Well, I am still teaching Spanish For America. I am now considered a fully certified K-12 Spanish teacher. And, in line with my 2-year commitment, I am still teaching at the same school. Year 2 is much better, overall, and I’ll explain some reasons why.
When I walked into my school at the beginning of last year, I had no idea what to expect. I humbly submit that I had even less of an idea of what to expect that a “regular” TFA CM stepping into their position, because I would posit that being the school’s founding Spanish teacher gives you much less information than being a grade-level teacher. That’s just my experience. Feel free to correct me. I quickly found that I had no curriculum, and, since I was teaching grades 1 & 2, no real way to get one that worked fast (side note: I never did get a curriculum.) I spent the year struggling to manage my classes and, even more so, struggling to decide whether my curriculum was “good enough.”
I’m going to say something incendiary here. Something that is based entirely on my own perceptions and experience. I believe that, in my first year, despite the challenges I describe above, I was still a better teacher to my 120+ children than some of the veteran teaching staff working at my school. In this way, I continue to believe in the mission of TFA.
My second year, I had entirely rewritten the curriculum, came in with it fully completed, and came in knowing my students and managing them at a higher level. This gave me more immediate control over my classes. The growing pains of a new (est. 2010) charter school were lessened, though they have not disappeared entirely. I find myself this year more able to concentrate on things that I wasn’t finding time for last year, such as differentiation, investment, and really fine-tuning the curriculum to be something that I can be proud of.
Last year as I say amongst piles of papers with no “real” ideas of what an elementary school Spanish program should look like, my M, TLD (bless her, with no Spanish or foreign language experience to speak of) hopped on phone calls, made appointments, observed and met me above and beyond her charge to make sure I was surviving. I am convinced that my school was happy giving the writing of curriculum over to any inexperienced Spanish teacher who would do it for the price point they were offering (that happened to be me), but I am in some ways glad that it was me. Because I am proud that I cared enough not to be overwhelmed and walked in swinging, and that I had people who were willing to support me and trust me to make academic decisions about something I knew little about (foreign language pedagogy), and things I knew much more about (Spanish language and Hispanic culture).
I want to start posting here more often (I say this often!!) if only because I think that being part of this community can help fuel my passion personally. Is that a selfish reason? Perhaps. Though I like to think that my kids benefit directly from the maintaining of such passion. I also have things that I want to say, and may be more able to say in the coming months. Regardless, I’d like to weigh in and share what the last quarter of my two years looks like, and what the area beyond them looks like as well.