This week has been much better, on the whole. I still didn’t get much sleep and felt completely overwhelmed with all the work I had to do, but a few encouraging things happened:
-on Monday I finally got to teach conjugation (something useful), and my students all understood. In fact, one of my third period troublemakers said, “see Ms. Wergin! We’re learning!”
-on Tuesday morning the student I got suspended came to my class to get her work for the day (she’d argued her way to an in-school suspension). When she came back to turn it in, I told her she’d gotten a higher grade on her last test (from an F to a D). She cried “oh Ms. Wergin!!!” and proceeded to throw her arms around me. And she’s been much better in class ever since.
-on Thursday I decided not to teach any Spanish and instead to have a discussion about stereotypes. I’m about to teach a little unit on immigration and US-Mexican relations, so I decided I should get an idea of what my students think about Latinos. In each class we compiled lists of stereotypes that people have about them (and about Black people in general) and that they have about White and Latino people. It was very interesting and eye-opening. Some of the things they said were really funny – each class said “white people don’t know how to discipline their kids” and “white people don’t know how to dress”. I also enjoyed when each class asked “Ms. Wergin, are you white?” I guess the benefit of being Croatian is that ambiguous ethnicity, and my students couldn’t quite figure it out. Anyway, I then directed my students’ thinking by asking, “do all of these stereotypes apply to you?” (“No!”) “Do you think that the stereotypes about Whites and Latinos apply to all of them?” (“No.”) I challenged them to be aware of how their own experiences and surroundings influence their perspectives and to make a conscious effort not to perpetuate the stereotypes about any group of which they might be a part. I told them that it may not always seem like it, but individuals really can make a lot of difference collectively, and they have the power to change how people see them and others. I could tell they were connecting with what I was saying and that they appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues that are very real to them (especially given that last year there was a riot at my school between the Blacks and the Latinos – we talked about that too).
-Friday was the best day. I gave them a quiz on conjugation and the vocabulary from the chapter. It was like my students all of a sudden cared about Spanish: their average quiz grade went from 65 to 80, and an astonishing number of students leaped from previous grades of D’s to a B on this quiz! I literally had kids standing next to my desk and saying “grade mine, Ms. Wergin! See how much better I did!” I nearly cried – I have never been so excited! And they were all so excited too. I took pictures of some of my kids holding up their B grades with huge smiles on their faces. It is so wonderful to finally see some evidence that I’ve been getting through to them! And that I taught the stuff this week well.
This was also a good week because I finally got to start Model UN! On Tuesday during my planning period, I taught 15 IB students the basics of MUN so that they’d be prepared for the little conference/workshop that we took them to yesterday. It was so refreshing to teach some kids who were all interested and engaged in what I was saying! They looked GREAT in their western business attire yesterday and had a really positive experience. Although I think some were (understandably) a little intimidated, they’re all excited to continue with MUN and learn more.