When I first walked into an OWL classroom, I knew that my life would change. Spanish would no longer be a class, it would be a leisure activity. Of course, this concept was a bit foreign to me, since I couldn’t imagine having fun at school, while learning. However, within a few months, I was talking [somewhat] fluent Spanish, and could understand the occasional five words in my teacher’s directions. While this might sound like I was making more mistakes than not, it also means that I was following the OWL rules. Over time, I would not only grow in my confidence to make mistakes, and participate, but also in my ability to circumlocute and make inferences.
In 6th grade, I almost never participated. I barely talked, and the few times I was called on, no one could hear me. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. In my Diario for 6th grade, Señora constantly reminded me that I could improve my Spanish by participating more. She specifically states, “Participating more will surely help.”
While I didn’t pay her any attention at the time, I realize now that a big reason I became more outgoing in class, was because of how much Señora pushed me. By the end of 6th grade, I had improved tremendously, and was not only participating, but was a leader in class discussions. Señora responded to my last Diario of 6th grade, where I reflected my progress, with the following. “ I have loved watching you come out of your shell and find your voice.” This is why you have made so much progress.” This always stuck with me, since it is a very strong example of the bond that forms between teachers and students through innovative teaching methods like OWL.
Now, in eighth grade, I feel as though I have grown to become a big leader in everyday classroom activities. This extends to classes other than Spanish, and has really helped me to do good in school. I also know that leadership skills are going to be very valuable in my future, since they help me build confidence, and give me practice with general people skills. From my experience, they also give me advantages in class work Not only is this “leadership stage” a big improvement area for me, but it also demonstrates my move from a quiet, low key class member, to someone who isn’t afraid to share my thoughts and opinions. You could say that that I have become more of a risk-taker.
In addition to being a bigger participant in class, I have also grown to become a bigger risk taker. While both of these require a high level of confidence, risk taking involves more courage than the simple “I can do it” attitude that participation does. It is also plays a big role in learning. In the words of Michael Jordan himself, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
My risk taking since 6th grade has increased for the same reason that my participation has increased: confidence. Becoming more confident with talking Spanish to my classmates was the result of an increase in how much more assured I was that they wouldn’t make fun of me. Seventh and eighth grade follow the same pattern as well. After sixth grade, it’s been only growth for me. In seventh grade, I talked all the time, and in eighth grade, I couldn’t stop. This steady growth of confidence not only affected my class participation and risk-taking, but my need to circumlocute as well.
Circumlocution goes a long way in Spanish class. It is, in fact, what caused me to improve so much within the three (more like two and a half) years I have been learning Spanish. However, I have noticed that as I learn more, I find less of a need to talk around the topic, and add pictures. For one thing, I spent countless hours drawing in my diario. I’m not kidding. I actually drew in my diarios. For those of you who don’t know, the Diario is a basically a Spanish “diary” which students are required to update with the responses to a different prompt every two weeks. For me, this was where I could show off what I had learned. The only problem is that, I became so underconfident in my Spanish, that I felt the need to tell Señora exactly what I was talking about. I even provided an English transcript the first time I wrote an entire Spanish Diario entry.
By seventh grade, however, I had tremendously improved. While I was very confident in my ability, I still drew pictures in my margins. However, they became less of an attempt to prove myself, and more of an additional piece of evidence, to support whatever I was saying. In eighth grade, I was incredibly confident. Very much like in seventh grade, I included pictures to support what I was saying. I know this, because I began to write more. In my quarter one writing prompt this year, I wrote four pages.
Through my career as an OWL student, I have found that have grown into a more confident person, in terms of participation, risk taking, and self-trust. I know that this confidence will be what will help me achieve my goal of an Intermediate – Mid Spanish speaker. This is basically someone who can sustain sentences, strings of sentences, and basic survival needs in a Spanish environment. Yes, I know that I have a long road in front of me, but after experiencing what OWL has to offer, I know that the path will lead to nothing short of success.