Reflective Teaching Day 7: An Inspirational Colleague

Day 7’s prompt promises to be a tough one for me:

Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?

This one is tough for a few reasons. 1) I’ve learned so many things from so many colleagues, and 2) So much of what I’ve learned about teaching Spanish has come from people who, strictly speaking, aren’t colleagues in that I’ve never actually worked with any of them. So I think I have to broaden the word “colleague” here a little in order to really answer this question.

I guess my most influential colleague is a girl I went to high school with, who is also a Spanish teacher, but at a different school. Almost a year ago (last Thanksgiving, to be exact), I had a conversation with her about trying to stay in the Target Language, and she told me about something she’d read online about different techniques. I went home and found the article she’d read, and from there, my whole teaching career kind of spiraled. Until that point, I had sort of been teaching in a vacuum; just doing what I thought was the “right” thing, basically teaching the way I had learned, and what I had been told in college was right. Now to be fair, I learned a lot of great things about teaching in college, but I learned very, very few great things about teaching foreign language.

After that conversation with my good friend, I enacted new strategies and rules in my Spanish III class starting after Christmas break, as a trial run for what I wanted to try the next school year (now this year). But I didn’t stop there. I also discovered El mundo de Birch, read literally every post on her blog, and got tons of great ideas for my classroom. When I finished with her blog (in about a week), I found Musicuentos and, you guessed it, read everything she’d ever written. Then it was summer, and I threw away the textbook, started from scratch (leaning heavily on work Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell of Musicuentos had done), and revamped my whole curriculum.

Now it’s fall, and I’ve discovered many more excellent blogs by wonderful language teachers, I’ve created a Twitter account and joined two consecutive Langchats, and every day I see myself improving as a teacher. After three years of trying to do it all by myself, I finally feel like I’m making real progress, and even though we’re only 3 weeks into the new school year, I can already see that it’s making a difference.

So, based on one simple conversation that changed my whole teaching career, I definitely have to say that, although we’ve never worked together, that friend from high school is definitely my most inspirational colleague.


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