Thursday, February 19, 2015

#Teach2Teach - Most troublesome experience

I'm a little late to the game but this in response to the #Teach2Teach movement started by Amy Lenord. In-service teachers answer questions posed by pre-service teachers. You can check out more at the website here or follow the #Teach2Teach hashtag on Twitter.

Q3 "What has been your most troublesome experience with teaching and how did you handle it?"

I've had lots of troublesome moments in my career.

- While teaching English in France a student told me to suck his you know what. When I complained to his regular English teacher her response was "Well, at least he was speaking English." Really??? Nothing like being sexually harassed by a 14 year old.

-While teaching English in Japan a teacher with control issues thought I was stressing out her first graders by making them repeat after me in complete sentences. She complained about me to the principal who then asked that I teach "words only - no sentences."

- While teaching on a cart I had classroom teachers who thought nothing of having loud conversations in the room while I was teaching, and then later informed me that while their kids love Spanish this was their room and their plan period so they'll talk to who they want when they want. You have to develop a thick skin when you teach on a cart.

- Several parents argued that their children should not have to learn Spanish. Without consulting me my principal allowed one student to go to music or gym rather than my class. (To be fair, I probably would have given into this particular parent too.)

But one troubling moment that stands out came in my first year when I realized that no one knew what I was doing in Spanish class. And what's more no one cared. No one cared. A hard pill to swallow for someone like me who is passionate about what I do and appreciates recognition for my hard work.

I got down in the dumps for awhile until I realized its potential. I have complete and utter freedom.  I can do whatever I want. I have the freedom to be creative and try new methods. If my kiddos get excited about a video (like they did with Adios monstruo) I'm not a slave to a state curriculum and can extend a unit past what I had planned because my students want to explore a certain topic more. And slowly, through engaging my students, through connecting with parents at Family Nights like Culture Fair and Hispanic Heritage Night, through sending my administrators "look what we're doing in Spanish class" emails, I am advocating for World Languages at my school.

I look at the classroom teachers at my school freaking out over KPREP and MAP data. They have weekly meetings with the principal and student achievement conferences. My job is at the mercy of grant money and my own self-advocacy. Theirs are at the mercy of test scores.  Do I sometimes resent that I have to advocate in ways a reading specialist or math teacher will never have to? Definitely, but it's reality. And I would rather worry about student engagement and proficiency (and yes, grant money) than test prep and scores.

Besides, what I have is pretty great. I have a room this year. My principal bought me a super fancy cart and the Calico Spanish curriculum I asked for last year. I got the split schedule I want so I see my kiddos twice in the rotation rather than just once. My principal told me she hasn't had a single email this year or last complaining about kids having to take Spanish. At my mid-year conference this year I told my vice-principal that "Now that I have a room, I'm going to start bothering you for more time." And she didn't complain or brush me off. She just asked what that might look like. That, folks, is progress.

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