Normally, I teach class in Spanish. That might be a strange declarative statement, but it does make sense, considering I am usually teaching Spanish grammar or literature courses. However, this year, in addition to my normal Spanish courses, I’m teaching a literature course in English. I am a native English speaker, so one would surmise that this would be “easier” or at least more “natural” for me to teach. I, myself, had this same belief. Yet, when I walked in the door on the first day of class, I realized that all of my teaching formation has been in Spanish, and I could not stop saying “salud” when someone sneezed in class or greeting the students whole heartedly with a “Buenos días”. The use of Spanish language has become part of my identity as a teacher, and without it, I felt a bit lost (despistada). Sometimes my English becomes stilted as I will rapidly translate all of my stock phrases or questions to the students. Overall, it has been a very surreal experience considering that I probably spend way more time speaking English than Spanish in the course of a day, so you would think it would make me more comfortable, instead of the opposite.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten more used to my English-speaking-teacher persona, but there is one strange effect that I have noticed with increasing frequency: my English-speaking-teacher self is stuck in the 90s. Maybe it’s from all the t.v. shows I watched as a kid, or perhaps it’s not just my teaching-self, but rather, my normal self that is stuck in the 90s, but I can’t get pop culture references out of my head when I’m teaching in English.
When I ask a question, and am waiting for students to respond, inside my head I have the urge to say, “Anyone?…Anyone?….Bueller?…”. Ok, so this might be a common thought for someone in the same situation, after all, it’s been parodied before ( and yes I realize that Ferris Bueller is from 1986, so not technically the 90s, but odds are I watched it with frequency in the 90s). Antoher example of a phrase that keeps going through my head is “cut, it, out” a la Uncle Joey on Full House, hand movements and all!
What is it about the silence in the classroom, and me feeling the need to fill it with some random phrase that happens to be outside the realm of my students’ knowledge? (or so I assume, since they were born in the early/mid 90s).
I suppose this phenomenon has something to do with me being comfortable in one environment (teaching in Spanish) and then experiencing a change (teaching in English), in which I’ve had to learn to adapt. I hadn’t realized how complacent I had become. Sometimes we need a change thrust upon us in order to realize that a change can be a good opportunity to gain new skills (like speaking in English…which is a skill I thought I had already mastered without having to pull lines from T.V. shows and movies, but apparently this is something that could use some work). Having to renegotiate my teaching identity has helped in both my Spanish and English classes, even if it comes at the price of having to explain 90s pop cultural references to my students from time to time.
At least I think they are laughing with me…but perhaps it is at me. How rude! (See what I did there? Once you’re on the Full House train, it’s hard to get off…)