There’s always a story and this will forever be my favorite student story to tell. I’m certain you have one similar. And that’s what this post is about: the student story. Or, more likely, the students’ stories. Maybe this
tale will serve as a sweet reminder.
The last autumn that I was teaching, Anthony was new to my class. Though the rest of the students on that roster and I had already spent the previous two years together (by design), seemingly, there should have been no new-to-me students in that class, but there he was. Already feeling out of place, when Anthony did participate (rare), he did so in English and not the target language. And what he contributed was full of snark, with a side dose of humor. He was not picking up what I was throwing down, and I wanted to make sure to “have a chat” before it was too late. One day I pulled him aside and simply asked him. Nicely. I asked very nicely. “How are things going for
you?” Thinking I was asking him about class, his reply was simply, “I totally suck at Spanish.” I banked on the kid’s sense of humor when I responded with, “Yeah. Besides the obvious, what else is going on?”
We laughed. A lot, actually.
And from there we made a plan. Nothing formal, but a plan nonetheless.
The “how” we decided to proceed in class is completely secondary - maybe even tertiary - to the “why.” That day, I listened to the less-than-Reader’s Digest version of Anthony’s history with Spanish because he needed to tell me. He needed me to know that he felt that he “sucked” at Spanish, but more importantly, he needed me to see him. As a person. To hear him, and all that comes with that.
So, while you are knee-deep in rubrics and standards and all sorts of other pressures, remember the young humans in your charge. They want to know you as much as you (hopefully) want to know them. This article, Improving Students Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning - common sense more than anything else, outlines how teachers/learning leaders can further help students develop socially, at
a time when they may be challenged with a myriad of other issues.
Language exploration invites/allows/encourages errors. A perfect petri dish for kids who might be programmed in “perfection” being the only way. And the connection with an adults who allows such imperfection: priceless.
All pedagogy aside (mostly because I can’t quote or reference any), language teachers are in the unique position to pay close attention to the humans in their classes. While some might argue that the acquisition of the language is more important, human connection needs to come first, lest there be no want, willingness or wonder to create the unfamiliar sounds and phrases. Human interaction begets language and vice versa.
Seemingly, at least in Anthony’s eyes, those are the lessons that stick with the students most. This post is not new and not news. Just a reminder about the human element of teaching, but especially language leading. Anthony went on to graduate, was accepted into a college and received a sizeable scholarship for his efforts - and he thanked me. No, he still really can’t put too many words of Spanish together well, but that doesn’t stop him from trying, and that is the very best part of this tale. Surely you have an Anthony story. Please share. And if you don’t (yet), you will.