Friday, October 21, 2011

Spanglish Setbacks

It's easy to write about successes; admitting failure is much less comfortable. Still, since I really appreciate candor when reading others' blogs, I'll peel off the rose-colored glasses and let you glimpse the whole picture for a moment.

Despite its promising start, the Spanglish class is really floundering. I canceled class for a week when we took off for the East coast, and when I came back attendance had dropped off by at least half. Since then, it's petered even more. At this point, I think I'll be lucky to keep the class going through Thanksgiving. My new goal is to cobble along until then before breaking for the Holidays. With the new year I might try restructuring the whole thing as a weekly Spanish/English conversation hour.

I suppose I ought to feel relieved. After all, organizing and teaching this class has swallowed up a lot of time and caused quite a bit of stress, particularly in arranging childcare.

In reality, though, I feel disappointed. I feel responsible. It's hard to silence those subversive voices that whisper how the outcome could have been better if I were more organized or a stronger teacher. Admittedly, I'm mourning the loss of a dream. When the parents all came together for a few brief weeks, I saw the beginning of something beautiful with everyone interacting and learning together. It's hard to see this vision fade.

On the surface, this class was simply a volunteer teaching gig. Not a big deal. On a deeper level, however, I'd really embraced it and started to incorporate it into my sense of identity. This class gave me something to talk about when people asked about what I "do." Not that motherhood isn't more meaningful--it's just difficult to talk about with those uninterested in diapers and first grade spelling tests.

In teaching this class, I valued the opportunity to apply my education and grow professionally. Throughout college, I was enormously blessed by the generosity of others who funded my scholarships. Teaching this Spanglish class allowed me to give back in small measure.

All in all, I feel confused. In starting this class, I really felt the sparks of divine inspiration. From my limited perspective, it's difficult to see the greater purpose at the moment. What has this class really accomplished? What was it supposed to accomplish? At what point can I throw in the towel in good conscience? And if I do call it quits, what meaningful thing should fill that void?

Should I feel tempted to label this class a failure, perhaps I ought to remember these words of Oprah Winfrey:
"I don't believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process."

And should I feel tempted to give up completely, may I remember this wisdom from Winston Churchill:
"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

While the class may end, until our school, our neighborhood, our country and our world are truly unified, the work is never done.


Ben said...

Carry on!
And that Winston Churchill statement really resonates with me.

Erin said...

Those who choose to come do so because they value the class and are willing to make the effort and reserve the time in their schedules. Don't let those who have quit coming rain on your parade:) I echo Ben - carry on!

Jason said...

Kara, regardless of what happens, your efforts are making a difference. Thanks for being a good example to all of us in stepping out of the comfortable routine of daily life and giving a bit of yourself to making our community a better place.

Since you began teaching the class, I've been amazed at your ability to prepare and teach while still being a wonderful mom to the kids and friend to me. Your perseverance in the face of challenges is truly inspiring (especially in the absence of your deadbeat husband)!

Keep the faith!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ben and Erin. I also know some of the very best teaching and learning in this world is accomplished in small groups, even if only two or three are gathered with a common purpose. So keep smiling and carry on!

It also might help to keep an eye out for any amusing aspects of your good work. More time will likely reveal more amusing and rewarding contexts. ... And never equate an honorable setback with failure.

"I contend that not only can you laugh at adversity, but it is essential to do so if you are to deal with setbacks without defeat."
Allen Klein

Julie L said...

It's easy for me to say "carry on" from my perspective, but I'm sure it's got to be discouraging for you. However, I agree with the others, "carry on!" Nothing of value is ever met without moments of discouragement and at times even despair. Your inspiration, I believe, was genuine. The need is real. I continue to be in awe of all you do.

Tanja said...

I took a few Spanish beginner classes in the past (Volkshochschule) and even paid for them :) - like everybody else in these evening classes. The norm was that I was sitting alone with maybe two others in the classroom in the end. Sometimes things come up and schedules change - I am sure they liked your teaching and liked to get to know the other parents better.

candice said...

Can you advertise at other schools as well? If your original plan was to run the entire year, i think you should stick it out. As long as one person is coming, you are making a difference. Don't get discouraged (easier said than done), trust in your inspiration. You might find that the best outcome actually comes after all the bumps along the way, if you choose to meet your end of the bargain. :)

Best of luck, you are doing a fine job.

Anonymous said...

I think that you should not give up on finding a professional position if your heart and mind lead you there.

Jenika said...

You are so brave to have done this, and even braver to blog about the difficulties. You know how in movies there's always that rough patch where everything seems to be going wrong and the main character is exhausted? It's usually right before something wonderful happens and they realize it was worth it. And since changing hearts was part of your goal, it's hard to know your own success because people aren't going to necessarily come up and let you know that it has happened. I think it was an inspired idea, and I'm sure that it has done much good.

Susie said...

In my past experience of taking some evening and daytime Spanish classes that didn't require a commitment of time or money, I noticed the attendance vary from week to week. I, myself, was guilty of letting other things get in the way. However, I value what I have learned and still desire to learn more. It broadened my horizons. It has opened doors to friendships. I believe this will take a little time to catch on, as you are paving a new path, but it should increasingly become more sought after. Hang in there. I think you are doing an awesome service!!