El alfabeto español

Beginning this project, I thought that I would make great progress with five hours of my week being dedicated to learning Spanish; however, it was much more difficult than I had originally realized. My first day (January 24) was a snow day, so I couldn’t meet with the friend Eli who has agreed to help me on this journey. Instead, I spent about an hour and a half studying the Spanish alphabet and different sounds from a multitude of YouTube videos. Because I spent so long studying just the alphabet and still didn’t have the sounds even close to memorized, I wondered how much progress I would be able to make this semester. I wasn’t expecting to be fluent in the language by May, but I realized how much time and work this process will really take. Although we are required two hours every week, I can see now that much more time will be needed to even come close to mastering the language, and it will take much longer than just one semester as well.

On Thursday, I was able to meet with my friend Eli mentioned above. His first language was Spanish, and he is also an education major, so I figured he would be a pretty good teacher for this project. We planned to meet for two hours since we weren’t able to meet on Tuesday, but I originally assumed we would run out of productive activities to do. I was sure wrong. We worked on my pronunciation of the alphabet for about an hour and a half. I’m sure I pronounced each letter over a hundred times before he would let me move on to the next one. I’m a collegiate athlete and get frustrated on a daily basis, but this frustration was something completely new. The letters I thought I pronounced well were always wrong and the ones I thought I did horribly were “not bad.” After I went through the alphabet a few times, we finally moved on. For the last half an hour, Eli would say basic Spanish words, and I attempted to spell them. Then we moved on to simple sentences, and again, he would say them, and I would write them.

For an hour on Friday morning, I repeated my last two exercises from Thursday but with a different friend. He would read words and sentences while I wrote them down. I also practiced the alphabet on my own for half an hour, trying my best to pronounce them the way Eli told me to. Over all, this week’s ILP experience was frustrating with a few breakthroughs, but I look forward to seeing improvement in the future.

Born to Make a Difference

TED Talks never cease to amaze me. Each one only inspires and increases my excitement and passion for teaching. “Every kid needs a champion” by Rita Pierson was no different. Pierson’s discussion focused on the importance of creating positive relationships with her students. Although many claim that their only job is to teach the students, not to be their friend, Pierson argues that “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” While this invoked laughter from the audience, her statement is very true from my experience. In my high school, there are a few teachers that students do not like, and most of the time students do worse in these classes. However, there is one teacher I had in high school (Mr. Conn) who always complimented my writing and criticized it when necessary without making me feel frustrated. I was not a confident student before his class, but Mr. Conn made me believe that I was a good writer, and it has made a huge difference in my schooling since then. Pierson believes that learning cannot occur without this positive relationship. By creating a bond with students, teachers will in turn improve students’ confidence and sense of self-worth in the process. It was obvious that Mr. Conn loved sharing his knowledge and passion with his students, and he is a major inspiration to me as a teacher.

Pierson told the audience a story of a student she had taught who earned a 2/20 on an assignment, and on his paper, she wrote “+2 with a big ‘ole smiley face.” After receiving the graded paper, the student was very confused why she put a smiley face on his paper when he got an F. She said, “You’re on a roll! You got two right! You didn’t miss them all, and when we review this, won’t you do better?” She argued that -18 sucks the life out of you, but a +2 says you’re not all bad. By showing her student that she had confidence in him, the student then had confidence in himself, and this was the main point of her argument. She wants her students to believe that they deserve the education they are getting and they “are somebody.” She acknowledges that teachers will not like every student, but the students can never know that. Every student deserves the opportunity to earn the best education possible.

She said that “every child deserves a champion,” and that statement really stuck with me. I have had some great teachers, and I have had some horrible teachers, but most fall somewhere in the middle. If every teacher was determined to be their students’ “champion,” how different our education system would be. She says that teachers are “born to make a difference,” and I think this is something that teachers too often forget. Fostering students’ confidence should bring teachers joy, and I hope that one day I will have the influence on my students like Rita Pierson and Mr. Conn have had.