Stop Feeding your Babies Steak!
You're a Spanish teacher. You love teaching. You love your students. That's the way it should be!
Your beginning students are like your newborn babies, and those babies need nourishment (grammar, vocabulary, and practice activities). That's where you come in.
You start them off with formula (the basics of the language: greetings, numbers, months of the year, days of the week, several stock phrases to get them started right away, etc.). You get excited by their growth and you soon start to wean them off the formula and start to feed them their first solid food, albeit pureed and one at a time (something basic like regular -ar,
-er, -ir verbs, adjective-noun agreement, etc.).
If you rush it and don't give them enough time to swallow what you're feeding them, they end up spitting it out onto their bibs, and you have to start over. If you succeed, your students start to feel energized because they now have some basic tools to make decisions on their own, not just stock phrases to regurgitate.
You start to combine a few of these pureed solid foods in the same meal (compound verb phrases like "I want to eat" and "She needs to go," etc.). Your babies start to get really excited for meal time and so do you. They're growing up so fast!
Your babies start to look at your plate and see all the different foods that you eat, and start reaching for them ("how do you say 'I bought a new car last weekend' or 'I had to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery the other day'?").
Do you give in? Do you hand them the knife and fork and place a nice, juicy steak in front of them? Maybe you don't go to those extremes, but you cut the steak into little pieces and feed it to them. Even if they have their front four teeth after a few months, are they capable of chewing a steak, even if it is bite-size? Are they capable of digesting it and absorbing its nutrients? Despite your good intentions ("It's just a little taste") or how much you hate to tell them "no," their growth and development are in your hands, and the last thing you want is for your babies to get sick or, worse, to choke.
There is a time and a place for everything, and language learning is no exception. If you find that your students lose interest in learning after the initial burst of success and you spend more time than you'd like on recruiting new students due to low retention rates, then maybe the problem is your "learn fast and easy" approach to recruiting. "Fast and easy" is attractive to prospective students, but the reality is that learning anything as complex as a new language is "slow and difficult." If you want to keep your students excited to learn with you for 3 to 5 years and beyond, you have to teach them like you'd feed your babies. You cannot rush the nature of the growth process ... unless you want to keep getting new babies every 6 months.
If you're looking for a new approach to teaching Spanish, De cabo a rabo can help!