Teacher Talk Tuesday #2
I teach Spanish. At the high school where I teach, Spanish and other foreign languages are electives. They are not required for graduation. Most colleges and universities require at least 2 years of the same foreign language for admission, some require 4. Most students who are college bound take at least 2 years.
Now, teaching an elective has its advantages. We don't have to have every.single. schmo. in our classes being one of them. We aren't under the microscope in terms of performance in the same way that, say, English, math and science teachers are.
It also has its disadvantages. Our numbers fluctuate from year to year, often causing great stress and strife when it comes down to staffing. We have to get creative sometimes if we want everyone to stay gainfully employed. If the kids get it in their heads that they don't like a particular teacher, they may opt to not take that class, and thus, enrollment goes down.
That being said, I have a colleague who feels very strongly that foreign language should be one of the "core" classes. Sounds good in theory, right? The ironic thing is that this particular teacher would never survive having the general population in his classes. He has no idea of how to teach to all kinds of kids. His classes always start out with a certain number of students, then about 30-40% of them fail and he ends up with very small classes consisting of very high functioning students. I just found out today that he is about 2-3 chapters ahead of everyone else in his Spanish 1 class, despite the fact that we have a district wide pacing chart. So, his students in Spanish 1 had to go through the material at light speed, which was probably all right for the upper kids, but for the rest? Is that good teaching? It seems counter to his wish for this to be a core class. He alienates the students by speaking Spanish ALL the time- to the point where they are frustrated and completely shut down.
Personally, I have found that it's important to speak as much Spanish as possible, without losing my students. They don't have to take Spanish and if they are completely turned off, they won't take it and then I won't have a job at my school anymore.