What to do on this roller coaster……..?

Hello blog world! School is finally over for the year here in Maryland.  I believe it is the latest we have been in session in as long as I can remember.  The end of the year was a roller coaster ride, too.  There was an incredible low that I still am trying to wrap my head around.  I have shared my materials freely for years and years and years.  I enjoy sharing and thinking that someone else may benefit from what I’ve created.  I also borrow freely from some wonderfully generous, gifted people.  Kara Jacobs, Martina Bex, Elizabeth Dentlinger, Bethanie Drew, Carrie Toth, Cynthia Hitz, Mike Peto, Dustin Williamson, Crystal Barragan, Allison Weinhold, Laura Sexton  all come quickly to mind.  There are many more! While there have been incidences in the past few years where I have found my work on other people’s sites without crediting me, there was never enough to make me consider stopping.  Until three weeks ago.  That is when I discovered whole units of my work had been taken by more than one person and transformed into “their work”.  Not just one unit, not just two, not just three, but at least ten entire units.  I could not believe the audacity. My immediate reaction was to make my current Spanish III and Spanish IV units private on my wiki. But, after making the pages private, I got multiple requests for access to materials from people who were going to use them properly.  I still don’t know what to do. Some people, via Twitter, have told me that imitation is flattery, but I don’t consider this imitation.I would appreciate any thoughts that you might have.

The high point of the last weeks of school came from the fact that I finally did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  Throughout the year, I wrote stories for Spanish III, IV and my college students.  They were, overall, whopping successes.  The kids loved them and they accomplished my goals while maintaining comprehensible input.  I followed all kinds of models from many of the people I listed in the first paragraph, especially Martina Bex. In both Spanish III and IV, we had read two novels this past school year (Esperanza and Robo en la Noche; La Llorona de Mazatlan and Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha).  I wanted more, my students wanted more, but there was no funding for them. Finally, I got sidelined for days when I developed pneumonia, and, out of boredom, I made an impulse decision to start writing my own novel.  My fellow colleague Megan Matthews and I still had to cover Argentina, travel vocabulary and the present subjunctive (according to our county curriculum).  So, I started writing and before I knew it, three chapters were done! Megan wrote chapter 4 after reading what I had done, I wrote chapter 5, she wrote chapter 6, I followed them with 7 and 8, she wrote 9, and I finished it up with chapters 10 and 11!  It was so easy, and it was done in a matter of a few days.  I added in a multitude of images and mapped out all of the cultural elements that I wanted to include (all of the videos, websites, etc.). The beauty of writing this for our students was that we got to include references to things that we had read and done throughout the year.  I decided to bring back, in a cameo appearance, (at the very end of the ‘novel’), Cecilio Mendez from Robo en la Noche.  From my music and social awareness unit in Colombia, there were references to Escobar and things about Colombia that were left to individual interpretation.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I am thinking about replacing the images that I used, with the drawings that they created, and seeing if it might be able to be published somehow. I called it “Amigos, Abrazos, Aventura:  Argentina”.  It is the story of a local university student who won a trip to Argentina, along with several other students in the U.S., and toured Buenos Aires, Iguazu, the Pampas, and Ushuaia.  Along the way, he took tango lessons, found a romantic interest, mystery and unsolved disappearances.  I would appreciate your thoughts about this, too! un viaje a Argentina cover

33 thoughts on “What to do on this roller coaster……..?

  1. Hello, I was wondering if ”El Mundo de Birch” exists for English as a second language also? Or if there is something similar that you know about.
    As for the entire units that some people did not quote you on, I think that it is not appropriate. I have myself taken ideas online and transformed them or adapted them most of the time and quoted the website I took them from. I haven’t used any of your work because I’m not teaching Spanish currently and when I saw your blog I thought I could get inspired as it seems very interesting. Yet, I suggest you write to those people and tell them. They did it, but probably won’t do it again if you let them know it is important to share and acknowledge other colleagues’ hard work. Good luck and keep up the hard work: I’m sure your students love your class!Have a great summer!

