Why I Chose to Teach Spanish

By Sue

© Rodrigo Pizarro/Wikimedia

© Rodrigo Pizarro/Wikimedia

I was never a ‘straight A’ student at school, in fact, I was pretty dire at most things, especially maths, and yet at 18, after 2 A levels and a few O levels,
I ended up working in a bank!

Many years later I became a fitness instructor and adored being in front of a class having fun while exercising.
My classes were really popular and finally I found something that I was good at.  One summer I went to Tenerife and
my young children made friends with some Spanish children; mine couldn’t speak Spanish, the Spanish kids couldn’t speak English. And so it began…

I signed on at the local college the day after we returned from holiday. I spent several Saturday mornings learning some basics and then in the September I began my GCSE.
I was hooked.  One year later with an A* under my belt, I started my A level course. By this time, even though I was still teaching fitness, I began to teach adults at the local high school a couple of evenings a week. I loved it!

Two years later, with an A at AS and an A at A2, I applied to the University of Chester to study for a combined honours degree in Spanish with Tourism Management.  Part of
my degree had to be spent in a Spanish speaking country, so I went to Santiago in Chile and worked in a bilingual college for students aged 4-18.  It was in Chile that I really discovered that I wanted to be a secondary school teacher.  I enjoyed watching the kids’ faces when they got the answers correct and their attitude to life and learning.
Children are such fun no matter what age you teach!

I returned home and did my PGCE. My first placement was at my current school.  Spanish, in fact, any modern language, is a difficult subject to teach, after all,
the majority of language teachers do not get the same curriculum hours as some core subjects, and we do tend to ‘lose’ students regularly for interventions in those same core subjects yet we are still expected to achieve the C grades and above!  But we soldier on because we do not believe in monolingualism. My passion is Spanish. I adore the culture, the language, the Hispanic people, and its history. I always have a story to tell my students of some thing I’ve done or experienced or witnessed while on my travels around Spain and Latin America. This brings the language and the culture alive for them.
And they never, ever forget a story.

Many times I have read a piece of homework only to find an example of one of my stories in their writing! To see your planned lesson reproduced with the language manipulated as well as your own personal experiences written about, really makes the profession of teaching worthwhile. When parents mention things that their children have told them about something that happened to me in Argentina or some part of Chile’s history because it perhaps amused them or moved them, then you know you have engaged their child in your passion.

Whenever my students moan that “Spanish is hard, Miss”, I always tell them: “Yes, it may be hard, but you will stand out when you apply for college, or university or a job, because the people who will be interviewing you in the future will know that you have made the effort to leave your monolingual roots behind so that you can compete with the rest of the world and not just your own country.”

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