Making good mistakes – a new beginning

Hello, internet! I figured it was time for me to finally start a legitimate Spanish teaching blog. I have been kicking around the idea in my head for a while, and now that I have a student teacher, I actually have time! (For now.) You can learn about me under the about tab, but this is more of an informal greeting post.

For my readers, I must stress the word informal. I like to keep a casual tone when I write – I write like I talk – and I am a rambler (twitter is painful for me). You have been warned. This blog is also realistic. By that, I mean, I sometimes will post about situations in my classroom that didn’t go so well. Sometimes my students irritate me. One of the purposes of this blog is to reach out to language teachers, especially new teachers, who might feel lost and isolated. I know I sure felt that way a lot. I want teachers to know that if your classroom isn’t perfect – maybe your kids talk a lot, maybe they are resistant to your efforts, maybe some are just plain mean – that’s normal and you’re doing okay.

However, most of this blog will be about stuff I’m trying in the classroom. I named it ‘Making Good Mistakes’ because that’s my theme for this whole year of teaching. I am trying to make good mistakes, and encourage good mistakes among my students. By that, I mean I want my students to stop feeling so scared to make mistakes. Mistakes show that they’re learning. In language learning, if you aren’t making mistakes… it means you probably aren’t saying anything at all!

For me, making good mistakes means tripping my way through teaching Spanish. In undergrad, I was taught to use CI and we were introduced to a bit of TPRS, but like many novice teachers, I wasn’t comfortable using my Spanish in front of the class. When you’re new, you’re so busy drowning under classroom management that the first thing to go is the Spanish and it’s very easy to revert to the grammar-heavy way I was taught in the 90’s and 2000’s when I was first learning. On top of that, I am the only Spanish teacher in my district and I came into a situation where I was the 5th Spanish teacher in 4 years. The curriculum hadn’t been updated in a decade. You can imagine how things went.

But now I’m in my 4th year and I have a good rapport with my students. I was doing well enough with grammar instruction and have, in my opinion, ridiculously high retention rates in my classes considering how small my school is. But I’m still having students who are in Spanish 4 and asking what tener means. I have students in Spanish 3 that are still struggling with querer. My first year, I got through the whole year and couldn’t figure out why my students had no idea what hacer meant or how to use it, before realizing that hacer was only casually mentioned (at best) in the text. I felt like Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, aka @musicuentos, in her recent post about too much content. I taught them all the things, why couldn’t they use them??

So this year, thanks to a grad professor who forced me into twitter, I found my new love: #langchat. I don’t get to participate as much as I’d like, but it’s always the highlight of my Thursday when I can. The amazing collaborators of #langchat really push me to consider new ideas and challenge myself and my students. I am slowly changing my grammar-heavy ways thanks to them (and their beautiful collections of useful ideas and resources that make my life so much easier). Is it going perfectly? Of course not. One of my future posts will be about trying to find balance in my teaching. But I’m on my way. I hope you all enjoy coming on this crazy ride with me.

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