Julio Maestas

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9 thoughts on “Julio Maestas”

  1. Wow this hit me on about five levels, all of them visceral. As an AP French Literature teacher, before I burned out and went to MS French and met Susan, I would focus on only the theme of love in literature instead of addressing the required topics and I wouldn’t even read all the texts, but just the books and poetry I liked and knew.
    My last building was on Denver’s “West Side” where there are five big high schools with about 95% Latino populations living in tough conditions. I would see kids working at McDonald’s until 1:00 a.m. (I was at a drive through once real late and students with thunderous natural talent and straight A’s would smile at me at the drive through and say cheerfully, “See in the morning, Mr. Slavic!” for an 8:00 a.m. class. So I really get what you are saying.)
    I like that they responded in English. I wish I could have been in there for the class.

    1. YES! Julio! This is why we are here, yes? Bravo to you and your students. I agree with you and Ben about the English responses. That is so totally natural at the stage our students are in. It is hard pressure we put on ourselves to somehow “snuff that out” in order to get a L2 only space. I don’t know how to do it. Have never been successful at it in 29 years. I know that some people can do it in a way that is fun and encouraging. But I can’t, and so I accept that these types of real life conversations will happen and we do it “cross talk style” with me speaking Spanish and students responding however is natural for them in the context of the conversation.
      Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  2. I find that even when I know my Ss are capable of responding in the TL, when I prompt them to answer in Spanish say after they respond in English, “because he wants to go to the party” – it kinda sucks the joy out, pulls them up outta the unconscious mind and into the school/judgement/translation mode…

    1. YES TO THIS ALISA!!! A MILLION TIMES YES! I find it adds a layer of “ooh you are a little bit wrong” and that is a judgement. I don’t want my students to feel I am judging them.

  3. I too thought your report about discussing love was so moving. I could only hope that my own kids would have a candid discussion like that at school, with such a caring and loving teacher.

  4. I think the English responses are not only acceptable, but …. desirable. It’s surely because they were allowed to express themselves honestly, the only way they could, that your “lesson” became a very genuine conversation, that everyone was totally focused on what was being said and not how it was being said.
    I’m very interested in what is called Cross Talk, in which each person speaks their own language. A friend of mine did this with a flat mate years ago in Cameroon. She was American and he was French. Her French was pretty good and his English was pretty good. She spoke English to him and he replied in French. We were in the Peace Corps together and our PC instructors considered us to be at the same level. After six months during which I was in total immersion with no one to speak English to and she was doing Cross Talk, her French was much much better than mine.

    1. Judith, I always remember this story. I have always had similar experiences when conversing with students, where we are in a flow of conversation and simply communicating naturally with me speaking Spanish and students responding in English. I always felt that was a natural stage, and that ideally with “enough time” they would eventually be able to respond in Spanish. At the same time, I knew that in our classroom context / school schedule there might never be “enough time” for some kids to get to that stage, and that is ok.
      I realized early in my CI experience (? 8-9 years back?) that I would not necessarily know why student x would not or could not respond in Spanish. There are too many variables in an adolescent world, not the least of which is self-consciousness and not wanting to look foolish or “uncool.” It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks one day as I was having “one on one student interviews.” I was chatting it up with a student, super casual talk about an important competition he was in. We had a full-on real life conversation with me asking questions in Spanish and him responding without missing a beat, in English. Totally spontaneous, unprepared. I was so thrilled because he was “famous” in our school for “not being good at school.” Yet, here he was, fully present and “nailing” the assessment.
      I don’t know if he was truly unable to respond in Spanish or whether he was not ready to be “out there” and “sound silly.” Probably both. It brought me back to my own experience in 7th-8th-9th grade where, as a heritage speaker I *refused* to speak Spanish with my Dad or grandmother in public. They would speak Spanish and I’d respond in English to “save face” with my peers. I can only imagine the embarrassment factor adding to the affective filter for my novice and intermediate students. This is why I have such trouble “enforcing” L2 only rules. Since I can’t enforce them, I don’t have them.

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