Hoy lo mejor: Blog Post #8
When I went to title this blog post, I could not believe that it’s number eight. EIGHT. That means I’ve been here for 8+ weeks. Two months. Wow. It feels simultaneously like I’ve been here for forever and for no time at all.
I’m pushing myself to write weekly, and so sometimes substance suffers for the sake of (hello alliteration!!!!!) timeliness. A good learning experience nonetheless--routine writing, time management, all those lessons that one never really stops learning. I had a really nice class with my 2nd Bachillerato Advanced English students this week, so I will write about it.
Their teacher warned me that they were not thrilled with their grades for the first trimester, but noted that because of this, they would all be quiet and attentive. Ecstatic to report that they were! I also handpicked the group of students I would have, assuring a quiet and attentive bunch. Last week I had a student hang around and tell me about poems she had written in a class the year before. This was after I introduced the short story project they would all be doing for me (written about in a previous post). She was obviously excited and I realized in that moment that this had been another one of my dreams. I always wanted to be the teacher whose students hung around after class to talk to. I used to do that with teachers/professors that I loved and wanted to experience the other end of the exchange. It’s almost always a sign the students are enjoying the class.
I told this student to bring in her poems so I could read them. Needless to say she brought them in and is one of the most engaged students I have. This past week the bachillerato classes had to turn in the first drafts of their stories to me. While the turnout wasn’t wonderful, I’m happy there was a turnout at all. I have about 6 drafts and while I could focus on the fact that I have only 6, I’ve chosen instead to focus on the fact that I have 6! I am very excited to read them and write notes to the students about my experience reading them and also thoughts on how they could improve their writing/English.
That lovely class though… I prepared a lesson on the NFL players who are protesting violence against and oppression of Blacks by kneeling or raising a fist during the national anthem. I thought they’d welcome insight into some major topics of conversation in American culture right now. I also know some are interested in politics, history, law, etc. and so I figured they’d be intrigued by the “controversial” topic.
I had copies made of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Washington Post article, “Insulting Colin Kaepernick says more about our patriotism than his” from summer 2016 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/08/30/insulting-colin-kaepernick-says-more-about-our-patriotism-than-his/?utm_term=.add82fddfdca). I instructed the students to each read aloud one of the paragraphs of the article so they could practice pronunciation/speaking, etc. Then I told them to take a few minutes to circle or underline words or phrases they don’t understand, and also to familiarize themselves with the article, summarize it and determine Abdul-Jabbar’s argument.
I had initially intended on preparing two articles for them, one by an author who doesn’t agree with or like the NFL players’ protest and one by an author who supports the players’ protest. But due to time constraints and typical teaching-improv, I decided to just focus on the WaPo article. To bring in the other stance, I found a page on the New York Times website where they have listed comments sent in by readers on the NFL situation. So after I clarified the meaning of some words and phrases, we had a discussion. I asked them to tell me what the article is about, their thoughts etc. They all agreed with Abdul-Jabbar, and so to spark thought and play that advocate game that academia loves so much, I showed them a comment by a reader who says the players shouldn’t be invoking their right to free speech on the field. I could hear their brains moving, as cliche as that is, and as cliche as it is to say “as cliche as that is.”
Lastly, I showed them Trevor Noah’s segment on The Daily Show, “When Is the Right Time for Black People to Protest?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-Gx23vH0CE). They LOVED it. How do I know? Because the bell rang signaling class was over and NO ONE, NO. ONE., moved. They all stayed put until the end of the video.
THEN I even had a couple of students who stayed behind to chat about various things. To the student interested in poetry I recommended she look up Adrienne Rich. Another student wanted to ask me if he could write on our class blog about the Barcelona soccer matches. I told him he could. Then he told me he likes these sorts of videos and he watches similar shows here in Spain. He also helped me put the desks back in rows (I have them in a circle for the class and then usually am putting them back into place by myself, barring the help of some thoughtful students).
Later in the day, the 2nd Bachillerato teacher told me that the students came back to her after our class and said “hoy lo mejor, lo mejor.” That means “today was the best” : )