On Salvadoran Independence Day, September 15th, my IB Year 1 juniors faced off against veteran IB Year 2 seniors in Lowcountry Preparatory School’s 2nd Annual Handball Tournament. In this particular picture, a senior is making the case to me, en español of course, that they should start with the ball because they won last year. 😆
I played outdoor team handball all throughout high school in El Salvador. A popular sport that is played even at the Olympics, team handball is largely unknown in the United States. It’s a fairly rough contact sport played with a ball that fits, well, in your hand, on a court a little bigger than a basketball court. There’s a circle around the goal like in field hockey, you dribble like basketball, and you take a characteristic three-step running jump to shoot on goal (there’s a handball emoji of a player in this position-check it out!).
In the past, I had told my students about playing handball in high school and some of the more athletically inclined had always asked to play. I demurred, thinking, I can’t teach handball! As a senior, I had so many injuries from handball my superlative was “Team Ouch.” So, no handball en la clase and two years went by.
My first year of teaching was a blur because there was no plan B. Everything was plan A, and if it didn’t work, which happened often, we just had to struggle through. Year 2 I finally had a backup plan, and sometimes I even had a plan C or D. Everyone said year 2 would be easier and I thought, well, duh. But it was so. much. easier.
Year 3 was the year that I lost my inhibitions, so to speak: if it was something I had thought about doing but didn’t, either because I was nervous it wouldn’t work, or I was worried I didn’t have the right resources, I said screw it, and just tried it. So that’s how “Team Ouch” and two-time Most Improved (what does that mean??) ended up teaching high school juniors and seniors how to play handball en español.
Handball dovetails nicely with an IB unit on Ethics in Sports. We talk about good sportsmanship, sports-related vocabulary, and sports as a source of cultural identity, and come game-day I can comfortably give them the rules en español:
With that, we’re off! It’s a little tricky to be referee, coach, and Spanish teacher all at the same time, but it’s my favorite kind of chaos if I’m surrounded by a bunch of high schoolers hablando en español and trying something new with a great attitude. Highlights from this year include being told “¡Tú necesitas ojos!” (You need eyes!) by a senior when I made a bad call about a goal, and watching a normally silent junior girl beg to be put back in after the half. An awesome quince (Salvadoran independence) all around. 🇸🇻
Below: Seniors celebrating their 9-3 win over the juniors, the coveted trophy I may or may not have bought at Goodwill and retrofitted, a referee selfie, and, from the Facebook vault, a pic from high school handball in El Sal.
I have a brief history of being offered jobs I’m not technically qualified to do. I come by it honestly: my mother has had at least 10 different careers in her lifetime, each switch to something new usually involving an enthusiastic, “Well I’ve never done that before, but I can learn!” And learn she does. Until she’s really good at it. Then time for something else!
On paper, the school where I currently work should have fired me before they hired me. I had no formal training in education, I didn’t major in the subject I would be teaching, and I was only 22.
But! Lots of buts: at 16 I took over teaching a weekly youth group and kids my own age for some reason agreed I should be in charge; I tutored and taught my way through college, for $ in the campus Writing Center and for fun with an adorable Japanese couple in ESL classes; not to mention my first student, the not-so-little-anymore little brother, who was constantly subjected to my early pedagogy.
Another hint teaching might be in the cards? My first, and hopefully only, office job was excruciating because it ran like, well, an office: I sat all day long; I was given great freedom to finish my projects, but I didn’t have to talk to anyone else to get them done (!); and everyone thought I was being goofy when I wanted to share something interesting I had learned. After laying all that out for my mom on the phone one afternoon, she said, gently, “Maggie, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but maybe you should consider teaching?”
Wham, bam, an application with a placement agency and two interviews later, I had a job teaching Spanish to middle and high school students in a small private school. I just started year 4 and I’m still trying to figure out how it happened. And how to make it better each year.
I’m excited to keep growing in this role, and I wanted a place to keep my thoughts. Also I might be a little bit of a ham. So, blog! #bandwagon #whynot
Este verano empecé una experiencia un poco difícil de explicar: apliqué y me aceptaron al programa de la maestría en español en Middlebury College en Vermont. Lo que hace sea único de este programa es que toma lugar en cursos de seis semanas por cuatro veranos seguidos, así que es muy popular con profesores que enseñan durante el año escolar. Otra cosa única es que el programa es completamente de inmersión. Hablas el idioma que estás estudiando, literalmente todo el tiempo.
Me resulta difícil explicar que tan raro fue este experimento social de convivir con otros adultos de todas partes del mundo hispanohablante, con mil viajes diferentes para llegar al mismo destino, es decir, el amor para el español y el deseo de seguir estudiándolo, y lo que me resultó tan fascinante fue hablar solamente en español todo el tiempo. Me di cuenta de que siempre había estado en un ambiente por lo menos parcialmente bilingüe, pero, obligarme a mí misma a solo usar español fue un reto, aunque fue divertidísimo.
Ya de vuelta a la vida real, o sea mi trabajo como profesora de la secundaria, decidí empezar un blog. Junto con este blog para compartir mis ideas acerca de la enseñanza, quiero crear un espacio para practicar mi redacción en español mientras no estoy “middleburyeando” en las colinas verdes empinadísimas de Vermont. Así, publicaré una entrada en el blog en español junto con el post en inglés, a veces del mismo tema, a veces añadiendo una reflexión aparte. Será un experimento. ¡Ojalá que lo disfruten!