Laura Avila

Here is Laura’s bio:

I teach at a 600+ student high school in Belfast, Maine. It’s been a long journey getting here from Córdoba, Argentina, where I was born and raised. This is my seventh year teaching Spanish and sixth with TPRS. I came into teaching quite late and accidentally, when the high school in the remote location I was living in couldn’t find anyone to fill the position and was desperate not to have it cut.

The first year I taught was extremely difficult. I lacked any teacher training; there was only the text book that always made me feel nauseous. It was like having been thrown unexpectedly into the lion’s den.

Six months went by and I was ready to quit. Couldn’t see myself doing such fruitless work for long. But then…at one of those mostly uninspiring regional teacher workshops, was this woman who showed me some fun-looking drawings and mentioned the name TPRS. I will always be grateful to Therese Oliver for doing that; she made a difference in my life.

The next day, I got Blaine’s books and gave it a try. It was sooooo difficult! In one period I literally ran through 10 structures and several scenarios trying to follow one of his stories. Of course, the kids hated it and were begging for the worksheets. In those days this PLC didn’t exist. I was so far away, so alone, but I knew, and never doubted, that TPRS was the way to go, that it was going to get better.

Life took an unexpected turn with a family health issue, and I didn’t teach at all for a while. Now I am in a school that I like very much. I am grateful for the kids that I have. The community and establishment don’t really know what this CI thing is, but (so far) they let us do what we think is best, as long as the kids are happy and there are no parental complaints.

My strengths: as a native speaker I feel very comfortable with the language. I don’t fear making a grammatical mistake, or getting stumped with a word. I play with the sounds of Spanish and love our language. Also, I am very physical and totally believe in movement. I use TPR and find it very effective. When I see one kid yawning, I know it is time to move. Maybe for a minute or two, some gesture or a hula dance movement.

I use songs from when I was growing up, adding the rhythms and beats that come from the many different  chants that abound in Córdoba. I enjoy my kids and like what they have to say, and as is true for so many of us in our tprs community,  I can let my freak side fly with my kids, which helps in getting through the arduous skills of  doing PQA and stories.

My challenges: as a native speaker I feel very comfortable with the language. It is so incredibly hard to go slow, stay in bounds and keep it simple. I’ve come down from a speed of perhaps 150 m.p.h to 90 m.p.h, which is still way above the speed limit. At least I am catching myself more often, stopping right when I am about to add something else that in my mind sounds fantastic, but that the students are not ready for. It’s never quite enough.   I also don’t have other people’s innate (or acquired) ability to know what teenagers like, what clicks with them. Not being a native to the American culture, I lack so many popular references, which does not help at creativity time. I can get in a rut and do the same thing day in and day out. I have to work hard at bringing in variety. It just doesn’t come naturally, but I feel that I am moving in the right direction.




2 thoughts on “Laura Avila”

  1. Welcome Laura. I am from the US and because of my past I feel totally out of wack with many popular references. Luckily my husband started teaching in a middle school and he can give me guidance. I have also spent time going over websites that talk about who is who is the pop news and what is important to teenagers. I mean, I have an edge on you in the sense that I grew up here but from about 14 on I was out of touch with the average sad teenage life.
    I am so glad that you found your way here.

  2. I found out that I need know nothing about the pop culture they live in. My clever move is to get a trusted kid in the hallway before class and say, “Hey, I need an outrageous character from y’all’s teen world for the story today. Can I count on you to suggest a few?” It works.

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