We asked Spanish Teachers Success Academy presenters to name one thing they wish you had known when they started teaching. And here is an extract of their answers that collects their reflexions on their teaching careers.
You can watch the full video interview and additional Q&A session bonuses inside the Spanish Teacher Success Academy.
I wish I had known “that it’s really all-consuming and it can really take over your life if you let it.”
After an overwhelming first year of teaching, Allison has learned that boundaries and balance are important when she is working as a teacher. For example, she doesn’t grade her students’ work at home; if an assignment doesn’t get graded, “it just stays on my desk at school and it will wait until I can work before school or during prep time.”
I wish I had known “what a great world exists on Twitter.”
Maris explains that it took her some time to find out that there is a lively teaching community on Twitter, and she wishes she would have explored this social media platform earlier in her career.
I wish I had known “that classroom management and discipline were different things.”
Bethanie describes the importance of thinking of herself as a manager instead of a disciplinarian when it comes to working with her students. She adds that she “had a lot to learn but didn’t know it yet!”
Emilie del Risco
I wish I had known “that I was not going to be able to please everybody.”
Emilie now realizes that, earlier in her career as a teacher, she had tried to make everyone happy, which is an impossible task. Though she did “let parents get to me,” she sees now that not everyone is going to appreciate every teaching style, but as long as a teacher has the support of her administration, “at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for your students.”
I wish I had known “that all students are different in the ways that they absorb information.”
At the start of her teaching career, Laurie reflected on her own past as a student. Because she was a good student, she thought “being a good student wasn’t all that hard,” so it was “a real wake-up call to find out that students could work really really hard and still not get it.” She describes her learning process as “long and painful,” but all’s well that ends well: she now offers different timeframes and approaches to support all of her students.
I wish I had known “how to plan more intentionally and organize my materials.”
Meredith reflects on her early years as a teacher when she was less strategic about her approach to scheduling lessons and keeping her files organized. She wishes “someone had coached [her]” on how best to order her plans and to store her materials.
I wish I had known “that it consumes your life!”
Sam quit her job as a social worker because she found she could never leave work at work. She became a teacher hoping to be able to make more time for her family, but she describes herself now as “a social worker who grades Spanish papers.” She is quick to add that she “wouldn’t change it for a single thing.”
I wish I had known “how hard it was going to be!”
Because Jen is a “very empathetic person,” witnessing the struggles of her students makes teaching a challenging role for her. “It’s hard not to get sucked in” when a young person she cares about is struggling in his or her life.
Erin Gilreath Carlson
I wish I had known “to set a procedure and to stick with it.”
Erin credits predictability with the smooth delivery of her current lesson plans; she explains that when students know what to expect, everything goes much better. Every teacher “will make mistakes” but the good news is that “the students probably aren’t going to catch them.”
I wish I had known “that I didn’t need to teach grammar or use a textbook for every single thing.”
I wish I had known “that it is so brain-draining.”
Mira discusses the challenges of multi-tasking, an essential skill for teachers. She explains that, in her experience, teachers have to have strong management and organization skills to support the routines they use in the classroom. Though she, like all teachers, has a lot to juggle, “a love for kids and being able to connect with kids” make all the challenges worth it for Mira.
Dr. Florencia Henshaw
I wish I had known “more about the American perspective on feedback and on teaching in general.”
Florencia is from Argentina, so she wishes she had known more about the cultural differences between Argentine students and American students before starting her teaching career here in the United States. She realizes now that, at the start of her time in the US, she expected her American students to be able to cope with the rigor that is typical of college-level coursework in Argentina. She wishes she had known that in America, students expect more praise and “positive feedback first,” before hearing criticism about their performance.
I wish I had known “how hard it was going to be” and that even after ten years of teaching, “I would not feel like an expert in many ways.”
Kristin talks about the lifelong learning that happens throughout a teacher’s career. Even after a significant amount of experience in the classroom, she realizes she “still has a lot to learn” and “that there is more than one way to do things.” She explains that even if one approach works for one class, there’s no guarantee it will work for another.
I wish I had known “that it’s okay to fall down on your face.”
Jeremy talks about his experiences in the classroom, especially the ones that don’t go as well as he had hoped. At these times, he takes comfort in the fact that “the students don’t know the teacher you wish you were.” Usually, the teacher you are is “enough for them.”
I wish I had known “about the online communities.”
During her first two years of teaching, Michaela wanted to teach heritage classes, but she had to cope with the challenges of mixed classes instead. The sense of isolation she felt at this time was difficult. Later, she found that “the Facebook groups and Twitter groups were a way to form your own department” of Spanish teachers in a similar situation, and she appreciates both the resources and the support she gains from these communities.
I wish I had known “that years one through three were the hardest, and that it was going to get better.”
Annabelle describes the early years of her teaching career as the most challenging because she didn’t realize that students could do things like “pass out papers for you” and “be the ones to rearrange your chairs.” Though Annabelle needed time to develop a sense of resourcefulness around how her students can be helpful to her, this knowledge about “the little things” has proven to be invaluable.
I wish I had known “that I didn’t have to use a textbook.”
In addition to her realization about teaching with textbooks, Jodi mentions that she wishes she had also known that she didn’t have to “make everything from scratch, everyday.” When she started teaching, she was making her materials “by hand,” which was time-consuming and proved to be unnecessary.
I wish I had known “that you could work forever, and it won’t be perfect.”
Adrienne talks about maintaining her sanity by keeping boundaries between her work life and her non-work life. Teachers can bring a lot of work home with them, so getting used to “just being okay” can help with the development of these important boundaries.
I wish I had known “that I didn’t always need to focus on certain structures and vocabulary.”
Tina has always taught using comprehensible input, and she found herself using the same vocabulary and sentence structures over and over, which she found stressful. She looks back on these early days with CI and wishes she had been “a little more whole-language” in her approach. Once she was able to apply her “training as a literacy teacher” to her French classes, all sorts of connections started taking place and she wishes she had “started that earlier.”
Learn more about the Spanish Teacher Success Academy online professional development sessions that brings together 25 world-class experts who will share with you the best strategies for teaching Spanish.