    • Thank you for your comments. While I don’t have anything specifically on the wiki for ELL, since all the activities are language activities, I would think that they could be modified/adapted for ELL.
      Unfortunately, the “taking” of my materials was way beyond simply not quoting the website. Entire units were taken….that means 6-8 weeks worth of resources and activities.

  2. I just want to tell you how much your work helped me make it through this school year. I appreciate you and your generosity for sharing. I am trying to use CI and TPRS as much as possible and I couldn’t do it without the help of people like you who work so hard to create resources and willingly share them with others. Thank you!

  3. Ms Birch, I am distressed to find out people are using your work without crediting you. I first discovered your website late last summer and around here you are known as the “Spanish goddess”. We are so grateful to have your tips, help, websites, etc. But while we might use a video or an idea, we produce our own work for the students. The only thing that bothers me is when I “Pin” something you have put up, Pinterest will change your name to mine as it does with alot of stuff I have pinned. And I have no idea how to change the names back or I would because I am so grateful to get a good idea from someone. But other teachers have told me it doesn’t matter that everybody is always pinning stuff, so I haven’t paid that much attention to it. And I have pinned alot of stuff from you and others to go through this summer for me to see what videos or ideas I could use with my lessons or I could build a lesson around. I don’t care if other people pin something from my boards because they are for ME to use. Frankly I find all those “pin” notifications annoying. Is that what you mean when you say people are using your stuff? Because I assure you that what I’ve pinned is just to look at and get ideas. I would do anything my way as I serve a very different population than you do. I am very grateful that you share your videos, but I have never used any of your written materials. I have not used the novels you have mentioned either. I have used Zachery Jones’ materials which allows you to download them and I have sometimes bought materials from Teachers Pay Teachers. Is it the Pinterest thing you are talking about? Sincerely, Cathy Acquaviva

    • Oh my goodness!!! Spanish goddess!! I am mortified…..I definitely do not deserve anything remotely aspiring to that! Reserve that for the true heroes of CI…..Kara Jacobs, Carrie Toth, Zachary Jones (although he couldn’t be a Spanish goddess….maybe the Zeus of Spanish!), and all the people listed in the post! I’m just on the bandwagon with them!
      Thank you for your comments. No, it has nothing to do with Pinterest at all! Of course all of us share through Pinterest, that’s what it’s there for. I don’t pay any attention to any of those notifications and didn’t even realize the names got changed! No, I’m referring to people who took entire units (6-8 weeks of resources and activities) and called them “their units”. Please feel free to use/share anything on my sites…..just don’t take an entire unit and call it your own!!! I love the concept of collaborating and sharing freely with everyone, I certainly rely on my PLN for that! But I would hope that I don’t take their material (all of their materials) and claim it as my own.

  4. Self-publishing has come a long way: you can publish on createspace (https://www.createspace.com/) and pay very little up front… I think just the price of one copy of the book which is your proof copy. Then advertise on your site and when teachers order the book it is printed and sent straight from createspace. I´ll buy a copy, I would love to add more high frequency vocabulary, teacher-created books to my classroom library.

    Perhaps contact Eric Herman for advice, he just published a TPRS speed reading book on this website that has been discussed on the moretprs yahoo listserve.

    • Thanks so much for the suggestion and advice, Mike! I definitely will look at that site. And thanks for the vote of confidence in offering to buy a copy!!!! I’m hoping to actually meet you in Reston, Va…..if my funding comes through!!

  5. I am sorry to hear that folks have used your materials without giving you any credit. This is especially unfortunate, frustrating, and disappointing because we, as educators, are supposed to set the example for our students. I am glad that you posted this because it encouraged me to go back through the materials that I have used/modified from other sources and double check that I have cited their work. In almost all cases I had, but I found one packet that I modified and in which I hadn’t cited the source 😦

    I will completely understand if you decide to stop posting your resources publicly, but I hope that you ultimately decide to continue to share all of your materials because there are many teachers (and students) that benefit immensely from your thoughtful insights and inspiring lesson plans. I can honestly say that your ideas have been instrumental in making my Pre-AP Spanish curriculum what it is today. Many of the changes that I have made to the curriculum I made because of reading your blog and wiki pages and I sincerely and deeply appreciate the time and effort that you put into creating and sharing these resources. Thank you and I hope that you have a wonderful summer!

