The main issue I have with teaching basic language courses in required programs and much taught languages is simply that it is an enormous project. From the fourth semester on up, it is just a class, but in the first three, when you have all the random students, the e-workbook, the interface with multiple sections, the arguments about course goals, the tension over the final that, if common, is a compromise and does not reflect accurately the skills that have been taught in any one course … teaching basic language courses is a major project and it is also out of field for me or feels that way.
It is an enormous project and of all the things I do during the day it is the one which least interests me, and I would rather focus more on other large projects, but this is the main dish every fall no matter what. I think I am actually just like the students, not really interested in a required course of this type. To the admonishment that I should enjoy recruiting out of these courses, I say I dislike marketing, and I am better at recruiting out of the fourth semester and on up.
It really comes down to keeping my interest levels up high enough to put in the time needed to solve all the problems…or so I think, which is discouraging, because it would be so much time. The Portuguese class is entertaining since students have chosen it and they do the work, and also since I have to study to prepare it, so I am learning, too. In the Spanish classes we are at this point:
“Yes, you do need the textbook. I understand that you have passed two semesters of Spanish with a D and without acquiring the book, but at this point you really need it, I can tell. Yes, perhaps there is some other section of this course, at some school, at some hour, that you could get through without acquiring the book, but I doubt you will survive this one that way. The book is on reserve at the library, because I do know there are people who cannot afford it, yes. That is on the syllabus and it was announced the first eight days of class. The location of the library is… and a reserve desk is a service which…”.
It is like being in English and being fatigued from teaching freshman composition, but I am also traumatized and take it traumatically, and this is the part I want to stop. The specific approaches I have tried are many and none has worked so far, and this is because those are all superficial. The root issue is my theme of the week, in lower division teaching and in service and administration: relaxing and taking authority. These are the areas in which I am most trained to be nervous and defer, but the opposite is what is needed.
Relaxing and taking authority, these are the key things and everything flows from them. Shedding Khawatir asks what I am afraid of if I have a job and tenure and that is a fair question but the answer is, I have years of training to the effect that this is a minefield and I am nervous. That it is not a minefield any longer and that I really can be in control of it is what I need to learn. Remembering to keep this perspective is not time consuming and is a very good exercise for related activities in life.