Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Giving Up

A time comes when one has to recognize that it's impossible to be successful every single time. Sometimes, you have to admit defeat even in things that you are normally very good at. So today I have finally recognized that I failed utterly and completely at teaching my Intermediate Spanish II course. 

I really gave it my all, people. I planned each class as if it were going to be observed by the Chair, the Dean and the Chancellor. I prepared original activities for every single class session. I put on videos, created word games, lab activities, and board games tailored specifically to this group's needs. And after all that effort, I am handing out graded mini-quizzes today and the students (every single one of them, too) say "Thank you." Can you believe this? After all my efforts, after a long conversation we had at the end of our last meeting about the importance of using Spanish in the classroom, they cannot even bring themselves to say "Gracias." Two weeks before the end of the semester I can't even get them to say "thank you" in the target language.

Of course, I could have stopped in front of every one of them and insisted they say it in Spanish. I have been doing just that since January, though, and it hasn't worked. I asked, I exhorted, I explained, I threatened, I insisted, and then I hand out oral activities and they proceed to do them. . . in English. "What are you doing??" I ask them. "Oh, you mean we should do this in Spanish?" they respond, staring at me with huge, completely sincere eyes. (Once again, I taught this course at this university twice before, never had this problem. Or any problem, actually.) I start telling them about the oral exam we will have next week. "Will it be in Spanish?" the students ask again. Do I need to mention that they ask this question in English?

So I just gave up and withdrew from this course and this group both emotionally and intellectually. I'm sorry that I've been harping so much on this subject but this is so frustrating that I will either blow off steam here, on the blog, or my blood pressure will start going up.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You still have the broken record left. "Lo siento. Yo no entiendo. No hablo Inglés."

Clarissa said...

Have tried that. :-) It is always followed by long, loud and obnoxious conversations in English, "What did she say? Huh? Is that what she said? Tell me, I didn't hear it. What? Huh?"

I am so done with them at this point.

Clarissa said...

The funniest thing is that I had two of these students in a previous class and they were great. Spoke Spanish in class all the time, even though it was a much lower level course.

Group dynamic is a very powerful thing.

profacero said...

That broken record only works in certain, very specific conditions, and I don't have them.

Spanish prof said...

I usually ask them to prepare very specific dialogues:
Person 1 says hello
Person 2 asks how she/he is doing
Person 1 says she is feeling fine and she wants to go to the movies
Person 2 asks what type of movies Person 1 likes
....
You can make those instructions as long as you want. And I told them that every one of the groups will come to the front of the class to represent the dialogue. It's really time consuming and sort of fake in a sense, but after the third time you do it, they get a little more used to speaking in Spanish

Pagan Topologist said...

Is it possible to say next time you teach this course: "English spoken in this classroom will result in lowered credit towards your participation grade." In Spanish, of course. Then ostentatiously make a note whenever anyone says anything in English.

cine said...

I've often done what Anon., SP and PT say - I mean, for years these things worked - but now with the helicopter parents and the customer service model of education people bring from high school, there are groups with which nothing works.

Clarissa said...

Gosh, I hope this is not a trend I'm seeing because that would be scary.