You’d think that starting my third year would mean that I’d have this teaching down, right? Pfffft, only if teaching isn’t your day job. While every year brings new challenges, I have only response to that:
Specifically, the challenge I’m facing this year is trying to teach new students without boring my returners. Last year I had a shiny new class because the first year’s students didn’t come back. I still beat myself up a little over that. Maybe I wasn’t a good teacher? Or maybe they had too many other things going on because kids have such jam-packed schedules these days. Who knows?
Anyway, that’s not the point. About half of my students from last year returned. I managed to keep in touch with most of my class, so I know that the half that didn’t return either fell victim to their schedule or moved to a more affordable area. This leaves me with half a classroom that looks at me like a crazy person when I say that everything in Portuguese, even the chair they’re sitting in and the pencil they’re writing with, has a gender. The other half is asking me when we’re going to start conjugating verbs.
While I’m trying to find the middle path, it’s a good thing that Summer Brain is a thing. You know, that thing when you come back from summer vacation having forgotten half of what you’ve learned the year before? What’s new material for half of my class is a review for the other half.
I’m lucky that last year’s kids are excited to be back. More than that, that they’re excited to help their new classmates. The ideal is always to have students learn collaboratively instead of just talking at them for an hour. I’m far from an ideal teacher. (But I’m working on it.) I try to mix a little bit of lecture — injected with Professora Sass, of course — with activities.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes you end up with a classroom full of screaming kids when you’re doing an activity about ser and estar. But sometimes, if you’re lucky like I am, you end up with students helping their classmates figure out why they picked the wrong version of “to be.”
Let’s hope I can keep this lucky streak going most of the year.