Friday, December 3, 2010

I'll be the nose, you be the hand

I love teaching and feel that I’m good at it. I’ve had jobs before that I didn’t feel like I did well and instead of leaving work feeling invigorated I left feeling stressed and discouraged. Luckily, that isn’t the case for my current job – usually.

As an intermediate Spanish teacher I mostly help my students develop communicative competence (i.e. speaking, listening, and writing). However, for the last few weeks of the semester my class is reading a play called “La dama del alba.” It’s a great story, but I have no idea how to teach literature. I have a teaching guide that goes through the points that I’m supposed to cover, but even with that I run out of things for us to discuss. A few days ago I ended class ten minutes early because I didn’t have anything else to say.

To make my life just a little more difficult there is going to be a Christmas fiesta next week for a bunch of the Spanish classes and each class is going to sing a Christmas carol in Spanish. I didn’t know any Spanish carols so I asked for suggestions and a bunch of people recommended “Fum, fum, fum.” I listened to it on Youtube and liked it and told my class that we’d be singing it. However, when we tried to sing it in class it was surprisingly fast and hard to sing. Most of my students didn’t want to sing it and I was at a loss for what to do.

That night I tried to figure out the song on my own, but I couldn’t. The timing was weird and I couldn’t figure it out. Not only could I not sing the song, but I had no idea how to teach a song to my class. I didn’t feel like I could do it and that stressed me out and frustrated me. Since I didn’t know what to do I decided to do nothing. I thought to myself, “I have a class full of people that are musically talented; they don’t need me to teach them.”

When I got to class the next day I passed out the sheet music to the song and asked who knew how to lead a choir. Two girls raised their hands and I said, “Great! You’re gonna teach this song to the class.” They looked a little surprised, but they came to the front of the class and within ten minutes had the class singing beautifully. Seriously, it sounded so good. We also rolled in a piano and someone brought their violin and it all flowed together. I couldn’t believe it. I had done nothing to help them sing (except for interrupting the music directors occasionally to make witty comments), but I was so proud of them all.

This experience reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul teaches that each member of the body is important. The foot isn’t more important than the eye or the eye more important than the ear, but everyone is needed for the body to function properly. Those girls couldn’t have taught the class grammar and I couldn’t teach the class music, but together we ended up with a Spanish choir. There are a lot of things that I can’t do and I’m very grateful for the many people that do those things well because without you I couldn’t experience them. It’s nice to know that when we work together we end up with a spectacular result.

As usual I think my students have taught me more than I’ve taught them. Thank you, students. I’ll be the nose and you can be the rest.