A Day in the Life of Spanish Teacher Maria Burruss

Allison Ferralli, Revolution Correspondent

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8:30: Spanish Teacher Maria Burruss arrives at school after dropping her daughter off at Cale Elementary School. She begins her day by setting up her slideshow for the day-projecting the “Do Now”, as she tries to stay awake after a recreation volleyball game the night before.

Students begin to arrive, in addition to a few other kids that are spending time with Burruss before class starts. She likes to develop close relationships with her students, so as to understand them. Burruss also stresses the importance of first impressions, which is why she likes to spend time with her students, getting to know them individually. “First impressions are important, for students and teachers. The first impression must be a good one. Can it change? Sure. But it will stick in the brains if themselves and yourself for a long time.”

8:55: Begins the Do Now (Hazlo Ahora), and continues after the pledge of allegiance and moment of silence. This is a Spanish Four class, so the Do Now is Don Quijote, a book written in Spain about a crazy knight. Burruss asks the class if they would prefer her reading and translating together, or have the students read by themselves. The students choose to read for themselves.

9:30: After completing the Do Now and quickly reviewing the subjunctive form, the class begins a listening activity. The activity is one of listening to a doctor read about healthy foods following the class’ unit of healthy food, and how certain foods aid health.

The Cuban speaker in the listening activity speaks very fast, and Senora explains that the recording will be quick. The students’ faces became awe-stricken with stress and panics as the recording began. She will replay the recording as many times as the students feel necessary, to ensure maximum comprehension.

9:45: Senora waits patiently and replays the voice activity. As the students are listening to the recording, they have questions to answer. Any questions unanswered would not be counted as a penalty. It is just to attempt as much comprehension, Burruss reviews the answers to the questions, so everyone has the right answer.

“My teaching style is a collective learning, and with a lot of feedback with me and my students. I feel like because of the students, I have learned a lot, and hopefully vice versa.”

When asked her inspiration, Senora stated that her daughter was hers, “…and in the knowledge that in this country, and in the concept of time, that especially younger kids spend more time with their teachers than their parents.” Burruss uses this inspiration to keep her enthused about teaching.

10:00: Burruss gives the next assignment-that is to write a recipe using five ingredients, at least one being healthy, with the instructions to make it. The students then share this with their tables. If they do not complete this assignment, they must finish it for homework. They will work with these recipes next week. She reminds the students that they will have a general knowledge exam next week. This lasts until the end of class.

10:30: Burruss quickly sets up the slideshow for the next class before class begins. Senora Burruss teaches four Spanish 4 classes, and one Spanish 2 class, every day. She says that although her classes do not feel repetitive, it is difficult to create a curriculum, because she is the only Spanish four teacher, so she cannot divide and conquer by working with another teacher.

The class begins by going to lunch, and during lunch Burruss eats while putting grades into the gradebook. She lets any students have lunch in her room, a few chose to do so, and she takes the time to have conversations with each of them, such as asking how their days are, and shows that she truly cares for her students.

11:45: Burruss plays the announcements, followed by the Do Now. Although this is the same level of class, there are more native speakers in this class, which creates an atmosphere that is more competitive, especially at such a high level of Spanish.

Burruss reviews the subjunctive tense, and continues with the listening exercise previously done by A Block. She again explains that it will be fast, and amongst complaints, states that she will repeat the recording many times, so that the students can understand it and answer the related questions. This class is slightly more talkative as well, so it requires more attention. This class is also much larger with every seat filled, which is another obstacle because students may not have the opportunity to speak as often, but Burruss tries to allow for every student to participate in the class.

12:25: Burruss says that writing a recipe with instructions will be homework, because this class ran out of time. Again, this class will work with the recipe next week, so it is essential that they complete this assignment. This class will also take the general knowledge exam next week. This concludes the class.

12:45: The third class of the day begins. This class is a Spanish 2/3 class, because it meets every day. Since this is an intermediate level of Spanish, this class consists of mostly underclassmen, who are in a word-rowdy. Talking from the first minute of class to the last.

They begin with a Do Now, which is to write about a Spanish book that they are reading in their free time, and finish by counting their number of words so they can see improvement in word count by the end of the year. The students then repeat the saying that “I am ready, I am responsible, I am respectful.” They continue by saying the weather, with assistance from Burruss.

1:15: Since this class is working more independently with their own individual books, Burruss sits down one-on-one with each of the students, to make sure that they understand, and see if they need help. While she walks around the room helping students individually, the students work on their laptops, practicing their Spanish on Duolingo. Burruss uses both Duolingo and ThisisLanguage. These are websites that allow for the students to improve on their Spanish outside the classroom, while encouraging friendly competition by allowing for students to compete online with each other. The students’ faces become intent on getting a higher score than their classmates.

1:45: The students begin to go over general vocabulary. Burruss initially tries to use a method of learning by using a die to toss around the room, to engage everyone in the lesson. She has to switch methods once the class shows that they are unable to handle throwing a soft die around the room. What began as gentle tossing to fellow classmates quickly became a game of screaming and lobbing the dice all over the classroom. The method is switched to simply writing the vocabulary down, and this lasts until the end of the class.

Of course, some students are more difficult to handle, but, “Those are the students that make you a better teacher,” Burruss said. “Short term, you will be flustered with them, but long term, they allow you to obtain strategies to help you with others.”

2:10: C Block is over, and it is now Burruss’ planning period. Being a single mother, she must go pick up her daughter from school, and then come back to Albemarle to continue working and finish grading. She returns to the school before 4:00 p.m., and leaves around 5:30.

“Monday through Friday has like a fog. Wake up at 6:00 a.m., leave home by 7:00, because it takes an hour and a half to get here. Between 4:30 and 5:30 working at the school, then going home and having dinner.”

When she goes home she has dinner and spends time with her seven-year-old daughter, Mia.

“I never thought I would enjoy [teaching] as much, from all the nightmare stories, and it is the most stressful job, but also the most rewarding.”