Friday, July 16, 2010

My Language Journey Part IV: Beginning Career

After I completed college I was licensed as an elementary teacher. While I had an endorsement in middle school Spanish, I did not pursue teaching positions in this area. I was hired as a second grade teacher in an elementary school, where I taught for my first three years. The only Spanish I used during these short years were to translate for the few Spanish-speaking families we had at our school.

During my time as a second grade teacher, I tried to infuse multiculturalism in my teaching. I taught at high poverty school made up of mostly African American students. Many of my students have not been outside their neighborhood and much less have traveled outside the state or the country. In an attempt to introduce my culture, I taught mini-lessons in Spanish, where students practiced numbers and colors. I also designed a literature based unit and activities that reflected my Mexican culture. I read texts that depicted holidays in Mexico, such as El dia de los muertos. I also brought some pan dulce and had one of my Spanish-speaking parents make chocolate for our class. I can recall the enthusiasm and excitement among my students as they heard the story and sampled the treats. It was at this point when I realized that I loved teaching culture. However, the reality was that in a regular education classroom, opportunities like these were not a part of the curriculum. I was only able to infuse my multiculturalism on special days or whenever we had time at the end of the day, which was not frequent. The idea of being able to do this full-time was a dream for me.

In the regular education classroom, I was responsible for teaching all subject areas. I was under a lot of pressure and my students had to perform well on their reading and writing skills, especially since these were the most emphasized subjects in this school district. Despite my teacher preparation, I felt that I was ill prepared in teaching these subjects. As a result, I pursued a master’s degree in gifted education. After my three years as a second grade teacher at XXXX School, I was hired as a second grade teacher at my current school. And when the Spanish teacher left, I was asked to switch to fill her position. That was the best move for me as a teacher.

The shift from a regular education teacher to a foreign language teacher was difficult at first. I had to adjust to serving half a school and planning for multiple grades. I was also under the impression that teaching language meant teaching vocabulary and grammar in isolation. It was through my professional development, graduate courses, and experience that I was able to transform how I taught. Teaching was not linear anymore, but rather presented in themes and chunks. I also used more hands-on activities and projects in my teaching. And recently, I have stumbled across ways to integrate technology to connect globally and make learning more engaging and relevant for my students.

During my three years as a Spanish teacher, I have earned an Ed.S. in Reading Instruction as well as an English as a Second Language endorsement-having taken 30 hours of ESL language learning theories, instruction, and assessment. As for now, I do not know what the future holds for my career. What I do know is that I am drawn to teaching languages and including a multicultural/interdisciplinary approach. Whether that will take me back to regular education as a language arts teacher, out of the classroom as an ESL instructor, or as a Reading Coordinator or Specialist, only time and intuition will tell.

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