Back to School

I am back to school, and everything is different: grades I haven’t ever taught, a language I have barely taught (and have never actually studied). I’m the new Spanish teacher at a local private school, and it’s a steep learning curve. I’m lucky to have amazing friends in the Spanish language and curriculum business, so I’m leaning on them heavily.

To improve, I watch videos of others teaching, read as much as I can, and listen to podcasts. Of the last, RadioAmbulante remains my favorite: it is long enough to get a walk in, and I can pre-read the transcripts to find the phrases I don’t understand. Today was the first day that I’ve ever listened to and understood almost a whole podcast without having read the transcript first. And I retook a quiz on preterito/imperfectivo (совершенный/несовершенный) verbs that I’d given up on when I got 2/40 a couple times in a row. Today I understood almost every word, and got a 38/40. That was encouraging. Most of the right answers seemed obvious. I know I am acquiring, but it’s not in an audible, linear fashion.

As I was explaining to a retired Spanish kindergarten teacher friend today, while I can do circling of stories, and even mostly ask stories, I lack the vocabulary — for things like musical instruments, and animals — and the automaticity of classroom phrases. “¿Puedo ir al baño?” (may I go to the bathroom) is easy to help kids say, since I’ve listened to Jim Wooly’s song enough times. But “Write your name on your paper” and “Take a block out of your bag” or “Draw a picture of…” are not phrases that anyone has said to me. They haven’t figured large in Fluency Matters novels or the book of Spanish poetry my daughter left me; nor do they come up in the RadioAmbulante series! If I didn’t move from class to class, I would post a cheat sheet on the back wall of my classroom.

I think I’m the only person with my level of language teaching in a school. The admins do know my history. I’ve told them they must hire the first person who comes along who will do a better job than I. In the meantime, I am in love with this job and these kids and happy to be there. Think about me, and if you speak Spanish, share useful phrases in the comments!


A few of my resources and life-saving friends:

Martina Bex’s Somos Curriculum

Amy Vander Deen‘s Había Una Vez Curriculum

Julie Matthews El Mundo de Pepita

Mira Canion’s novels and teacher guides

Videos of Leslie Davison, Annabelle Allen, Erica Peplinski

RadioAmbulante podcast

(And the Facebook Elementary TPRS Teachers page — what an amazing bunch of helpful folks)

10 responses to “Back to School

  1. Plural commands: Escriban su nombre. / Saquen un bloque de su bolsa. / Dibujen un(a)…
    At least I think I’m right. I’m also a teacher of Spanish who used to teach Russian. I would say “Напиши имя” to kids who forgot to write their names on their papers until I heard a native speaker teacher/colleague say “Подпиши”.

    There’s a Facebook group for Spanish teachers called How do you say? – and it’s really helpful for all those phrases that are common in the context of American school but not so common in situations where most of the teachers have acquired their L2.


  2. I couldn’t find the Facebook group “How do you say”. Any suggestions?


  3. (I wasn’t shouting…that’s how it copied from the FB page.)


  4. For my fellow Russian teachers…this video

    caused me to ask a story in Russian class that came out like this last night (the last night of an eight-week series):

    Есть семья. Это очень большое семья! Кто в семье? Это хороший вопрос! В семье есть мама, папа, дочка, её муж, и их дети (или: бабушка, дедушка, мама, папа, 7 сестёр и 1 брат). Ещё есть собака и кошка. У папы и мамы есть семь дочек и один сын. Семья большая! Семья ждёт. Где ждёт семья? Семья ждёт на диване. Где находится диван? Диван находится не в доме. Диван находится в лесу. Где находится лес? Лес находится около Озера Байкала. Кого или что ждёт семья? Семья ждёт такси. Но в лесу нету такси. Есть Uber. Шофёр Uber — нерпа. Нерпа ведёт большую машину. Семья ждёт машину. Куда семья хочет поехать? Семья хочет поехать на озеро. Но нерпа не хочет поехать на озеро с кошкой и собакой. Нерпа не хочет, чтобы были кошка и собака в машине.
    –Пожалуйста! — говорит семья. Семья очень хочет на Озеро Байкал.
    –Не хочу собаку и кошку. Большая семья — это не проблема–говорит нерпа. Нерпа очень не хочет собаку и кошку.
    Семья даёт нерпе деньги. Нерпа не хочет ехать с собакой и кошкой. Семья даёт нерпе 100 килограммов рыбы.
    –Хорошо–говорит нерпа. –Поехали.
    И семья поехала на Озеро Байкал.


    And…I’d like to share with you the story that Yana Sinyaeva and I created; she put it into the 3Ears site. It’s about a nerpa (which explains the nerpa in the story above), and I think it’s adorable, if I say so myself. It’s part of the folder that this link will take you to. Watch in order to understand.


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