Some schools can be really strict about not speaking Spanish to or in front of your students. The kids can’t know that you speak Spanish, understand Spanish or have any desire to learn. Which, if you think about it, what kind of message is that sending them? Here we are trying to encourage them to learn a new language and yet we live in a country in which we aren’t trying to learn the native language? But that’s another story…
Either way, there are certain situations in which I break the no Spanish rule in my pre-school and early primary classes and that is when they need emotional support or are dealing with a conflict. I also broke it a couple of times while I was teaching secondary school.
With the little ones the reasons are obvious. Imagine trying to soothe a three year old who wants to go home by using words they just don’t understand. Instead of comfort it can lead to confusion and more discomfort as they feel they aren’t being understood.
I am a huge believer in the importance of teaching kids how to manage their emotions and how to resolve conflicts. Conflict resolution is not a skill that is often taught in the schools that I have been in, and most children are only told not to do or say something rather than how to deal with their emotions and resolve issues with their classmates. Even though I am a mere language assistant, I still work to support my kids in all aspects of their learning, not only with English vocabulary. When there is an argument or conflict I mediate in Spanglish. I will ask the questions in English (What happened? Does that make you happy or sad?/How does that make you feel?), and reason with them in Spanish (Next time, que se puede hacer en vez de…). I want to be sure that they fully understand how to handle the situation if it happens again, which it most definitely will.
Straight Up Rude Behavior
Secondary school. Man, I will take little ones with drool and boogers dripping down their noses any day. I have so much respect for secondary school teachers. There was one third of ESO class in particular, with an incredibly low level of English, that did whatever they wanted during class. With several changes of the homeroom teacher, they kept getting worse. Not one to run for cover at the first hint of a battle, I decided to talk it out with them to see if we could come to an agreement and I did it in Spanish. Why? Because I wanted them to see that I too, make mistakes in another language, that I’m not embarrassed to make those mistakes, and that I really, truly did want to continue working with them but couldn’t if they kept acting like crazy folk and making class impossible. It worked for two weeks before my coordinator took me out of there, but I don’t regret trying to connect to them.
I try not to do it often, but these are the few exceptions that I do make. I think it’s important that the students only try to speak to us in English, and while my kids flip out when they find out I do speak Spanish, like when they overhear me talking to a homeroom teacher who doesn’t speak a lick of English, they still try to talk to me in English.
Do you ever break the no Spanish rule? Why? Why not?