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Ghosts of Spanish Teachers Past

Christine Mosso

So there you are on Back-to-School Night being warm and enthusiastic in front of your students’ parents. You’re showing the parents that their children are in capable hands-you’re accessible, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. In short, it’s going to be a good year in Spanish class. And then…the Ghosts of Spanish Teachers Past rear their heads. It starts with a comment like:

“I had 2 years of high school Spanish and don’t remember a thing.” Or

“I had a terrible time in Spanish class, barely passed it/flunked it.” Or

“Never saw the use of taking 2 years of Spanish.”

You might get this compliment:

“You are so much nicer than my Spanish teacher-she was a Nazi in a dress (had bad breath, a hairy wart, terrible dandruff, or was just plain crazy)”

In other words, don’t expect me to be able to do much to help my child with this class. Now the problem with these ghosts is that your students have heard these “ghost stories” before they walked into your class and these parents still occasionally are haunted by them. These ghosts have planted the seed of negativity. So what do you do? Time to be a Ghostbuster with a weed-whacker!

We know that we need parents on our side, but it’s a challenge when the parent has had a negative experience. What we need to do is break down those obstacles and overcome those objections. In essence, that Back-to-School Night spiel is a sales pitch and a pep talk. We need to sell the benefits of learning another language and then show parents how they can help, whether they had a good, bad, or no experience in Spanish class.

  • REMIND parents that learning another language has a multitude of benefits from the personal to the professional. Study after study shows that learning another language reinforces skills in the first language, is an excellent brain exercise. It is a useful tool on a vacation to another country, and opens the world to us. Since Spanish is fast becoming a second language in this country, it is a useful and sometimes a vital skill for a number of professions. It could make the difference between getting and not getting a job. In the current state of economic affairs, monolingual is a liability. Whack that ghost!
  • HELP: Ok, so they understand that this is not just some fluff class. But what can they do to help? I used to suggest to parents that they ask their child to teach them Spanish. It’s good for both of them since it reinforces what the student did in class and the parent learns something or gets a refresher course from someone they love who definitely isn’t that Nazi in a dress. Another ghost gone. We know that there is a LOT of vocabulary to learn. Flashcards are a great way to review a lot of vocabulary in a short time. Here’s where the parents can help.
  • TEACH: Have them quiz their child using these homemade vocabulary cards. Depending on the creativity of the parent and child, there are some great games they can play using this tool. The student learns the vocabulary and spends some time with his/her parent. The whole family can get involved if they choose. Both students and parents can make learning Spanish fun. That sounds like a good thing on so many levels. Fly away, Ghost of Spanish Teachers Past!

There are so many plans of attack to combat these ghosts and root out the negativity they have sown.

What are some of your strategies to combat the ghosts of Spanish teachers past? 

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