The Unexpected: Just What I Need


As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be spending this year substitute teaching.  This is a bit unexpected.  I was really hoping to find a full-time or part-time teaching gig near my city (last year I commuted an hour each way, approximately 100 miles a day).  September 20th I start an 8-week assignment teaching Spanish 1, 2 and 3 for a teacher that will be out on maternity leave.  I was fortunate enough to sub for the other Spanish teacher at the school this week and then sit in on the classes I’ll be teaching for a day.  I have already learned so much!

At my previous school I was the only language teacher and a new teacher to boot!  I wasn’t sure about this substitute teaching thing and had no idea what to expect but now I believe it may be one of the best things that could have happened to me.  I’ve already been exposed to how two different, experienced Spanish teachers run their classrooms and I’ve picked up so much that I want to try/strive for in my future.  It just goes to show that the unexpected, and if we’re being honest, unwanted, might be just what you need.

Here’s a run down of what I’ve picked up so far.

Week Sheets
The teacher I’ll be subbing for, let’s call her “A”, has taught Spanish 1 and 2 for 4 years now at this school and has what she refers to as “week sheets”.  These are very simple, bare-bones break down of what she’ll be teaching and the students homework for each day.  She gives these to the students every other Monday (each sheet is front back, so two weeks of class).  This keeps students in the loop and they know exactly what to expect.  It helps students become accountable for being gone and still getting work done.  They know exactly what they’ll be missing.

Weekly Grading Routines
This is one of those, “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?!” things.  Each student has a binder with sections and they do all of their classroom activities in it.  So if they do a book assignment that needs to be written or do any kind of in class assignment that involves writing, they add it to the same sheet of paper and keep a running sheet of assignments.  She doesn’t grade each one each day, she picks them up on Fridays and gives one weekly grade for all the assignments.  These assignments are reviewed in class and she does a great job of working the room and checking student’s progress.  This is basically practice and students get credit for doing it.  The same system applies to their practice workbook.  She has a stamp grading system so at the end of the week all she has to do is go through their books and tally up her stamps and assign one weekly grade for all work instead of numerous smaller grades.  This seems so much easier than trying to grade (note when I say “grade” that may mean give credit for doing) each individual assignment.  I’m excited to try this out and see how it goes.

This may be the most controversial routine for me.  Both teachers hand out pesos for speaking Spanish and participating (in level appropriate Spanish) in class.  Each Friday the students must pay a set amount of pesos (Spanish 1 – 3 pesos, Spanish 2 – 5 pesos, and Spanish 3 – 10 pesos.  I’m not sure what AP’s price is) to the teacher and this goes in as a weekly grade.  I did a practicum in a class that had participation points and it seemed that students wouldn’t do anything unless you bribed, yes bribed, them with participation points.  Since then, I’ve been leery of anything that resembles participation points.  Based on what I’ve seen so far though, this peso system seems very different.  The teachers give out pesos for speaking Spanish and the point isn’t to get your set amount of pesos for the week, it’s to encourage speaking and use of the language and it seems to be working.  This is done in all levels from Spanish 1 to AP Spanish.  In the Spanish 3 and AP classes I saw/taught, students used a lot of TL even without direct prompting and even when pesos were no where in sight nor were they mentioned or awarded.  Spanish 1 students didn’t seem intimidated by hearing or answering in scaffolded, level-appropriate Spanish in only week 4 of school.  The system these teachers have created really seems to encourage the use of TL without having turned into a bribery system.  I credit this to their experience and incredible skill.

Most of last year I prayed to God to help me find a job closer to home and when that didn’t happen I knew He had a plan but I had no idea what it was.  I think I’ve found the plan now.  I am so excited to be exposed to and part of this school’s language program, even for only eight weeks.  I can already tell that I am going to learn just as much as the students I’ll be teaching.  As I go through this I’ll update on these initial systems I’ve described and other things I may run across or try.

Until Next Time,

Maestra McH.


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