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Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Novices are Schooling Me!

Day Three of my new found confidence in ALL of my kids rolled around and I found some profound truths that I had missed before.

When polling my kiddos, I was amazed that 95% of Spanish 1 students are taking Spanish 1 because they want to learn to speak Spanish. As one funny kid said to the class "You never know, I might meet a hot Mexican woman and marry her and how am I going to speak to her if I don't speak Spanish?". When I polled my dream classes of Spanish 3 Honors students, only about 40-50% want to learn how to speak Spanish. The other 50%-60% are there because they want to get into a college of choice and they need the required three years of a World Language to get into it.Once their goal is met, their plan is to be done with Spanish or any other World Language. I plan to change that plan, of course.

As I saw that eagerness to learn the target language in my novices, I vowed that I would try my hardest not to beat it out of them [not literally speaking, ¡por supuesto!], the way that I must have inadvertently and unintentionally been doing it in previous years. I typically have a 30-35% failure rate in Spanish 1. In my defense, I'm 15-20 points below the national average of 50% and those who do pass, excel in Spanish 2. So, I am and have been a good teacher, just not a good teacher for ALL my students.

Somewhere in our Spanish 1 classes, something is happening or not happening that is really discouraging those eager kids who want to learn how to speak Spanish. Now, realistically speaking, as teachers we can only do so much. After all, a number of those students think that they will learn to speak Spanish by osmosis and not have to do any of the work or put any effort into the process. But, I am specifically speaking and thinking about those students who do try and who desperately want to succeed but for whom the curriculum that we teach makes this a simply unattainable goal. I am putting the responsibility on me, to be an encourager and to teach in a way that gives every child the opportunity to have at least a nugget of success every single day that they are in my class. Some will get a pea size nugget and some will hit a gold mine. Some students will dig a few inches and hit gold and some may have to mine for a few days to find something. Regardless, I want them all to get something that tells them that the excitement that they had on Day 1, 2 and 3 will be rewarded.

I also discovered that I had been too quick to judge books by their cover. I am thinking of one particular kid, who would previously have irritated the you know what out of me and whose behavior I would have shut down very quickly in the past. He is an attention seeking kid but he is the kid who is the most excited to learn Spanish. On Day 3, he was asking me "come se dice I need a piece of paper". Instead of telling him that he needed to come in with all of his materials, I taught him how to ask for what he needed. He excitedly said it to me in Spanish from memory and with a great accent. I pointed him to my free stash of paper and was so happy with his success that I forgot to remind him of the expectation that he needed to come to school with all of his materials. I'll let you draw your own conclusion as to what else he may or may not have in mind for his future as far as his motivation to learn Spanish.

I thought I would teach my novices all of the great things that I  had learned during the last six months. What I didn't bargain on was that my novices would be schooling me.

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