Thursday, March 6, 2014


Thursday night means Spanish class.

My friend Kathy and I leave school at 4:15, drive across town through rush hour traffic, and usually arrive just in time for our 5:00 class. Kathy has never spoken Spanish. She took a weekend class about a month ago, and then signed up for the Thursday night classes. She really should be in the beginner class, but she has another commitment on Tuesday nights, so the group offering the classes suggested she should take the intermediate class. I speak a little more Spanish than Kathy, but still have a long, long way to go. For me, the intermediate class is about right.

We've only gone a couple of times, but so far it seems like the class consists of several different segments. It starts with book check in and out. Then there's a story, usually something about school. Last week the story was about a teacher calling the parents of a student named Victor. Victor was very naughty. he hit. Bit. Pulled hair. It turned out his mother was a roller derby queen. Tonight, the teacher was calling the parents of another child, a girl named Cecilia. Cecilia's father thought something was wrong-- and then it turned out that she was calling to invite them to the science fair.There's usually a vocabulary lesson. A music segment. And conversation time.

Every week at Spanish class, I am reminded of some big truths about teaching.

1) Learning is social. Kathy and I go together. I know, even when I'm exhausted and would just like to go home, that Kathy is expecting me to go with her.

2) Sometimes it helps to front load. Last week was really hard for Kathy. She doesn't know much Spanish. She didn't understand a lot of what was going on. Last night after school, we sat down with today's lesson. We practiced the vocabulary. We read through the story, talked about it, and worked a little with key vocabulary. Tonight Kathy felt much more comfortable in class.

3)An experienced mentor helps. During the story segment, the teacher does most of the talking. I like listening to her. It helps me know what Spanish should sound like.

4) Like ability partners are not always helpful. We always spend part of the time working in conversation partners. While I appreciate this opportunity, I don't know how helpful it is. None of us are fluent Spanish speakers. Most of us have issues with vocabulary, and verb tense, and pronunciation. We are practicing, but we are really not getting any feedback, and I'm not sure that's it all that beneficial.

5) Checks for understanding matter. Our instructor committed to making sure we can understand what she is saying. Every two or three minutes she stops and asks, "How much do you understand? Show me your percentage with your fingers

6) Laughter matters. Our teacher has a great sense of humor. We laugh a lot. Which makes us relaxes us. And makes it much easier to learn.

I love Spanish class. I love that I'm learning something new. And I love that placing myself in the position of learner helps me to think carefully about my own teaching practices.


elsie said...

It is always good to remember what it is like to be a novice at something. I had that experience learning to play bells at church, since I don't read music. What a great skill you are acquiring. Next will be a trip where you can use it.

Nanc said...

yeah for the laughter...interesting comment about like abilty partnerships...I have never thought of that before

I started trying to learn with Rosetta Stone...not enough accountability for me, so you gave me encouragement to find out about a class. xo

Laura Lynn Benson said...

Wow, so much to think about as I reflect on my own teaching and I can contemplate supporting my colleagues' teaching...I am printing out your wise words as my eon treasured CW Anchor edifying road map from my most treasured soul sister xox

Linda B said...

It's terrific you are doing this Carol. I speak French, can still read it well, but have lost most of the conversation. I wish it had been Spanish-would be many more opportunities to keep talking! It does make a long day, but it's certainly nice of you to go with your friend, too. I enjoyed your observations!

Unknown said...

It is great that you are taking Spanish class! I want to find a class too. I also love that you are reflecting on this experience as teacher and a learner.