I was reminded of the importance of this quote just recently. I think that before I actually explain the situation, I should give you a background first. I work in a ¨bilingual¨school in Madrid. My school reflects the majority of ¨bilingual¨schools in Spain. Most parents haven´t got a clue about English, the teachers who teach it don´t know it well either, the directors don´t know it well and the students are expected to become ¨bilingual¨ because some subjects just happen to be taught in some kind of English. The idea is that if science is taught in English only, the students will naturally understand everything because they have a natural ¨capacity¨to learn languages. I strongly disagree with this. Bilingualism is an immersion not an isolated experience. And a 6 or 7 year old, as such is the case as the age of my students, does not automatically get everything.
Last week, I received a complaint from a mother who, I have to say, is a leader in a very negative sense. The parents of her daughter´s classmates were happy with me until she began to complain that I spoke Spanish in the classroom. Undoubtedly, she complained on a whatssap group and suddenly, as parents can frequently change their opinion of you like the weather can change in the spring time, I was an incompetent teacher. This particular mother happened to be an English teacher and I was told it was quite good. I decided to sit down and meet with her to calm her down as well as to nip this problem at the tip. If not, complaints spread like wildfire.
She was friendly enough and I put on my best smile.
Her comments were as follows:
No Spanish should be allowed whatsoever. You are increasing their dependency on Spanish.
- At 6 or 7 years old, children do not always know grammatical references or rules in their own language. So can go on about a noun or a pronoun or a verb in English but if they don´t know what it is in their own language, they have a hard time. I prefer to explain how to use grammar in Spanish and then the children apply the grammar in English. Does it work? Yes! (Her response to this was that her students undertand everything she says and I asked how old they were, she told me they were 16. News flash: You cannot compare a 6 year old with a 16 year old.
- The students do not live in a bilingual world. Their learning is isolated enough as it is. I have to try and bridge the new material to what they already know. I feel bad that they are expected to automatically understand everything when the majority of people who expect these miracles are not capable of doing it themselves.
- I have another group of parents who have complained that I never explain anything in Spanish to help their children. (They believe their children who say, ¨Natascha didn´t explain¨. So, I provide sheets that explain the grammar in Spanish so as to protect myself and to shift the responsibility of learning to the students.
- Most of the parents seem to be quite happy that I provide explanations in Spanish because they can help their kids better. They actually learn from the sheets. (Her response was that parents don´t need to help their kids. My response was that I understand a parent that want to support their son or daughter.)
- As for the dependency on Spanish, I have recently requested that the parents STOP doing the homework for their kids, to STOP translating the sentences for their kids and to let the kids THINK FOR THEMSELVES! There is a difference between supporting your child and doing homework for your child. You are setting your kids up for failure! (This part shocked her…She had no idea the kind of parents there are)
- Finally, I told her that her daughter has the advantage of having a mother that speaks English to her. Her response was that she NEVER speaks English to her daughter with the excuse being that up until now, she felt that her daughter did not have all the pronunciations of the consonants and vowel sounds correct.This is the moment when I put on the typical teacher face that every teacher needs to use in order to survive.
When in reality, I really felt like this:
I can laugh about this situation now, but in the moment I was so irritated. I can´t change what others will say, think or do but I can certainly change my reaction to them. That is a lot harder to do than to say but in the end I know that this is a way to be happier!