The last two years have brought forth many accomplishments and great joys for me: joining the lead team of teachers at my school, becoming a National Board Candidate, being initiated into the Alpha Rho chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, two out of three years with 100% passing on the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam, working with my departments on overhauling our curriculum and overall view of foreign language teaching, having my presentation accepted for the annual conference for the Arkansas State Foreign Language Teachers Association, being asked to take on the roll of Parent Involvement Facilitator, and becoming a “distinguished” teacher, according to my supervising administrator.
All of these are wonderful things to add to my résumé, and they have all helped me tremendously in my personal and professional pursuit of learning. But there is still one accomplishment that I value above all others.
This accomplishment revolves around one student. Ok, the accomplishment is the one student. In the midst of completing my first submission for National Boards, I became intrigued by one student in particular. All of the other students in his section of Spanish 2–the only non-weighted (non- “honors”) section I taught– loathed this student. He refused to do anything. He spoke beautiful Spanish, thanks to his Spanish-speaking father, but refused to speak it in class. He refused to work. He picked on all of the other kids (I mean really painfully picked on them). He said hateful things to me about my Spanish and the Spanish we read and the Spanish we viewed on the TV. Nothing was good enough for him. No one was as good as he was. MAN, talk about a thorn in my side. But wait. This was a teenager. We all know that teens are walking emotional messes. How was this one so confident in himself?
Long story short, I dug, and poked, and prodded, and I ended up being even more persistent and insistent than he was. I figured out: he was completely insecure. So, I flipped the script on him, so to speak. I figured all he had ever heard his whole life was how rude, lazy, and unintelligent he was (did I mention his learning disability?). Instead of falling into the patterns of his previous teachers, the pattern he was used to, I decided to actually feed his ego– which really wasn’t as much of an ego as it was a defense. I went on and on about how wonderful he was. I made a huge deal out of every little word he wrote or spoke. Before I knew it, I was able to entice him to do more: write longer, elaborate on his speaking, explain more about what he read or heard. I wouldn’t take an incomplete piece of work and I wouldn’t take “I don’t know” for an answer. At the end of the year, I emailed his mom an excellent piece of work and bragged about this wonderful journey we had had together throughout the year. She was moved, to say the least.
From what I understand, this student flunked all of his other classes last year. Had I not been so self-absorbed, I might have been able to prevent that. But the good news is, the story doesn’t end there. This young man is now taking my Pre-AP Spanish 3 course!
And he’s not the only one. Out of that class of 20 people who hated Spanish and had no desire to even be at school, 5 of them are now enrolled in my Pre-AP Spanish 3 course (that’s 25%!). They are excited about foreign language learning. They are proud of their newly-found skill.
Now THAT’S what I call an accomplishment!