I tossed out my resume and was so lucky to be immediately hired as a long term substitute teacher for a woman out on maternity leave. I worked first in middle school (holy hormones – and for once I’m not talking about me). Next I accepted a position to teach fourth grade in a Spanish Immersion Program. Oh my goodness, did I love those people! I was blessed with smart kids and wonderful parents (except for one psychopath mom…but at least everyone knew she was a handful). However, my out-of-the-box teaching styles were too much for the principals of the school to comprehend. They wanted worksheet teaching from me. I am more of an in your face, make you laugh, get out of your seat and do things hands on kind of teacher. I am loud and I teach with lots of humor. I was told that I was “very dangerous” because I was so dynamic. I hated having the stalking in my room constantly to make sure no students were (GASP) enjoying themselves!
Off to teach high school Spanish I went! This was my absolute favorite kind of teaching! I worked with teenagers who had a sense of humor, intelligence and maturity – (except for the time I put an entire group of upper classmen in a time out because they were acting like babies). I woke up happy every day to go to my job. I wanted the students to feel excited about foreign languages and cultures. And, I wanted them to enjoy their 84 minutes every other day with me. Foreign languages are considered an elective in many high schools. So, if they’re choosing to give up an art or a gym to have to study and work hard – I believe they should have fun doing so.
Most importantly, I loved cracking through the tough teenage exterior and getting them to come into themselves in my class. And, for some unknown reason they actually DID the crazy stuff – like dancing the Chipi-Chipi in front of other classes, acting out soap opera scenes, or tasting unknown tapas. My favorite activity was totally busting them on their beliefs that they don’t need to learn a foreign language because technology will save them.I had them all choose groups that they would go on Spring Break with for this exercise. They could use whatever they thought would help them to communicate: phones, dictionaries, list of vocabulary, Cha-cha, etc. They were then given situations that occur in foreign countries and they had to get help from another teacher (and dear friend) Alicia and me. However, Alicia and I professed to not understand a word of English. They did a great job of trying to get assistance for friends that had: crashed on scooters, gotten robbed by gypsies and suffered the effects of Montezuma’s revenge. But, they walked away chastened by the knowledge that fluency beats Wikipedia any day of the week.
I love those kids and still communicate with many of them. Now, I'm not claiming to be teacher of the year by any stretch of the imagination. (As the administration of my former elementary school probably has a picture of me posted on a DO NOT HIRE billboard). Even though I am aware that not all of them will continue on in foreign language, I hope they will look back upon the experience as a happy one. Oh, and they also learned never to give to money to gypsies - even ones that look like innocent high school Spanish teachers...