Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Guy Who Insisted On Taking Spanish

Four years ago, I had a 9th grader I'll call "Nick" in Spanish 1.  He had dishwater-blond hair cut to about ½” all over his head with a perpetual rooster tail sticking up on the crown of his head.  Glasses.  Tall, lanky, a little shy, and polite.  On an Individualized Education Plan, they told me before the first day of class that Fall.

Nick's IEP said that due to his learning disabilities, it was not recommended that he take Spanish at the high school level after he finished 8th grade, but that he really wanted to take Spanish anyway. Due to his persistence, they had decided to let him try it, and he was allowed to enroll in my class.  I was asked by his case manager and his mom that if it didn’t seem like he was going to make it in Spanish, to be sure and let them know within the first few weeks of school so they would still have time to put him in a different elective before he got in over his head; they stressed that he was only in Spanish because he had insisted on being given the chance to try it.

As soon as I heard all this information, I made Nick the “presidente” (leader) of Costa Rica (the grouping of desks on my left) on my seating chart.  Any kid who insists on being given the chance to take Spanish against all the adults in his life deserves to be presidente, in my opinion. 

Other than that, I didn’t treat Nick differently from anyone else.  I was prepared to offer him extra help as needed to make sure he passed, but he didn't need it.  He learned like gangbusters in my class.  He participated, did all the written work, and had a big smile on his face every class. 

Nick broke his left wrist riding his bike after the first week of school.  Being left-handed, he had to do all his written work with his right hand.  He laboriously did every bit.  I have had students (not on IEPs) with full use of both hands that didn’t put half the effort he did into writing stories. 

Nick did awesome in Spanish 1 and went on to succeed just as well in Spanish 2.  Stories like this one that make me so glad I am a teacher.  It is my privilege to give access to and encouragement in learning to kids like Nick, because I believe that a kid who has full access to learning has access to the world. :)


  1. I had a similar situation my second year of teaching with a student who had cerebral palsy. He was transferred to our high school as a junior during the middle of the 1st quarter, and he as well insisted on taking Spanish. This young man amazed me at how much he was able to speak by the end of the quarter. He had better pronunciation than others in the class and was very motivated. Although he struggled with his motor skills, I tried to limit any writing, but he insisted on doing the same work as other students. He would leave me notes and even left a card in my mailbox thanking me and saying I was "the best." This alone would've made that the best year for me. Sadly, he was a foster child so he has had to move multiple times. I think of kids like these who may not get a chance to demonstrate how successful they can be when they are surrounded by negative people or simply saying that they may not be able to do something. We as teachers know, or should know, that our job is to educate, meaning to bring forth what is inside. I look forward to reading more about your experiences and sharing some of mine. Thanks for this blog!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. What a wonderful story. I know you were in his life for a reason, as he was in yours. :)


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