Surprises at school

I’m back to school at last. Better late than never!

The first thing I didn’t expect was the hugs I would get. High school was never like this, and it’s endearing to have elementary kids who actually know me this year.

The second surprise was the kind comments from teachers who said that their kids learned a whole lot of Spanish from me last year. Sometimes that feels as though they have to be kidding. I’m that person who didn’t know how to tell them to give me their papers, and I only recently realized that I somehow know all the days of the week now.

Next is my lack of fear, compared to last year. Having acquired at least another year of this language myself, I am much less prone to experiencing complete panic in the classroom. Now, if I don’t know a word, I just shrug. Sometimes I look it up, sometimes I don’t. We needed “cotton candy” yesterday, for instance. I looked it up. The State Fair is still going on, and kids need it.

And here is a real biggie. After using Terry Waltz’s Teacher’s Discovery skinny Super Seven posters in my Oregon classroom this summer, I now have my own to put up, take down, repeat, in every single room. (Thanks to Christy Lade, who shared her traveling classroom technique of putting pins in the wall and rings on posters, I transform each room into a Spanish class instantly.) And guess what: by having those Super Seven words on the wall, my fifth-graders wrote a range of 47-100 words in five-minute fast-writes. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never had them do that last year, but I wanted a baseline this year. They were thrilled. So was I. Of course, it is also true that at least one of them earned 24 Wooly badges over the summer. But weirdly, none of them seemed to lose any Spanish over the summer.

I am still going to be taking Spanish lessons from the amazing Alice Ayel. I am still trying to limit the bulk of my book reading to Spanish (or Russian, of course). I have a very long way to go. But I’m thrilled to say that I can now have complete conversations with Spanish-speaking moms, instead of hiding out in the copy room when I see them coming. I was able to talk for three hours (!!) this summer with a Costa Rican Airbnb owner in Boston, and I understood 97% of a presentation that was in Spanish for Spanish teachers at iFLT this summer. I almost can’t believe it. This CI/ADI stuff truly works, for learners of any age.

14 responses to “Surprises at school

  1. I am not teaching Spanish, but I too am on the same journey as you, to acquire Spanish through CI (I’m a French teacher and now by virtue of my husband getting a new job and me leaving my classroom after 27 years, I’m working with ESL students). I’m tracking my hours of input. I listen to podcasts while driving, exercising, cleaning etc. I watch YouTube videos, I read some of my Bible in Spanish AND like you I’m enjoying Alice Ayel one hour a week. I think when we ourselves acquire another language, we are MUCH more empathetic to our learners. Que bueno que tu haces lo que tu haces SIN miedo! Maria in Alabama


    • I guess I should have been tracking, but last year I did spend about 20 hours a week working on Spanish. This year, it’s more like 8, but I can feel myself absorbing in little jumps. Good for you! It really is an interesting journey!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michele – did the school system hire you knowing you were learning/acquiring Spanish? Have you written much about last year, which I gather was your first year teaching Spanish? I haven’t met you in person, but I’m proud of you for being willing to do something like this with courage and faith!


      • Hi Maria, it’s an independent private school. They were searching for a Spanish teacher, as the full-time one had moved into an admin position. I tried so hard to explain that it was a bad idea to hire me for Spanish, but the head of school was certain that, since I knew enough to teach beginners in a community school program, and especially because I had trained their former teacher in methods, I would be fine. It continues to be a lot of work to grow my Spanish, and I’m still a bit horrified that I’m doing this (answering in the middle of watching a Spanish language video on mindfulness that I can actually understand). I haven’t written much about last year, mostly because I was too busy reading/listening to intermediate level lessons and following the FB SOMOS page and the FB Elementary Spanish, and also because I was corresponding with those folks who were kind enough to fix my written work…

        Thanks for the kind words! I find it kind of funny that I still don’t know the words for grammar. I was asking a fluent speaker at our school about the difference between era and fue because I saw “Fue el tiempo de…” and she wanted to know whether I was confused about preterite and imperfect. Since I didn’t really know how those related to my question, I had to just ask her for examples that meant something to me. I do know what those mean in my Russian language, but for now I go by what sounds right. Maybe one day I’ll do some credit work in Spanish…just to have credibility…


      • Michele – thank you for your story. I’m experimenting on myself N=1 (1 person in my control group – me)!
        I spend 2 hours a day (but some of that is cooking, driving working out while listening to podcasts. Do you know of Dreaming Spanish for videos and Spanishland school for podcasts? (she’s columbian married to a Texan and they live in Nashville – grammar approach but also some good discussion. I also listen (via iTunes) to Duolingo’s podcasts and one called No Hay Tos and Telemundo has a weekly podcast and Espanol con Juan has a podcast.

        I get Fue/era/ estaba/estuve all the heck mixed up. We just need to hear it enough in context!!!

        I am proud of you and your courage for trusting God and taking the plunge. 🙂


      • Wow! Didn’t see this earlier. I love Dreaming Spanish, and am always recommending it. I didn’t know about the others, so I will be increasing my list now. (I went all the way through the regular Duolingo Spanish course, and didn’t gain much until I went to their stories.) I have listened to Radio Ambulante and Habla Español podcasts. RA is still fast, and some of them were so sad that I didn’t want to listen. But now I am at the stage where I don’t have to pre-read the transcript to follow. Our brains are amazing.

        Thank you so much for these suggestions!


      • I agree with you Michele about R. A. I unsubscribed. I do like the weekly podcast from Telemundo – estuviéramos aqui


      • Michele – here is a link to my latest newsletter. I tell the story about a young man who is now fluent in Spanish, having never left the states nor does he have hispanic family. You’ll have to copy and paste the link into your browser.


      • Thanks so much!


  2. Michele, estoy tan orgullosa de ti!!! Qué bien que tu no tengas miedo ahora 🙂 Enhorabuena! Tengo ganas de hablar contigo pronto!


  3. Maria, I’m now obsessed with Spanish Land School! I like it b/c I can understand it, and because she’s explaining grammar. I realize that I can’t absorb grammar if I haven’t had enough experience, but I love the ones in which the points are all ones that I have come to use on my own, or which I at least can nod, “I’ve heard that a bunch.” What a great voice to listen to! She’s always so cheery.


  4. Yes! It’s wonderful!


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