Teaching Spanish at home and in Chile
I graduated from Queens University in December of 2010 with a double major in Spanish and International Studies. I applied to Teach for America and on March 8 my fiancé and I were thrilled to learn that I was accepted, especially since we would be getting married within the next month and really wanted to have a general idea of where we'd be living and what I'd be doing. I was placed at J.T. Williams Middle School, my alma mater, as a Spanish teacher.
We thoroughly enjoyed our wedding and honeymoon and the first months of marriage were tremendous, which were sadly cut short due to TFA "Institute". I left for good ol' Mississippi in June. A good description of what "Institute" looks like is a five-week crash course of everything you'll need for teaching in an inner city school. It was by far the most difficult experience I've ever gone through: waking up at 5 a.m., teaching at summer school in the morning, taking classes in the afternoon, attending meetings and planning in the evenings, and then collapsing into bed at 10:30 p.m. if you were lucky. Put it this way, "Institute" made a Dr. Reed or Dr. Thompson class seem like a walk in the park and I'm not one to exaggerate.
Coming back to J.T. Williams as a teacher has been an amazing experience. It is an inner city Title I (low income population) and all of the students are in need of so much. The first year has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. For the most part the students are exciting and bring a lot to the table. A large percentage of them are fascinated with the idea of speaking a foreign language. I try to push them to use their Spanish at every possible opportunity, which leads to some students raising their hand just to practice, "Tengo una pregunta," even if they don't have a question to ask.
It's been a huge blessing to be an elective teacher, which means a lot more freedom with what I do in my class. At times it reminds me of a Core class. My eighth graders will watch bits of movies such as Oscar Romero and then go into a "Socratic Seminar" on the issues at hand. The culture unit is by far my favorite for this reason. A vast majority of my students have never left Charlotte or even the 10 mile radius of their neighborhood, so providing them with a window to the world is very rewarding.
My wife and I will finish out this year of teaching by early June 2011, and look forward to a new journey ahead. Early in September we felt the tug towards moving abroad. We both speak Spanish, love the Latino culture and have always had "living in a Latino country" on our bucket list. Long story short, no more than two months after making this decision we were made aware that both of our schools would be shut down next year due to budget cuts in the district. For us this was just a more tangible closing of doors as others were being opened.
We joined a missionary organization in Santiago, Chile and will be serving in inner-city schools, youth programs, churches and indigenous people groups in Peru and Ecuador as well. Christine and I are extremely excited about this adventure. If you'd like to keep up with "our story" as we move to South America feel free to check out our blogspot.