Ok, here’s the quick history of my life as a Spanish teacher.
Narrator: it was not quick
I spent grades K-5 in schools on the north shore of Chicago. I remember a Spanish teacher coming into our class in 1st grade and getting the name “Carlota” on a piece of cardstock hung around my neck. I remember that I had some kind of after-school Spanish program at one time. I don’t know if it was all year or a week. I don’t know if it was actually a Spanish course or if that was just one aspect of it. I don’t know if my single, working mom signed me up to actually learn Spanish or if it was a way to keep my busy and in an after school program while she finished her work day. Who knows. But I learned all the vocab easily. I remember in 5th grade our whole class had Spanish lessons. I remember watching the Lion King on a Spanish VHS during that time.
I spent grades 6-12 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Given the choices of French, German, and Spanish I chose Spanish because my older sisters took it and one was in Madrid abroad at the time. I was able to start my Spanish coursework in 8th grade. Thank you Bethany Solis for being my junior high Spanish teacher and helping my start loving it! We “used” the Paso a Paso books, but not really. I remember her well-organized handouts, I remember listening to “Guantanamera” but her having to rush and hit stop on the CD player to stop any other Wyclef songs from playing. I remember Enrique’s Escape album coming out. I remember learning the weather song and mimicking the SQUAWK parrot sounds for the rest of the year (and life… I still use it in class!)I remember my dialogue with Zac Larsen “SQUAWK – Tengo diarrea!” – why do 8th graders think they are SO FUNNY?! I also wore really cool socks.
In 10th grade Critical Skills class we had to shadow someone in a career field of interest. At this point I started saying “Well, Spanish is the only thing I’m good at, so I guess I’ll do something with that.” Now that I’m 30 I realize that I am actually very intelligent and skilled. But 15 year-old girls aren’t usually known for being self-actualized, so I forgive myself. So anyway, I decided to go back and shadow Señora Solis and learn about being a Spanish teacher. The rest is pretty much history. I was on the straight block system in HS. I took Spanish 1 in 8th grade, Spanish 2 in 9th grade, Spanish 3 in 10th grade, and in 11th grade took Spanish 4 first semester and AP Spanish 5 second semester. In 12th grade I took a TFLES class and taught elementary Spanish at a local school and Teacher Cadet and volunteered at a local bilingual elementary school. (Fort Collins is so cool and my opportunities and teachers and counselors at Rocky Mountain High School were unbelievable. I’ve still never experienced any other school like this place.) After being a peer counselor as well, I decided I wanted to have something to do with teaching+counseling+bilingual students+Spanish in my future. I decided to go to U of Illinois for college (I got in-state tuition because my dad still lived/lives in Illinois) and become a Spanish teacher for a while… and eventually go into school counseling at a school with a large bilingual population and help more Spanish-speaking families access higher education (this was my plan!)
I became a rugby player in high school and being a female rugby player is at least 70% of why I am who I am today.
I was a “BAT” at U of I and got my Bachelor in the Art of Teaching Spanish. I spent my whole junior year in Barcelona. There, I joined a rugby team and made life-long friends (as is known to happen in the rugby world. My Ibiza friend came to Colorado for my wedding and I traveled to Ibiza for hers).
My senior year I worked full time at Walmart (oops – I spent all my college savings in Europe, MY BAD) and did my student teaching at a small rural school – 1 teacher, 1 language, 1 high school… and it was her last year before retirement! I graduated and moved back to Colorado because in a very interesting twist I met an Illinois country boy at U of I who happened to be applying for work in Colorado the week we met! So began my teaching career…
Year 1: 2010-2011
I worked at an 8/9 school on the Western slope of Colorado. I lived in an adorable house alone with my best friend, Brando the dog. There was 1 other Spanish teacher.
There was a French teacher who spent 1/2 time at the high school and German teacher who spent 1/2 time at the HS. I did not have a mentor. The other Spanish teacher wasn’t really trying to make teaching his life’s work. The district had recently gone 100% TPRS (Cuéntame Más). I had never learned about or used TPRS before. I was 22 and like “This is ridiculous! I want to teach the alphabet and use verb charts and songs about the weather! I want to teach the clothing unit and have a fashion show! I don’t want to teach about a wolf who eats hamburgers and an angry dad! THIS IS HORRIBLE.” I just didn’t get it yet.
The other teachers at my school weren’t buying in and kept getting “caught” using textbooks during evaluations. It was an awkward place to be a first year teacher. Since I was the only one really trying to do what the district said, I became “Department Head” (WHAT?!?!?!) It was too much. It was awful. I quit teaching and used the excuse of “I got engaged and am moving with my fiancé for his job transfer” to get out of there. What a bummer… after all those years of thinking “I’m going to be a Spanish Teacher” deciding that it wasn’t for me after one year. So much crying.
Year off: 2011-2012
We moved to Colorado Springs. I worked as a bilingual case manager at a personal injury law firm. I started my Masters in School Counseling on June 10, got married on June 23, and took some midterms on June 25. So began my whirlwind life.
