BEST WORLD LANGUAGE LESSONS CAN´T BE PLANNED.

Before I went to bed the night before, I read on my school’s Facebook page that the soccer team had lost its state semifinal match after an intense game that was defined by penalty kicks. I felt proud of each student on the team because despite belonging to a small school, they managed to reach an important instance in the state championship. I shut down the computer and went to bed because everyday, as every teacher, I have to wake up very early in the morning.

The next day I arrived at school and arranged everything in my classroom to await the arrival of my first class of the day. I organized the chairs according to my lesson plans, turned on the computer and looked for the agenda slide. I turned on the projector and made sure that the agenda was projected on the screen by the time students entered the classroom.

Everything was in order until the moment I began to notice that kids did not show the same energy that they usually have when arriving to my class. They walked slowly, almost dragging, looking at the floor and instead of a resonant greeting, I only heard a succession of very shy “hola señor.”. Each student was taking their seat in silence while automatically removing their school supplies from their backpacks. The atmosphere was definitely thin and I could not interpret what was happening. I was going to close the classroom door of the when my colleague and neighbor Katie, made a quick comment that allowed me to connect the dots and understand that all my AP Spanish class was depressed by the result of last night’s game. As I mentioned before, I work in a small school with is a very strong sense of community, therefore it is not uncommon for practically all of high school students to attend important sporting events. So it weren’t just the soccer players who looked depressed and tired, ALL OF THEM DID!

The agenda of the day was projecting on the screen and as I headed to my favorite teaching corner from which I begin each class, I felt the need to stop, to reflect on the situation that was in front of my eyes. It was obvious that even though the students pretended to be ready to start the class, deep inside they were screaming for something different.

It was because of that sixth sense that only teachers have that automatically I turned off the projector, contemplated the scene for a few seconds and asked them to write a few paragraphs about what each one was feeling at that moment. As this was an advanced class, I asked them to write their thoughts in Spanish. For twenty minutes the silence was total, each student focused on their writing. Meanwhile I looked up for markers of different colors and when I saw that some were already starting to finish their writings, I asked them to take a marker and write or draw on the board some things that would summarize what they just had written. In a few minutes the board was full of words and images that made powerful stories loaded with several feelings.

Forty minutes were dedicated to these two improvised activities, but after those forty minutes the class was again the same class I see most days, full of energy, with lots of smiles and good sense of humor. Suddenly the stress, sadness and frustration were no longer on their faces or in their soul as they were able to put them aside in their notebooks and on the board.

Find HERE an article about the game in the local newspaper.