I've had a very good year.
Students who used to hate, HATE Spanish class--MY Spanish class--are begging for Spanish III. Every single one of my students improved in at least two of the communication skills, and over half reached intermediate levels on reading, writing, AND speaking on the final IPA (My more novice-appropriate listening approach might have gotten more over that hump too).
No one failed.
first started assessing with IPAs last year, and that--listening aside--the higher end is even higher than last semester's Spanish I results.
I think I'm on the right track!
However. While it is clear that something is improving in my Spanish classes, I have to make a confession.
It's not all me.
I think the results I'm getting (listening aside) are pretty great. But here's a list of things that made it easier for me to get those results:
- One prepSure, I had to manage a total of 95 students this semester, but 52 of them were in an alternating study hall on the days their college Health class wasn't meeting. I gave them some note taking tips, monitored their grades, kept them quiet. But I had no lessons to prepare, no feedback to return. I mean, I usually have 2 preps, what with my English classes, but every once in a while...
- Classes under 25
The two Spanish II classes I did have to plan for, grade for, and generally make work had under 25 students each. They weren't the magical ideal number I figured out student teaching (15) but they were close enough that everyone could get what they needed most of the time.
I was only teaching my babies. That's all I ever teach: my babies. I find a way to get to know the freshman class every year, whether it's with lab, focus time, enrichment, or clubs, and I analyze. I've been analyzing this particular group for 2 whole years. No one else taught them Spanish, either. I have all of the records and all of the memories of what worked--but mostly what didn't work--last year in Spanish I. When I had aaallll of these same kids. And? They know they can never escape me. MWAHAHAHAH!
- College schedules
I haven't had a new student after the 10-day mark in four years. We can't have new students. They miss part of one college class, and they're behind their entire early college career. What's more is they have that built-in lab time in their schedules because college classes are only Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday. Oh, and whaddaya know? Their lab time was during my planning time! Oh, and college classes don't meet on Fridays? Well come on down for Academic Hour to get help or make up that work! I guess you could come before or after school, but look at all this space built into your day to come see me!
- ChoiceYes, I teach teenagers. Yes, they are fickle and come with all of the issues you'd expect any teenagers to come with. They applied one time to get into our school and then got tossed into a lottery--not hand picked. But you know what? The kids that made it into the lottery were the ones that had the follow-through to obtain, complete, and submit the application. They're the ones with the parents who were involved enough to A) be aware that a school such as ours existed (even if it was only by getting a paper shoved into their hands to sign) and B) sign the application.
The application does not guarantee that these kids are "The Cream of the Crop," and certainly not that they will LOVE school and always do their homework. But these are kids who at least one time decided school was a good idea, and they have parents who at least one time decided to help them make a change. It's a small thing, but not only di our kids make a choice to come to our school, but once they get here they are not limited to staying or dropping out--they can go back to their home high school.
Could I do what I do with kids who weren't filtered through an application process? I think so. Could I do what I do if I met these kids for the first time on the first--or fiftieth--day of class? Not as well as I do with my own babies and not as quickly, but probably. Could I do what I do with four preps or multiple classes of 35? Heck no.
But you know what? I think my situation STINKS.
It doesn't stink that my kids are getting what they need. It doesn't stink that I can spend time reflecting on my kids' needs and trying new things AND still sleep.
It stinks that it is not the norm.
Doesn't everybody's kid deserve this kind of support and attention? Doesn't every teacher deserve the time and space to do the best possible work without sacrificing their health and home?
A lottery should never determine who gets to succeed--teacher or student.
So what can we do to make the advantages I enjoy status quo?
What can we do to ensure that every student and teacher has what they need to succeed?