small, but very significant achievement.

 

Welsh – A New Year, A New Language

2000px-flag_of_wales_2-svg

It’s three weeks into the new year and this is my first post in a long time. I thought about making a resolution about blogging more, but I know that might not last very long. I try to blog about things I do in the classroom and with education in general, but I thought I would go a different route with this blog to start off the year.

Since the winter break in December, I have been reading a lot of blogs and tweets about taking better care of ourselves in order to avoid teacher burnout. There’s also the common phrase among educators about being lifelong learners and a constant pursuit of perfecting what we do in the classroom. I could relate to a lot of what I read and began to do some reflecting on my own life.

I realized that I have been doing a lot of one-sided learning. Most of it leaning towards the professional part of my life and very little on the personal side. I hope to change this in 2018. I hope to find a balance.

I have always wanted to learn a language and have tried several times with several languages. In high school, I studied Spanish for four years and tried to continue in college, but wasn’t successful. I taught English for two years in Taiwan and studied Chinese quite seriously while I was there. I even continued to study when I returned to the States, but found it harder and harder to find time and people to practice speaking the language. From 2011 – 2014, I lived in Astana, Kazakhstan where I taught at an international school and tried to learn Russian while I was there. I even met my wife over there who speaks Russian, and I still have had a hard time learning the language. Three languages that all ended with me losing interest and giving up. It’s been really frustrating, but thanks to Netflix and an app called, Duolingo, I think I finally found a language I enjoy and one I can make a hobby, not a requirement.

One of the types of series I like to watch on Netflix are the British dramas, particularly the mysteries. It started with Midsomer Murders, followed by Foyle’s War, Luther, George Gently, Sherlock Holmes, and then finally a suggestion by Netflix for the series, Hinterland (Y Gwyll in Welsh). This series blew me away and had me hooked from the start. The stories can be a little dark and heavy, but the scenery of Wales is beautiful and the acting is really good. I was also fascinated how the titles of the opening credits were in both English and Welsh. It was such a strange looking language with double consonants and very few vowels in such long words.

I was watching Hinterland late at night on January 4th, 2018 while trying to get my eight month old son back to sleep. I decided to check the Duolingo app on my phone for the Welsh language. If you are unfamiliar with Duolingo, it is a really great app for learning the basics of a language.  I think it does a good job of introducing basic vocabulary and simple, useful sentences. Welsh was one of the languages they offered, so I immediately open it up and began learning the language. I have been on a 13 day learning streak ever since.

Duolingo13days

For me, the other languages I tried to study just didn’t work out. Looking back on all these experiences, I realized that I took the enjoyment out of learning the language and made it feel more like a requirement, not a hobby.  I should/need to study Spanish or Chinese because it could mean good job opportunities. I should/need to study Russian because my wife and her family speak Russian (some of them also speak English). I don’t feel like this with Welsh and I hope I don’t end up making the same mistake. I really have no reason to study this language other than the fact that I saw it on a Netflix series and became curious. Of course, I have already had the usual questions from friends and family like, “Why are you studying that language?”, “Does anybody even speak Welsh anymore?”, “Isn’t that a dead language, a waste of time?” There was a brief moment when I heard these questions that I thought maybe I am wasting my time and should be learning a language that could possibly better my career chances and possibly earn more money. This line of thinking just puts me back in the vicious circle and defeats the point of having a hobby.

No, I am sticking with it because it is a language I WANT to learn.  I have enough to do that is required and essential for me to be a better teacher and do the best for my students. For me, it’s not just about being a lifelong learner, but about being a balanced lifelong learner. I need something in my life that will challenge me and give me a new perspective, but also allow me to enjoy myself and take a break from all the things I have to/should/need to do.