Do you dance? Cultural fun for the brave….

On Friday I taught levels 1-3 how to Mambo.  I’ll be honest, I used to do it every year but as Freshmen, my juniors were very easily distracted and my sophomores were… well, hard to handle we’ll say!!! 🙂  This year my freshmen are so good that I seriously think the good Lord is paying me back for living through the previous two classes and loving them in spite of their wily ways.  LOL ….. soooooo…. I decided to resurrect the Mambo.

At first I was going to limit to the Freshmen but then I felt guilty leaving the older kids out so I just taught everyone.  The lesson went like this: Discussion in Spanish of what dancing is like here and in Spanish speaking countries followed by a listen through of the song we were going to be dancing to.  I gave them two versions of Rie y Llora (sorry no accents)… One by Justo Lamas and one by Celia Cruz.  When they had heard both, we discussed which version they preferred and why.  Then I gave them a lesson in Mambo.

It is so easy!  If you have any rhythm at all you can do this!!!  Practice at home in the mirror before you go to class but if you sell it with your huge enthusiasm, they can’t help but get into it!  We started just feet, then added hips, and finally hands…  I let them try with a partner too!  We danced to Justo’s version because it is a little slower but then I let Celia’s version play and we tried to keep up!

There were about 10 minutes left in class and they had been sooooo good that I pulled out a song we found on our last trip to Spain.  It was pretty hard to find but FINALLY on iTunes I did.  It’s called Follow the Leader by La Banda del Diablo.  It is mostly Spanish but there is a little Spanglish in there too.  🙂  I had them stay in the Mambo circle and I got in the middle.  When the singer said Follow the Leader Sigame..Sigame… I did a crazy dance that they had to imitate (think lawnmower, sprinkler, chachacha, crazy dance grabbing my foot and moving knee back and forth… LOL You have to have very little shame to go there…) then in the song it gave directions of what to do and they LOVED it!  It is such a fun song!

If you want Mambo lessons, I’ll make my daughter record me and we’ll post it on FB or you could also look there for a professional (which I am NOT!)

The long haul….

I’ve been reading a lot of posts from new TPRS teachers on the MoreTPRS yahoo group.  It is the time of year when many people start to get frustrated, lose confidence, wonder whether they have made the right choice walking away from the textbook…. If you are one of these or have been there, please continue reading!

I am in my 18th year teaching and when I think back to that first year in the classroom, I shake my head.  I was 22 and as green as could be.  I was struggling with classroom control since I was not much older than they were and I was struggling with the material because I had only been on the other side of the desk.  It was a good but long year.  I would NEVER want to redo it.

The second year was easier but looking back I still had so much to learn.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t get into a really good groove of finding professional development, implementing new strategies, and managing the classroom until year 3 or 4.  Don’t get me wrong, I had control and was doing my best to be a good teacher but it took a LOT of work.  I felt like I was always just a step ahead of the kids and I didn’t have enough experience to go from good to great….

Fast forward to year 13 when I was going through the National Board process and discovered TPRS.  I went to a Susie Gross workshop at ICTFL and I was SOLD!!!  There was no doubt that TPRS was what I wanted to do to bring my classroom up to the next level.  I went back on Monday with a week of TPRS lessons planned and I went home on Friday feeling like I was back at year 1.  I didn’t know how to make them play the game, I didn’t know how to create structures, I was fighting with adapting a textbook… It wasn’t as easy as Susie made it look. (Who knew???)

So today, 5 years after that discovery, I am still learning and still not great but I am SO much better than I was in year one, two, three, etc.  Each year you are building your program you will realize you should have done something better… don’t be discouraged… just work harder on that skill the next year!  Each year you will wonder WHEN ARE THESE Spanish 1 students going to really show me what they can do?  And then June will come and you’ll remember why Scott named his website Teach For June!!!!  Each year you will think of some wonderful thing you can do in the classroom and you’ll tweak it and the next year it will be even better.  And most importantly, no matter how bad you think you did at certain TPRS skills, your students will have come so far beyond any textbook student you ever had that you will know you made the right choice.  I’m not just talking about the 4%ers.  They would be great no matter how you taught them.  I’m talking about the students with IEPs who make it to the end of the year laughing at your crazy stories… They wouldn’t have survived a traditional classroom and yet they understand Spanish too!!!

So newbies, oldies, and me too… Keep plugging away.  The best things we do sometimes take time and in the case of TPRS it is worth every bump in the road.  Those bumps are just ways to do better the next year and the next until we can sort of see why it looks so easy when Susie, Blaine, and Carol do it.

Carrie Toth