Where did the spark go?

Lately I have been looking at my classes and comparing them to past years. Why are my students not as interested in class as I remember? Is it my fault? Is it the material?

This year we started using Martina Bex’s units for Spanish 2 and I absolutely love the flow of the units and students prefer learning structures much more than isolated vocabulary etc., but now that we are in second semester, there is something missing. In discussion with colleagues, I keep referring to it as “the spark”. The interest and excitement that I had from the students, but it seems that the spark is gone. Students seem more interested in discussing sports, friends, drama, etc.

The same thing seems to be happening in Spanish 4. We started out great and I felt that the students were really interested in class and what we were learning. Come mid-February, I think I have lost them too.

Being that I was frustrated, I called my brother in Florida who is also a teacher. He teaches math and often says that he speaks math when we talk about languages. I had the pleasure of working with him in a previous district and we even got to co-teach when I was teaching ESL so I value his opinion not as his sister, but also as a teacher. I asked him about keeping students focused during class as well as holding them accountable. I was frustrated that many of my students don’t do homework when it’s given, but if I don’t give them anything, they assume that they don’t have to study. He is never one to sugarcoat things so I knew by asking him, I wasn’t going to hear what I wanted to hear.

He said:

You have to stop thinking that students are going to do homework outside of class. It isn’t always a priority for them. The thing with working in an urban district is that you have to understand that about 15-20 % of students go on to college. You need to realize that those same students are most likely going to do the homework for your class.

Students have classes that will take priority over your class. Students only need a certain amount of electives and there are plenty to choose from, but they NEED English, they NEED math, they NEED science, and they NEED social studies. Ideally, your class takes 5th place.

I have always been an emotional person so after hearing this, I started to cry a bit. What a horrible feeling to hear that your class isn’t as important as some? I know that he wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings, but it still wasn’t a great feeling. I started to think to myself, “Why am I teaching an elective? Does my class even matter? Do I just need to accept that my class is secondary to the core classes?

He continued with:

Your class is important. Don’t think it isn’t, but you have to change your thinking. If you have 52 minutes with them everyday, then you have to decide what essential topics or information you want to teach them in that amount of time. If it isn’t important to you, why are you wasting your time and theirs? Decide what it is you want them to know and make yourself and them accountable. If you don’t put value on something, neither will your students.

I have students in my classes that I know genuinely want to learn the language, but I also have a large portion of students who are there for the credit or were just placed in the class. The balancing act is hard. I can see what we COULD be doing and it’s heartbreaking when we just cannot get there. I know how much learning a language is worth it and I CANNOT imagine doing anything else other than being a Spanish teacher. I am not exactly sure the point of this blog, but I am hoping that I am not alone. Do other teachers feel this way? How do I get past this?

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Where did the spark go?”

  1. Amanda, you are not alone! First of all, this time of year is hard. I’m not sure where you are in the world, but the weather is a huge factor. 3rd quarter is always a “slump” for me, too.
    As for your thoughts, I felt this same way last year, nothing I did interested my Ss, most of them didn’t want to take a language in the first place, they chose Karin but didn’t get in … It was a mess. And at that point, I had to decide what was best for me and my career. For me, it was moving onto different opportunities in a new place, but for you it might be trying something new and exciting. It’s different for all of us, but at the end of the day, you have to put yourself and your health/sanity first. I hope that helps; I’m rooting for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have felt exactly the same way. I’m not in an urban district, I’m in a suburban private school, but I still have the same feelings. The kids don’t have a choice to take my class, they all have to, but as a “special,” I definitely feel like a second-class citizen/teacher. I feel like some people at school think I’m a babysitter or an indoor recess period.

    When I am feeling really down, these feelings take over. But sometimes, when I am able to step away for a bit and look at it from a different perspective, I am able to see that as a special subject that the students don’t “need,” I am not constrained by the same requirements to go over “boring” stuff in my curriculum. I am free to experiment and do things that can really hold students’ interest. I can talk about any topic or content and my only guiding principles are the standards.

    Sometimes it is hard to see things from this perspective, but here’s how I think about it: when the kids go home, someone will ask, “what’d you do in school today?” My goal is for the answer to be something cool or interesting or exciting that we did in Spanish class.

    Your class may take “5th place” in what the kids need, but you have the opportunity to make it first in what they enjoy. I know that it is unrealistic to think that you can have the students’ favorite class every single day, but as an elective or a special subject, we can do a lot more than the other teachers to try to make it happen.

    I hope that this helps and I hope that you feel better soon!

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  3. There are many creative ways to engage the students with memorable learning experiences. It’s all about taking risks in class until we find those activities that motivate them and hook them towards wanting more. Let’s continue to share our best practices in the classroom to keep the spark ignited!
    Here is a helpful post on motivation: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/student-motivation/

    Like

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