Surviving the RETELL Course Series: Part 1, Surviving the Instructor

If you're wondering where I've been, the answer is the RETELL class for my SEI endorsement.  Bye-bye one weeknight every week and my entire weekend for the past (and next) month and a half.  The next class I attend will be the halfway point and I've survived this long, so I thought it was time to share with you a few tips on how to make it out alive.

I feel lucky that I have a fairly laid back instructor.  Not a sloppy instructor and not a lax instructor.  Don't get me wrong, we have a TON of reading and written homework.  We also start class at 4:00 on the dot and don't leave until at least 6:50, if not 7:00 on the dot.  But I do feel like she tries to soften the in-class experience as much as she is allowed without incurring the wrath of DESE:

  • Her voice is mostly soothing, and she has a lovely chime to end our discussion times.  Note to self:  Buy a chime for my classroom.
  • She talks a lot about "affective filter" not only for our students but for us, and adjusts accordingly.  She'll say, "I can see your affective filters went up the last time I had you move to another group, so would you all rather stay at your tables for this next discussion?"
  • She knows which slides to spend time discussing, and which ones to gloss over.  She is a rule follower; she lets us know she can't actually skip the slides, but she is selective about how many seconds she will leave them up, if you know what I mean!
  • She knows when to laugh about the content.  She loves to go on about "missed opportunities" in the videos.  She's even let us in on the back story; those video clips were filmed during the blizzard(s) of 2015 early this year.  Because DESE went to great expense to hire a professional film crew, the show had to go on.  So they had little options when making the final edits.
  • She makes it clear that she respects us, and that this course is not the final word.  She acknowledges that not every strategy is going to work for every teacher, and her job is to provide tools to us that we will use at our discretion.  She's not out to tell us we're doing things wrong.  She will often say, "I leave this up to your professional judgment." 
And my instructor also seems extremely knowledgeable, which is important to me.  I learn better from someone I respect.  It's clear that she is knowledgeable in her field as well as some of the inner workings at DESE that relates to expectations of the instruction of ELL students. 

This may sound NOTHING like your instructor.  And if that is the case, I am sorry.  I know that some instructors out there are frustrated with Blackboard, frustrated with changes to the manual and rubrics made at the last minute, and just as overwhelmed with the amount of homework as we are, and some will not deal with those frustrations in a way that help you relax and learn better.  And I'm not sharing the positives in my class in order to rub your nose in it.  I'm sharing this to help you with your inner monologue as you sit through your course.  Imagine for a moment that you were given permission to use these strategies at your discretion.  Because the thing is, once the course is over, your instructor has no more power over you.  And 3 months is not forever.  You can do this!   

And while some of what you're learning has you anxious, and it's not sitting right with you, it's not all bad, is it?  I'm sure that in your heart, you WANT to help your English Language Learners succeed; it just feels overwhelming at times.  I know there are some valuable strategies I'm learning, some that I have used in the past and some new ones that I will use from now on, even though others may be filed under "later/misc/not actually going to use these." 

Staying organized during the RETELL course is another important part of surviving this course.  I'll talk more about that in my next post.  Until then, where are you in the RETELL process?  Want to share tips or vent about your instructor?  Please leave a comment!
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  1. I took RETELL two years ago so I missed out on the "filmed during the blizzard" footage. Our teacher was lovely - Maria, and she, too was very knowledgeable. We had a vast amount of work. I used a lot of the ideas in my classroom to "experiment" - especially the vocab. ones. Good luck with the rest of the class!

    1. I agree, the vocabulary strategy is the part we just covered and it got me thinking, "This is actually useful!" Thanks for the luck; it's not easy. I just keep crossing classes off my schedule and saying "That's one less!" Haha. Thanks for stopping by, Susan!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience of the RETELL course! I'm planning to take it starting in February and because of your blog, I know what to expect. There are very few anecdotal resources about this course and how much of a commitment it is, so I'm grateful you took the time to lay it all out!!


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