Reflections on the Creative Process in LOTE Teaching and Learning

by Sarah Thompson

As a second year teacher of ninth grade Spanish in Midland in 1990, I remember thinking that my students would be much more interested in learning our new vocabulary words if I took a box of those items to class for them to “play with.” The truth is, I myself was bored to death with the idea of just “talking” them through another memorization exercise. With a box of realia, (in this case, several simple items from around the house in various states of disrepair), I became excited about the possibilities of teaching the new words. From the box of manipulatives grew a simple scenario, the courage to try a new approach I’d heard of (TPR), and Voilà! From my own boredom grew a series of creative activities that lifted my students right off the vocabulary sheet and into real life. It lifted me up, too.

How do we manage to seek creativity consistently in our teaching, especially if we’re returning to the same textbook or thematic units, the same classroom, the same levels of instruction for the umpteenth year? I believe that a fresh approach, a new teaching method, an unusual context—anything that can rejuvenate, inspire, and arouse our love of the content—is something we owe not just to our students, but also to ourselves.

In a day when teachers do well to fulfill the innumerable responsibilities of their jobs, many otherwise wonderful professionals feel it’s all they can do just to teach what they know in the same way they have always taught it. Let’s challenge ourselves to feed ourselves along the journey of another school year with something daring and different, something that stirs our passion and reminds us of our reasons for wanting to teach that language in the first place.

I have been blessed in my career by the guidance and influence of supervisors who introduced me to many such “appetizing” opportunities to grow my capacities as a teacher. With the help of a respected colleague or maybe the reassurance that comes with collaborating on something for the first time together, we can find the creative energy to lift our teaching—and our students—to higher levels of success. Whether our interest lies in learning scenarios, multiple intelligences, virtual travel, storytelling, WebQuests, peer coaching, videoconferencing, or some other aspect of language instruction, let’s delve in and take the plunge!

Whatever it costs us in time and energy will be returned to us ten-fold in the form of motivation, a sense of accomplishment, heightened interest and, above all, our students’ success!