I remember when I first took a Spanish class in middle school, my classmates were horrible to the teacher. They were obnoxious and rude, and they just seemed to treat the class much more differently than math class or science class. Maybe it was because they realized that they probably wouldn’t use Spanish much in their future so why bother taking it seriously now. Or maybe it was because they really had no interest in it since the school forced us to pick a foreign language as part of our curriculum. Whatever the reason, they were disrespectful to the class and the teacher, who also happened to be a recent graduate and in her 20’s. I remember there were days when she would get so furious at us or get so frustrated and just be reduced to tears. But to us back then, it was all fun and games. Teachers didn’t really have feelings.
Every time I teach my second group of junior high students, I think of my middle school Spanish class. It’s surprising at how familiar it all feels, except this time, I’m on the other side. There seems to be some sort of unspoken immunity in a foreign language class. Since it’s foreign-language-only, the students assume anything said or done in their native language is safe. They can say whatever they want to the teacher, about the teacher, at the teacher, but because they can’t even understand the foreign language when reprimanded, it’s like they’re really not in trouble.
Being a teacher is hard work. Being a teacher of a foreign language to a group of kids who don’t even care is harder work.
To my eighth grade Spanish teacher, I apologize for our terrible behavior because now I finally can understand what horrendous heathens we must have been. And yes, teachers do have feelings too.