How do I create value for learning languages?
I am sure there are teachers out there who are experts at this and many of them are probably teachers of languages other than Spanish. They have killed themselves to build their programs and convince their clientele how important that language is to their students. If you are that teacher or you know someone like that, please steer them my way. I would love to pick some brains and gather some new tricks to stuff up my sleeves.
It seems to me that all language teachers struggle with similar obstacles, one being the language learning culture we ourselves have probably had a part in creating. Many of us once taught grammar and vocabulary driven curricula led single-handedly by textbook programs that kept generations of students from developing any type of proficiency in the language. Now, those students have become adults and are at home trying to reassure their own language learners that while learning a language is a valuable skill, they themselves took two years of high school language and cannot produce any of it presently, so maybe keep all expectations low. Worse is the group of parents who openly state that they don't understand why their child should have to learn another language at all. How do you combat passive aggression against a skill disguised as just a school subject?
Cultural ignorance also in fierce opposition to value. I have seen some really frightening statements in my students writing about comparisons between our community and the Spanish-speaking world, and the more I delve into cultural comparisons as a launching point for explorations and conversations in my lessons, the more I see how deep the infection has invaded my students views on the language and cultures I teach. Those views have a direct effect on how much they value the skill I am developing in them, so while they are learning to speak, read, write and listen well enough to meet their needs using Spanish, be persuasive or enjoy just learning about others by communicating, many of them don't seem to care that they can. I am sure that this is in part my fault, although I am not entirely sure how. Maybe if I find something about my instruction that I can tweak I will stumble upon a magical formula that can change this situation entirely. The truth is probably that I take on the blame because it is the one thing I can actually DO.
I have been so blessed in my career to get to travel around and work with teachers from all over the country and learn from them. In my journeys I have also learned that I have many blessings at home in that I get to play a part in a program that has pioneered what language learning should start looking like in this generation of education. I know now that I am a part of something that is unique, but my students just think, "This is what Spanish class is." They don't see the amazing skill they are developing and how they are so far outside of what normal is. I can't even really show them off to their parents because their parents can't understand the cool little nuances that make what their children do in Spanish so exciting to me. I guess their success is getting lost in translation and the value for their language learning along with it.