At my new school I share my classroom with a middle school math teacher (riddle me that one, haha). It’s actually been great because she has 12 years of experience and is very open and communicative. In passing time the other day we got to chatting about the shame associated with learning math. So much of what she has to overcome with her students is a self-imposed sense that they are bad at math. She even calls class “math therapy” sometimes!
Lately with my new students it’s felt a little like “Spanish therapy.” We’re a few weeks into the year and veeeerryyyy slowly we’re establishing classroom routines in which we are kind to each other and look to many places for sources of language input. In an effort to get to know them more, and find out about their background with Spanish, I adapted this Course Self-Evaluation from The Comprehensible Classroom into a GoogleForm and asked them about their last year of Spanish. Some of their responses almost just broke my heart:
Would you like to take Spanish again next year? Please explain your response.
“I’m not confident in spanish and I’m sorry but it’s not my favorite class. I love the way you teach with giving hand gestures to better understand what you’re saying but I feel like if I continued taking this class I would fail.”
“I don't how to achieve this, but I don't feel like I am actually learning or getting better at Spanish. Besides the grade at the end, it feels like my Spanish skills are infuriatingly stagnant. Even when I get a good grade, I don't feel like I actually know spanish to a valuable degree.”
What is one goal that you would like to achieve in Spanish this year?
“relearn all the information i lost last year because i had a bad teacher”
It makes sense: I’m their third Spanish teacher in three years; many students, because this is a small school and scheduling of core classes takes precedent, skipped entire levels of language instruction (!); and, as far as I can tell, no one has ever really tried story-asking with them (which they rocked, more on that later), much less asked them to sing or dance or speak Spanish every day in class.
As part of my transition to comprehensible input this year, I modeled parts of my syllabus off of Allison Wienhold’s. One of the things I am so happy I borrowed is from her list of “materials:” “What do I need to be successful for class? A positive attitude- EVERYONE can learn a language.” I don’t know if they believe this yet, but hopefully my new students can feel that I believe it!