Spanish Teacher, Ross High School
Think back to your choices as a student. Why do you sign up for any particular class? A course may fulfill required minimums for graduation with a particular diploma or degree. Many schedules allow for, and even encourage, students to reach beyond required minimums and elect to take courses outside their major course of study or graduation track. What classes did you select when you chose your electives? More importantly…why? Maybe you selected something that sounded like fun (Yoga, anyone?), or you selected courses because you knew your friends were signing up for them, or perhaps you chose courses because an educator encouraged you to do so.
The way our students select courses today may have evolved to include any number of computer programs and algorithms, but their motives for taking any given course remain the same. They want courses that will be relevant, useful, fun, engaging, and meaningful. In order to attract and retain students in our programs, we must ensure that our courses are indeed relevant and useful, fun and engaging, and meaningful. As educators, we can be purposeful in communicating this information with prospective students and their parents, to help funnel students into the program.
One method of purposeful communication is to attend and present at parent or student information meetings (if offered) regarding course offerings in your district. In my district, I not only attended, but also presented in Spanish, calling on students that were not previously informed that they would serve as interpreters for the meetings. Through this presentation, students and parents were able to see that program participants are able to interpret spoken Spanish to serve a purpose (interpreting for a crowd). Prospective students and parents reported that they were impressed by how “cool” their peers looked to be able to serve as interpreters, and current students were proud of their skills and abilities, helping them become more ready to sign on to continue study with the language.
In an alternate method, during a meeting for rising freshmen, current language students put together a bilingual skit, serving as interpreters for one another, sharing why they feel that learning a language is beneficial. Hearing from their peers makes the message that much more meaningful when presented.
Additionally, we have the opportunity to communicate with our current students regarding plans for the future, and certainly should not pass up the chance to encourage our strongest and most dedicated students to continue with the study of a particular language. It makes a difference for the student to hear directly from their teacher that the teacher believes that the student can continue on to the next level of language study, and be successful, and it opens the doors for communication with what to look forward to for the student in terms of skill and also content of the courses. This validation of their current efforts and progress could be the motive for remaining with a program of study, even a challenging and rigorous one such as an AP course. Talk to your students about taking the next level of language–you may never know which ones return to the program because you took the time to encourage it, but undoubtedly, there will be some that do.