Teaching four classes, nearly a full-time teacher, at Regis Jesuit High School (Denver, CO) has been a very formative experience. I often find myself overwhelmed with grading assignments that just keep coming in. Some weeks are better than others, and I find time to promptly return things, others, not so much. It’s been a learning curve, and to me this is the irony of teaching. While I am doing so much instructing, I find myself learning so much more. I learn from my coaching staff of the varsity boys’ soccer team, I learn from my mentor, my colleagues, my administration, my fellow ASCs, but most of my learning comes from my students. I often notice this the most when I receive emails from students. I’ll get something along the lines of, “Maestro, could we get our quizzes back before the test to study from?” and I think to myself, “hmm… yeah, alright that is more than fair and I need to get that done asap!” The struggle I often find myself dealing with is relating to these girls. What was I like when I was in high school? Can I relate my experience of a teenage boy at Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, MO) to these first year students, sophomores, and juniors at Regis Jesuit – Girls’ Division?
I often find that the answer to that question is, yes. I am starting to see their classroom experience through their eyes, and it’s helping me to improve my style and my classroom culture. The benefits of this are phenomenal. Simple things like having students participating in class is something that just really makes my day and cheers me up. In my Honors Spanish 3 classes, I tried something different about 3 weeks ago. I said to the girls, “I want this class to speak only in Spanish, and I want to only teach in Spanish. Do you think we can make this work?” Immediately I hear sighs and whispers of disappointment. One girl from Spain in my class (who obviously speaks fluently) says to me, “I’m worried my friends in this class who don’t speak Spanish well will feel left out and it will only be us native speakers participating.” I acknowledged her claim and said, “Well, what if we just tried it today to see how it goes? Can we manage just trying?” “Sí,” they all responded. And so we did. I think they surprised themselves in two ways, the first being in how much they could actually understood me teaching in Spanish, and second, I could see the confidence they had when they would converse with me and question and learn in Spanish. By the end of the class everyone was speaking in Spanish to each other, laughing, and enjoying themselves (as much as they could whilst studying the subjunctive).
Now, three weeks later, they come to class and will tell each other, “Habla español, habla español !!” (Speak Spanish, speak Spanish!!), During both Honors 3 classes, I teach and speak to them and they to me in Spanish for about 90% of the class, using phrases like “Cómo se dice? (how do you say…?) or Qué signifíca?” (what does that mean?) to supplement the gaps. It’s amazing, and I leave every class with a smile on my face knowing that they are actually using and improving their skills. The realization of this comes outside of the classroom, at home soccer matches when I see them in the stands with signs that say “Maestro!”, or “I love Crédito Extra”. I even had a group of 8 or 9 students come to a Saturday morning soccer game and cheer the team on in Spanish! I couldn’t believe it. In the hallways or around school, I’ll hear, “Hola, Maestro!” and a very friendly wave. It brings the biggest smile to my face, not to be a “popular” face around the Girls Division, but to have begun to instill a love of a language and culture in these young girls. The highlight of these last few weeks? A young sophomore named Paco (her Spanish name) who came up to me after class and said, “Maestro, I really love speaking Spanish now, it really is so fun!” What more can you ask for from a group of young women who are starting to realize their potential?