Over the past two blog posts we have focused on how getting to know our students helps create a sense of belonging in the classroom. What would happen if we shifted that focus from the students to the teacher? How would letting our students get to know us improve our classroom community?
Rapport is a two way street. You are learning about them and they are learning about you. Then incorporating the information gained into fun, engaging activities. This is a grand idea but how does this happen in a total immersion classroom?
A natural but negative consequence of “Spanish only” classrooms is a language barrier between you (the Spanish speaker) and them (the Spanish learners). Many of your students can not share with you about their weekend or their extra curricular activities because they simply do not have the language to do so. They may see the pictures on your desk about your life outside of school or run into you after class but beyond “¿Cómo está Usted? don’t have much to say or can’t articulate what they would really like to.
Do we sacrifice our expectation of “Spanish only” to build close relationships with our students? Or do we sacrifice a healthy rapport for the sake of total immersion? What a conundrum!
What if we could have it both ways? What if we could get to know our students and let our students get to know us without surrendering our 100% commitment to total immersion? Well, I contend that we can have our cake and eat it too! By sharing an important piece of our lives (beyond teaching) with our students we can build a strong rapport without losing the integrity of our teaching method.
But what to share? Pick something that you are passionate about! Your family, your pet, your favorite actor, singer or movie! Pick one special talent or hobby and share, share, share! Decorate your desk, cart or teaching space with pictures and keepsakes! Use Spanish to tell funny stories, act out epic adventures, teach pertinent vocabulary, and develop readings about you and your passion! Let the students into this personal place in your life and rapport will grow.
Your students will love your stories because you love your stories. Enthusiasm is contagious! You can build a sense of belonging in the room by allowing the students to be privy to this “exclusive” part of your life. As an added bonus, you will be developing a stronger relationship with your students without a word of English!