Posted: January 6, 2020
Every time I visit Ana Maria’s classroom I’m greeted with laughter, singing, smiles and Spanish. Learning another language can be challenging, and the approach students take can make all the difference. I asked Ana Maria about how she tries to help students work through some of the frustrations.
When I started my career, I was still working on my English. We all have cultural baggage and we need to adapt in new environments. A story that I always share with my students really demonstrates this and helps with their mindset. Students will often say this doesn’t make any sense in Spanish. I try to give them an example of how language sometimes doesn’t make sense.
I was asked to cover an English class very early in my career. I was always a little nervous to cover other classes because English is not my first language and I was still learning a lot. I started the class and of course we had an emergency drill. We did the drill and came back. Everything went alright. Afterwards I met up with the teacher and she said to me “I heard that the alarm went off during class.” I was puzzled and told her “No, it went on.” It really went on, blaring in the classroom. We continued back and forth a bit and then we started to make a connection. Wait a minute, radios turn on, TVs are on, but the alarm went off? It didn’t make any sense to me. We laughed about it, but I was really embarrassed. I went and bought a book of verbal English phrases thinking I was going to memorize them all, but there are just so many. Things sometimes don’t make sense. There is a beauty to language that comes through experience and context. I share this story with my students to be vulnerable and let them know how important it is to be patient and hang in there. I remind them to redirect mistakes with kindness and be humble as a learner. I still have students come back to me and remind me of that story. I think it made a difference for them.
Sharing our own learning experiences with our students can be a great way to empower them as learners. It provides them with examples of perseverance and normalizes the struggle that often happens when we’re engaged in learning.
Interview Sample Questions – Plot
- What practices have you found to be especially helpful to develop perseverance in learning?
- How do you share your own experiences as a learner with others?