Sunday, September 11, 2011

"High Expectations" and My Perfectionism

Okay, so the school year began three weeks ago, and this is the first weekend I feel I can even remotely catch my breath.

Biggest triumph so far? My level 3 students and I are making up some hilarious stories together and having a blast doing it. They definitely buy into this game of Stories-To-Learn-Vocab now, after two years with me. They are doing the gestures and coming up with crazy, fun stuff. I was going to just draw stick figures on the board and not make them get up and act this year, but they are begging to act things out now. What a switch from year 1 when I had to coerce them into acting.

Biggest struggle so far? My head. I'm obsessed with how my classes are going, for better or worse. I want to speak Spanish more. I want them to speak Spanish more. I want every single moment of every class to be incredible. I want everything I do to go over like gangbusters, to be awesome, to be the most perfect thing anyone's ever seen in a Spanish class. Guess how realistic that is?

"This is level 3," I keep telling myself. "I should be speaking Spanish 95% of the time!" Or, "They're in level 3 and they STILL don't get preterit/imperfect!" Or, "They should know more vocab by now." Or, "I have to get to such-and-such grammar point ASAP!!! We're already behind!"

Incidentally, I'm way harder (in my head) on myself and my students in my level 3 classes, because I've had these kids for two years. The Level 4/AP Spanish class is more relaxed for me psychologically because I didn't teach these kids and don't know them, so my expectations for them are more flexible. Odd, too, since that class has this hellishly difficult exam coming up in May, which will clearly delineate the quality of my teaching for all to see.

I have had to spend some time this past week talking myself down a bit, because I store all my stress in my back, and it's been extremely painful and stiff lately. It's okay if I don't get to every single grammar point, every project, and every piece of literature I had planned and (gasp!) published in my syllabus. (It's in the syllabus, so obviously I MUST do it ALL!) Who sets these bizarre expectations for me? I'm suddenly the "lead" Spanish teacher in my department now, one! No one but me. Come to find out, I'm a taskmaster, and I have to stop it.

So the 3's need more work in preterit and imperfect. Guess what? So do I, and I've been studying Spanish for years and years. That's no big catastrophe. We just keep teaching it until they get it.

I have to do the subjunctive this year, along with about 4 other tenses I sometimes don't remember the names of. I'm intimidated; I'll be honest with you. But I know I'm a good teacher, and I never give up on anyone. I'll keep teaching them (and myself) until we all get it.

Does anyone else out there struggle with perfectionism in their teaching? How do you deal?

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