Saturday, January 14, 2012


Being out of the classroom is -- well, it takes getting used to.  I have a lot of time to think about how I teach, excuse me, taught.  It's given me the room to step back and see things differently.  I feel very much on the right track with the amount of oral, face-to-face, person-to-person, laugh-out-loud, social interactions I require of my students.  I also know the ease with which I can grade oral work is thanks in whole to the 1 to 1 computer program at my school--kids can use Garageband and email to send me work.  The video components required for assessment are so easy to make and grade with Vimeo and Keynote.  Zambombazo, the world's best Spanish culture website, is still free.  And the access it gives my students to pop culture is non pareil.

I feel less satisfied with the grammar.

My mission to go to DR to improve my grammar was a complete failure.  The environment I was in demanded English.  The Spanish I heard was a delightful mix of many foreigners trying to speak Spanish.  The high point was the absolute delight expressed by the kids when I used my "teacher voice" in Spanish.  Kids marveled at that--their eyes lit up with understanding.  But they also ignored my mistakes because my accent was correct.

Stateside, when I returned from the DR and visited my old students and old classroom, I received feedback.  My top student in Spanish 4 told me that I focused more on culture than on grammar.  He said having a grammar-oriented teacher (my sub) was the perfect complement to my style.  He said this very diplomatically and generously. 

I realize he is right.  For me, Spanish is a means of telling a story.  I love a cultural lens to lessons because I love the stories.  For me, the rules are important but vague.  My strictest teacher, Luisana, from days of old in the city of sun, Valencia--her strict reprimands and my host brothers who laughed at me outright and fixed my grammar with a smile--those days are gone.  Far behind.  My best education in Spanish grammar is...19 years old.

venezuela 1993

I know I need to focus on grammar.  Testing myself with the many free online placement tests puts me at B2/C1 or advanced mid/advanced high.  How can I get to that elusive superior rating without some serious grammar work?  How do I fix the foundation?  There seems to be no other choice but to go back to school and really try to fix this thing.  It will make my teaching a lot better.  I still want to focus on the stories, but I want to do it with perfect grammar.

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