    • Oh, Josh! Thank you so much for taking the time to post your comments, and for your encouragement! As I’ve said before, I love collaborating and I love the fact that in our PLN we can share so freely, adapt and grow. While I may change my wiki to something else, I will continue to post lessons and activities on the blog. And certainly I would share anything from the wiki with you if you discovered that something was not available. I understand that we sometimes “borrow” and build on the ideas of others and may forget to cite the source….I, too, have found myself guilty unintentionally. But neither you nor I have lifted entire units, 6-8 weeks worth of lesson plans, activities and resources and then claimed them as our own. This I don’t understand. But, I will get over this, especially because of the kindness of people like you. Thank you again!

  6. Congratulations on the book! That is really impressive. Let me know when it gets published and where I could purchase it. I would love to teach my students about Argentina using a novel. Have a great summer!

  7. What a blessing you are to all of us out here! Especially those of us who are the only Spanish teachers at our schools in rural areas. I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for people like you as I have made the change from ‘traditional’ teaching to this entirely new model at my advanced age. 🙂 Please do not ‘grow weary of doing good.’ You are a force for good in the teaching community!

  8. I’m sorry to hear that. Your work always amazed me. I wonder why don’t you sell it through TpT? I really admire you and your work!

  9. Hi
    Since I have received your emails “el mundo de Birch” It has inspired my teaching to be more creative and to provide opportunities for the students to enjoy Spanish in the classroom. My hope is that your website and wiki sites are available as a resource for teachers like me that are burn out from the same routines. Thank you so much for taking the time to create, collaborate and motivate many teachers through out the years.

    Muchas Gracias.


  10. I just wanted to write that your work is truly inspiring, and I often visit your blog for ideas. I’m so sorry for the experience you’ve had of people’s dishonesty. Your ideas and creativity help me freshen up what I’m doing in the classroom, and I appreciate your generosity. Muchas gracias!!

  11. i am new to this blog and all things technology in the classroom. Our school has come to the technology age slowly. I can tell you that what you do is fabulous and inspirational. I can not condone the act of stealing the work of others. It is unprofessional of them to not give credit to you. Thank you for sharing your work and that of your colleague. It will help me as I navigate through this coming year.

  12. Pingback: Thank you | elmundodebirch

  13. All artists and writers who generously make their work available to others eventually come across this problem. I try to put about half of my original work online for free for my fellow Spanish teachers, for learners, and just to make the world a little more friendly. I know that you know what I mean. Other work I copyright and sell because, after all, I do have to still pay my bills and feed my family. So I was shocked when I found a copyrighted lesson of mine available for a free download from somebody’s site last year. To wit, I understand your feelings of shock and betrayal. It is wrong for someone to take advantage of you in an attempt to make themselves look good. But please, don’t take your wonderful work down just because a few people don’t follow the rules. Put your work in PDF form with your CC or copyright license on every sheet – that won’t stop everyone but it will at least make people think first. All my love to you and to all our fellow teachers out there who share their work and provide inspiration to others! –AnneK (Confesiones y Realidades)

  14. I have been following your websites for years. Your wiki page and Zachary Jones are what pushed me to use authentic resources. Your ideas on this blog for activities have been a tremendous help to me. I have downloaded many, many of your activities and incorporated them into my units, and l have used your Social Awareness thru music unit–I followed it closely, of course I adapted it to fit my students–for the last two years. I have always given you credit, just as when I buy/use material from Martina Bex, The Creative Language Class, Kara Jacobs, Mike Peto etc. You among many other bloggers have changed the way I teach and I feel like you are my teachers. You should be selling your materials. I hope you continue to share your ideas.

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