How did he do it? Well, it all began with a single lecture during our summer session. This was a lecture that he demanded from me, mind you, not one I forced upon him. He wanted me to explain every possible conjugation of Spanish verbs in every possible tense. And he retained it.
Come the regular school year, he used Duolingo to learn more vocabulary and grammar. He watched shows and videos in Spanish and even set his video games to Spanish mode. Not to mention reading books in Spanish. Every so often, he'd ask me a question or test a sentence construction with me. Now he's conversing on many topics with little hesitation. And he's still improving.
Keep in mind, this student didn't learn to read until he was 9. I shiver to think how a traditional school would have treated him. Right from kindergarten, they would have made him remedial. Every day, for years, they'd make it clear in their treatment that they thought he could not keep up. Even if he didn't internalize that much negativity, even if he kept his curiosity through years upon years of condescension, I can't imagine him in a high school Spanish class, the kind I used to teach. He'd want to speed ahead, and the teacher wouldn't let him. The teacher wouldn't be allowed to let him.
I should mention that he's been learning German and French at the same time. Or that one of his fellow students attended that first lecture on conjugation, before deciding he'd rather go back to learning Italian. Both boys share their thoughts on comparative linguistics with each other. They even crack jokes about comparative linguistics with each other. Because they think it's fun.
When I tell people what I do - people who have never heard of a Sudbury school, have never seen it in action, have never even done research or read about it - they tell me it could never work. Yet every day I walk into that building, and every day I see it work wonders.
Sean Vivier, MLSS Staff