Year 2: 2012-2013
A coworker from the law firm was married to a man who was the executive director of a local charter school. It was August 2012 and I was in my full-time counseling degree program. I got a text “his Spanish teacher fell through. He needs a long term sub to teach Spanish 1. Are you interested?” It was perfect. I just taught 2 classes a day. I was able to do MA homework in the morning, teach in the middle of the day, do counseling practicum in the afternoon, and go to MA classes in the evening. It was nice to still have a job as a newlywed. This #feminist is not about relying on no man for income. This school used the Descubre textbook. It is extremely fast paced and grammar focused. It was fine for that school.
Year 3: 2013-2014
I had to find a place to do school counseling internship. While interviewing for this position I mentioned being a Spanish teacher hence, knowing a little bit about how schools work. “SPANISH TEACHER?!” they asked… “We need a part time Spanish teacher! Want to do that in the morning and internship in the afternoon?!” Score another one for Señora Skinner, finding a way to make some $$ while also spending ridiculous amounts of it on a Masters degree. I taught 3 periods of Spanish 1, using Jalen Waltman’s curriculum.
Now… my Illinois country boy husband was getting homesick. The song Meanwhile Back at Mama’s came out. Señora was aching for a sense of community as well. We looked into jobs in the area where my husband grew up. I was looking for counseling or teaching jobs, now that my Masters was completed. Anything to get us back “home!” Hey, I found one!
Year 4: 2014-2015
This is when I FINALLY met Frau. The Spanish department used En Español for levels 1 and 2. Spanish 3 and 4 were dual credit at the local community college and awkwardly separate from levels 1 and 2. First clue about lack of flow here. I had a baby in April! That was cool. (Maybe I could do another post about the nonexistence of maternity leave in the USA).
Year 5: 2015-2016
Frau and I went to ICTFL together in October. We came back like WOOOO!!!! IPAs, Authentic Resources! Let’s get our curriculums vertically aligned and work for PROFICIENCY!! Our coworkers and admin team were like “Nah.”
We started to try our best to “shut your door and do your best… do what you can within your textbook department.” <– The advice that so many of us give and get once we start doing PD and learning more about ACTFL and CI, etc etc. Summer 2016 I started the MA program in Granada OMG BEST THING EVERRRRRR.
Year 6: 2016-2017
OK so in an attempt to keep peace, I had ALL the Spanish 2s. That meant I was supposed to be able to teach them 100% how I wanted. But let’s be serious… when you work in department, nothing can happen in a vacuum. You get kids from other teachers and you give them to other teachers. I kept trying to do what I thought was BEST while also sharing this with my department so we could ALL flow better and build our whole PROGRAM! Frau tried too but was shut out of a lot of meetings because she wasn’t a SPANISH teacher 🙄. It became clear that this squeaky wheel (me) was NOT going to be getting oil because the direction this wheel (me) was going was not the direction the school wanted to go. My values and beliefs about teaching language did not align with the school’s plans for its language program. It just was not the place for me so it was me who had to go.
I quit without having anything lined up because my husband and I agreed that the misery was ruining our life. We’d rather be broke or have me work at Hardee’s than come home with this rage and depression every day. I interviewed in May for some other local teaching jobs. (Thanks, Illinois Teacher Shortage for making it so there is always a job available for me!) Frau left too, citing personal reasons (her family was 3 hours away and it three years without her support network + not ideal work situation = sad Frau.)
I still spent the summer 2017 completing part 2 of my Granada masters program and finished my “Trabajo Fin de Master” in December. So that’s done! I now have:
- BA Teaching of Spanish – U of I
- MA Counseling and Human Services – UCCS
- MA Teaching and Learning of the Spanish Language and Culture – UGR
Year 7: 2017-2018
Jackpot. I am now a department of 1. There are less than 80 kids in the high school. I am starting the program from scratch for kids that have never had a language teacher before. I had 6 years of teaching under my belt, this was my 5th new school, I’ve got 2 masters degrees, 2 ICTFL conferences, one CSCTFL conference, and admin that agreed to send me to ACTFL 2017.
I now have confidence. I have support. I am viewed as an expert. I am trusted. I have freedom. I get to make mistakes and try new things and I’m still “better than no teacher at all!” I grew the program from 33 kids to 45 for next year! Only two 8th graders didn’t sign up and I visited them personally to ask them to reconsider! I have gone deskless. I use novels. No text book. I try IPAs. I have verb charts tucked in a desk and take them out when I feel like it’s necessary. I fail a lot. I succeed a lot. It’s just chill for once – It was time for me to feel chill. I can’t wait to move these kids towards the Seal of Biliteracy. Maybe I can get them some dual credit eventually too! All of which my admin supports because they want to give their rural kids as many skills, talents, credits, and legs up as possible. I miss Frau, but I’m happy! (My son, dogs, and husband also appreciate chill señora/mama)
This summer, Frau and I had Curriculum Camp so we could both get ready and make plans for our 2018-2019 school year! (My eighth year, her 5th.) Wohoo! That’s me!