Day One, Down

For the last month, I’ve meant to get on here and reflect about the end of my summer of change and getting ready for the school year. However, implementing major change means doing major work and I simply never had the energy. But now the first day of school is over, and I have a little breathing room…until tomorrow morning, that is.

I didn’t get as much done as I wanted to this summer, but I’m pretty pleased with where I am. I have an outline for a new curriculum from levels I-IV, and my first unit for each level is planned out in some detail. If you want to see what I did, leave a comment and I’ll gladly link to my Google Drive. 

So, how was the first day? Well, it wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.

I always read about teachers who start the first day and speak only target language the whole period. I was torn on this: I wanted to get the kids, especially level 1s, exposed to some Spanish right away, and get them to realize that, even though they don’t speak Spanish, I have the ability to present it in a comprehensible way. But, I also want to make sure kids know what to expect out of the class and what I expect out of them. I’ve heard about teachers who do the whole first day in the TL and go over class rules, etc. the next day or even the next week. My thinking was “once I start in Spanish, I don’t want to take a break and go back to English and then go back to Spanish again.” 

However, after today, I think I’ve had a change of heart. At my school, and I’m sure at many others, we always have a 1st day assembly to welcome the kids back, introduce new staff, review important rules, and highlight any changes in policy that may have been made since last year. It’s not usually long, and today it was probably less than half an hour. Then, we split the morning classes evenly in the remaining time until lunch.

So what did I do? I rushed, trying to explain everything that I felt the kids needed to know, and trying to get through it all in a shortened period. And what happened? I’m going to have to start class tomorrow in English and finish up with what I didn’t get through today. What a pain. I’m thinking it would have been easier and much more motivational to have just started with tomorrow’s all-TL plans today and save the rules for tomorrow…or even Monday. 

So, I definitely learned some things that I want to change for next year, but some things went really, really well:
Our district had some crazy days before school started, computer issues meant that the teachers didn’t have “final” class rosters until this morning (or, as final as they can really be, the first week of school), and scheduling difficulties meant that the most recent lists we were given were WAY out of date by the time we got them. And then the Internet cut out due to a storm just before school started this morning, so I still couldn’t see my class rosters when classes started.

All that to say, when my 1st and 2nd period Spanish I students walked into the room this morning, I had even less of an idea who I was getting than I usually do. So, as the students walked in, I introduced myself and asked their names. After some prompting, and lots of gestures, the kids figured it out, and once the first few did, they helped the others. So I generated my class list as I went along, and it worked pretty well.

Then, during the down time between arriving in class and being called to the auditorium for the first day assembly, I explained, using lots of gestures and as many cognates as I could manage, that we would shortly be heading to the auditorium to listen to Mr. Fuchs, but I didn’t know when. They figured it out.

I figured I should use the downtime I had, so I told the kids to write their names on a small piece of paper and drop them into a box so that I could draw random students to have them choose Spanish names from the list I projected. Then, of course, I had them choose their Spanish names.

It was all in Spanish, and while that’s not the most exciting stuff in the world, I strongly pointed out to the students that they were already understanding me, despite the fact that they know next to no Spanish. I let them know how proud I was of them.

Next year, definitely more TL on the first day. I’m officially converted to the save-the-housekeeping-for-day-two camp.


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