Teachin' Spanish For America

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 12 2011

The big post-Praxis update

First I wanted to take a quick serious second to register my sadness at the tragedy that’s befallen Japan and the ongoing crisis.  I encourage everyone to donate to a group like the Red Cross and help show international support for a human cause.

That said.

I have SO much to cover!  In the interest of not bombarding you all in the great wide world of the internets with stuff you care very little about (after all, I suspect most people who end up on this site are hoping for/expecting blogs from people already teaching as part of Teach for America), I have limited my updating.  However, I fear that looong, loooooooooong updates like this where I try and cram everything in might not be the best plan either–you know, if I want people to read the information at the end also, that is.

Let’s see, what have I been up to.  Well, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages has certified me at an Advanced Low–the score that I needed to pass!  This was a telephone interview.  I felt pretty good about it before, during, and after, despite trepidation due to not having taken a Spanish class in almost a year.  Honestly, I felt that I would have done better (I feel like I was on the line for Advanced-Mid) if I had been taking a Spanish class, had just gotten back from Argentina, or had just been speaking more Spanish.  Basically, what they tell you as far as advice on their website is true–there’s not really any way to “study.”  We talked about my time in Argentina, my opinions on things like female presidents and whitewater rafting.  But, I am very pleased to have passed that particular hurdle!

While I was waiting for Spanish Praxis scores to exist, I went to the Borders near Jordan that is liquidating and picked some stuff up for my future kids.  It’s hard for me to shop for books in Spanish because I have really no idea what grade level I will be teaching (but the books were cheap and I wanted them for me anyway, so I felt it was justified?)  I ended up getting Marquez’s El amor en los tiempos del cólera, and Yo no vengo a decir un discurso, a series of speeches he has given that I have not yet read.  Those two are mostly for me, though if I end up teaching high school, they might be useful to teach or use for exercises.  I also got The Old Man and The Sea in Spanish, even though if we’re being honest I hate that damn story.  But it’s short and the language is fairly simple.  I also got President Obama’s The Audacity of Hope in Spanish on CD–I figure it might be useful for listening exercises, plus I haven’t read it yet and I keep meaning to.

I got of all these in the company of my boyfriend, who means well but with whom I don’t always (read: rarely) see eye-to-eye ideologically.  The next morning when I was laying in bed and he was going to work (it was a weekend), he started to tell me about how he didn’t think my students would be able to handle that kind of advanced stuff.  We come from really different backgrounds (he lived deep within Brooklyn, I in the ‘burbs of MA), and so he started to explain that his Spanish classes in high school used middle school textbooks, and so not to expect much out of these kids.  Although the moment made me inexplicably angry, I just told him I was looking forward to proving him wrong.  If I teach younger kids, then the Spanish base that I provide them (as well as the tools to be their own advocates in a society pretty hell-bent on ignoring or outright disenfranchising them) will serve to drive them for the rest of their educations.  If I teach older kids, then I will remind them what it feels like to have their very best expected of them.  And that’s that.

Speaking of, I’ve started the Pre-Institute work, as mentioned briefly in the previous post.  So far, so good.  I’m printing out most of the stuff rather than using the books they sent me, so that I can highlight, scribble questions, and take notes in peace.  I’m hoping to look over the blank ones in the weeks just before Institute to try and really internalize the information.  Right now I’m doing a lot of reading on race and its part in the classroom.  I find all of it very interesting and informative especially when considered in dialogue with some of the other race theory that I have read (because contrary to apparent/popular belief, I am pretty well-versed in stuff like that…I just don’t judge people who aren’t).  I’m not agreeing with everything I’ve read, but I’m thinking about things in new ways and critically, which I guess is the point.  I think especially that a lot of teachers and even incoming corps members with whom I’ve had interaction would do well to really and truly read some of the information and maybe as a result step off of their high horses for a little while.

The lesson-planning, overarching sorts of tracts I’m reading are also making me itch to get started on my own lesson planning!  I have downloaded and looked over New Jersey standards for Spanish and have been thinking about big goals and units.  Unfortunately, here again I feel really crippled by having no earthly idea what grades I will be teaching.  Spanish 101 for a  third grader at a charter school is so intensely different from Spanish 101 for a senior in high school.  I guess I’ll keep thinking and waiting, and hopefully soon (Early Interview Day in mid-May) I will have a much better idea so that I can use the month before Institute at least thinking about everything.

I was looking through my local, independent used bookstore (a place that I LOVE–the couches!  The smell!) and I found Fires in the Bathroom for $6, which I have been meaning to read and thus picked up.  Interesting so far!  I’ve been taking advantage also of the fact that Ithaca has a HUGE base of education books that I won’t find many other places.  I’ve got like a four page list of books I want to read from in there, and I’ll keep all y’all updated on the books I’m reading.  I might eventually make a separate page with short reviews for those interested.

IN OTHER NEWS, I literally JUST got back from taking the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge Praxis exam.  It was two hours, I was done in about an hour fifteen (that includes checking work ad nauseum) so I’m going to be really embarrassed if I didn’t do well.  I feel pretty confident, however.  The math section was bizarrely the easiest for me.  It always throws me off that what should be my truly stellar section, English, is mixed in with literacy and pedagogy questions in which i simply do not have any background knowledge yet.  This inevitably brings my score down.  I was kind of surprised/sad to hear about others in the room being on their third time taking the test.  The only way this is acceptable is if the test was somehow much harder than my original impressions, in which case I’m certain I failed miserably.

The amount of time it took to apply for, schedule, take, and receive scores from that test was less than the wait between taking the Spanish Praxis and getting results from it.  That’s just silly.  Hopefully Monday I will have those scores in my hand and will be able to share with the world that I am qualified (at least for now) to teach Spanish in the state of NJ.  But we shall see!  I’m keeping everyone going through their certification and testing and qualification processes in my thoughts during this busy season! :)

2 Responses

  1. mrs. ohlams

    Glad to hear the Elem. Ed: Content Knowledge seemed easy. I take it Thursday. Did you do much prep work for it?

    • heikemarie

      I didn’t do much prep at all (read: hardly any). I took a lot of practice tests and I was averaging high 80s so I felt fairly comfortable. I did brush up on the pedagogical questions (because I utterly lack the background) using the ETS official guide and some of the guides available at Barnes and Noble (of course, I never bought them, just used them at BN and returned them to the shelves ;]). I also brushed up on some math terms I have forgotten in the intermittent 6 years since taking a math class (median, mode, etc.). But that’s going to vary by person and subject strength. Best of luck to you Thursday!

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