I loved the movie “Field of Dreams” where the statement is made “If you build it they will come.” That line has lingered with me since I viewed the film. I have come to find that if I think “If you offer it, they will come.” So I ask myself, “What do I need to offer so that they come and continue coming?”
I can identify in my classes many reasons for their coming:
1. I need the foreign language or multicultural credit.
2. I have always wanted to learn a foreign language. It’s on my bucket list.
3. A family member (boyfriend, girlfriend) or people I work with know the language and I want to better relate with them. or, I live in Texas, it’s natural to want to learn Spanish.
4. I’m an auditory learner, so languages come easily to me.
5. I don’t really know what I’m going to do next (LENS 1, Module 4) , after college, or right now, but I like the class.
6. I have to take x# of credits so here I am.
The first four reasons usually are not difficult learners, and therefore it’s easy and a pleasure to teach them. But #5, 6 are the challenging groups. What can I offer them?
According to the LENS, Module 4, reading I can identify what I “offer” that perhaps motivate them to “come” physically, emotionally, intellectually. The reading suggests that the following behaviors motivate students: Attending, Responding, Modeling.
- I try to give each student my attention by arriving early and leaving last. I greet them by name as they come in, have something to say by salutation or feedback. By leaving last, some students find it safe to speak with me in confidence after all other students have left.
- By arriving early, I hear their concerns, engage them in a bit of conversation, and use that information in class as I go over our opening Agenda. “Jane had problems with x, we’ll be revisiting that when we go over x during our session today.”
- My regular use of “puntos” have me walking all over the room being sure that every student has the opportunity to earn some to place in their envelope and reward their being there every day. My regular use of pairing and groups, provide the opportunity for students to learn from each, be heard by each other, interact with each other.
- As a student responds, I maintain eye contact and may use my hands in a sign of encouraging more, nodding in affirmation (not necessarily agreement), sometimes applause. If a student response doesn’t provide all I hoped for, I move on to another student, and another, and after it has been modeled several times, I return to them to respond again in an effort to correct a response, provide more or offer another perspective built on the previous expressions.
- Sometimes I repeat their responses, and other times I question members of the class in a way that has them repeat what the student has just said. It’s powerful when a student hears their response coming from the voice of another peer.
- Some responses are way off base, not pertinent, irrelevant, or perhaps deliberately derail. I try to remain objective in my composure, respond with humor, or wait an extra “beat” for others to respond and keep the class moving in a planned direction.
- I also, arrive early to set up handouts, login to the computer, and post the daily Agenda on the board. Students notice this and anticipate that the day is “planned.” I may even get “Oh are we going to see another video segment? photostory?”, “Are we going to play another game?”, “Good, I’m glad we’re going over the reading. I didn’t understand it.”, etc.
- I offer many varied assignments. All assignments are due on the due date. No late work is accepted unless they provide documented illness, family emergency, death in family. If they fail to turn in an assignment, there are other recoverable opportunities. Unfortunately, the first time I have to enforce this sometimes this is met with anger, or the response “Don’t you think that’s harsh?” However, once we get past their initial surprise at this expectation, I believe students find that I am consistent in enforcing this. (Note 1: I will not allow students’ lack of planning, preparation, etc. become my chaos.) I return work in a timely fashion. (Note 2: There are clear instances when I do break my own rules…but using my discretion, I will offer an additional opportunity after conferencing with the student, and being sure they understand it’s a rare opportunity.)
In foreign language learning I constantly revisit my checklist: the 5 C’s of the National Standards and ask myself if I am offering opportunities for Communication, Comparisons, Cultures, Connections and Communities. And, I hope all I offer there lies in the syllabus, textbook, course sessions, outside opportunities, special experiences, and the technology I use. I do believe if I offer it, they will come. If we offer it, they will come.
My first semester at MO-CO, spring of 2008, I taught SPAN 1411. The class met from 1:30 – 3:50 (or 2:30 – 4:50) twice a week in bldg. F. After class one afternoon I returned to the E Bldg., BELS adjunct office to copy some items. The copier faced a window and as I looked out the window I noticed six students from that class standing on the walkway leading to Bldg. F talking, laughing, connecting. Even then I remember thinking “If you build it they will come.” If we offer it they will come and extend those connections outside of class. The time was almost 30 minutes after class. YES!