Saturday, March 10, 2012

Measures to help with what's important.

Last week I read an interesting blog post. It focused on reasons why it's hard to accomplish important goals. The writer looked into the subject and explored the topic and I recommend the read.

Learning to speak as much Spanish as I’m able to learn before landing in Ecuador is important to me--- but not critical. I do value this desire to speak enough Spanish to communicate in the basics when I first get to Ecuador. But despite this, I've been falling behind in the lessons being taught at the Spanish class I’m taking.

So I get frustrated when the teacher calls me to conjugate a verb I don’t know how to conjugate.  I get upset for not knowing. I feel inept. I don’t like appearing less able than other students who know more than I do. These experiences of making repeated mistakes, not withstanding the many mistakes that are so widely distributed among the other students, has disconcerted me.  I don’t know why my will to study has been this weak. I know it’s not critical to my life---but still, it’s so important!! 

This importance combined with a sense of competition towards the other students and a sense of urgency to learn a decent modicum of Spanish before I get to Ecuador--- is growing a deeper root in the ground of my determination to study the language on a regular basis.  To help, I’ve pinned five charts on the wall above my laptop. The charts list various critical and important actions to take throughout the week.

For out-of-class Spanish study, there are two listings for two methods in the Monday through Friday chart. One method is to listen to the Rocket Spanish series of lessons in the Walkman. The other method is to study the lessons and practice the exercises in the textbook we use in the Spanish class.  When I do a listed activity, I put a black marker's dot in the chart’s box for that activity.  This helps in four ways. First, the chart itself helps because it's right there in front of me pronouncing what I expect of myself.  Second, the charts measure how well I’m doing. This benefits because it’s feedback I use to manage my efforts.  Third, the chart simply motivates to dot as many of those boxes as possible because it feels good to see you're doing your best. Last, the charts help because they show where more effort is needed. When a week ends, I grade myself.  At the end of the week I slip the charts into new plastic covers and pin them back on the wall. These auxiliary methods are not listed but I watch Spanish TV randomly and read Spanish children’s books. The pictures in those books help a lot to figure out what the words mean.

All this charting and monitoring has proven beneficial. This past week at Spanish class I conjugated a verb correctly and answered a question almost automatically speaking Spanish the right way.  I felt relieved. The teacher seemed relieved too.