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

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

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