I’m teaching Spanish for Heritage Speakers for my first time this year and let me tell you, the learning curve has been STEEP, my friends!
This course ended up in my lap in a rather dramatic fashion last May and I panicked. I felt (actually still feel) totally inadequate to teach this class. I spent most of my summer freaking out, reading, researching, praying and reading some more to prepare for August. This summer I inhaled the Adventures in Heritage Teaching blog and read 6 novels in Spanish, in an effort to brush up my Spanish and figure out what the heck I was suppose to do come fall.
To say that this class has been humbling would be a great, big, fat understatement. Some days they leave my classroom and I feel like a failure of a teacher; they deserve way better than what I can give them. Some days are pretty OK, we made it, nothing spectacular, nothing horrible, but we made it. But some days… some days my heart swells with love for these 19 squirrlely as can be, mostly wild freshman boys (just 5 girls in the class!) who blow in to and out of 7th period like a hurricane.
We’re in Week 12 right now. There have been some pretty epic losses so far this year, but there have been some sweet, sweet wins too.
- Basically I’m having to redefine myself as a teacher. My big ‘ol bag of tricks that work wonders with my other Little Darlings is useless with my heritage kiddos. I don’t know if they’re too cool for school, or they’re secretly insecure, but the goofy games, brain breaks, chants, call and responses are a NO GO in 7th period. Hola chiquitos, en mis otras clases bailamos los viernes. Lo llamamos “Baile Viernes”. ¿Quieren bailar el viernes? ((Blank faces and crickets sound in the background)). ¿No quieren bailar? ¡Es divertido! ((More crickets)) A mis otros alumnos les gusta… Response: We’re not your other students. Ok muchachos, está bien…no vamos a bailar. Hay otras cosas divertidas que podemos hacer, como…..
- They hate reading. I’m trying to not take this personally. I know they hated it long before they got to my classroom but I really, really, really, really want to turn it around. I want to be their Mike Peto and connect each kid to their home-run book that will change their lives. We’ve made some headway…we first started reading for a solid 3 minutes (The first day we tried for 5 minutes but that just about started a revolt!) and now we’re up to 8 mostly focused minutes. I’ve been working diligently recommending books, making it a positive experience, reading with them, you know, all the things. They’re getting better and as long as we don’t do free reading on Fridays (because my colleague and her kiddos love Baile Viernes on the other side of our portable!) they’re mostly reading or at least pretending to. Their complaining has slowed a bit, and I was feeling better about the reading piece… Until today, when one of my dear ones tossed one of my books onto the shelf. Cuidado con los libros. Los compré con mi propio dinero. Quería que tuvieran muchos libros para leer este año. His response: That was a big waste of money, Mrs. Chase. Ouch.
- During class, they mostly work for me. I’ve been stretching every relationship building muscle I have and I’d say I’ve pretty much won them over. But bring in a sub and forget about it. They don’t seem to appreciate my specially crafted sub plans, that take me freaking forever to write! Last time I was out, I was completely deflated when I got back to exactly zero work from them. ¿¡En serio, muchachos?! ¿No hicieron nada? ¿Por qué no???? Response: It was too hard.
- Did I mention they hate reading?!
- My heritage kiddos don’t participate the ways my other kiddos do. At the beginning of the year, it was like pulling teeth. I’d ask a question and nada. I’d ask again, and nada. I’d ask again and tell them they can answer in English or Spanish and, you guessed it, nada. After a few classes I was getting pretty desperate and then this divine idea came to me, I am certain from the Lord, because it turned out to be pretty awesome. I opened up Google Maps and asked “¿De dónde vinieron sus familias?” After a moment or two, a brave soul ventured to answer and I dropped a pin on the city. Then another volunteered. Another pin. And another. And another. And all of a sudden, this class that wouldn’t talk to me was clamoring to tell me where their families came from. It made me choke up…they were so proud to share a tiny piece of their family’s story. This picture makes my heart sing.
- At the beginning of the year, on the start of the year survey, they told me they wanted to learn to write. A few weeks later, they reiterated it. And that left me scratching my head… I mean, in my regular Spanish classes, my focus is on input. I know the output will come… but first, the input! But these kiddos have been exposed to a lot of input and now they are hungry to output! They want to write but I’m not really sure how to teach that. I asked my English Teacher / Spanish Teacher / Portable Mate who said, “well, just have them write a little bit each class.” So that’s how we started; I decided they’d write a little bit most classes and so our diario was born. Each day I project a new writing prompt and set a timer for 5 minutes while my kiddos write on their Diario Sheets. So I don’t spend my life grading papers, once they’ve written 4 diarios, they re-read them all and star their best one. That’s the one I read and assess using my nifty ACTFL inspired writing rubrics. This afternoon, I compared their most recent Diario with their baseline Quick Write from the very first day of school. My goodness. It’s working! They made me cry. Just look:
They’ve been other wins, but not as significant, and other losses too, but not as painful…but the important thing I’m realizing is that even though I’m totally inadequate for this job, these kiddos need someone, and that someone is me. Lord, help me!