Recently, I had coffee with a colleague from another elementary school to talk shop. She’s pretty new to the school where she’s the only Spanish teacher, teaches preschool through 8th grade, and is being asked to create a curriculum.

To say that she is concerned and feeling a high level of stress, is an obvious understatement.

I listened supportively as she unfolded her struggle to find the time and resources to create thematic units while figuring out what to do with the children in the meantime.  My friend is a good teacher, and of course, is looking to attend training and build a network of colleagues who can support her efforts.   All things that take time.

Our coffee was an effort to get information and advice on where to head next, and I answered her questions, suggesting some nice, inexpensive materials to use while she works on developing her own curriculum and set reasonable goals for the class time allotted her program.

I ended our conversation by simply saying, “Remember, at the end of the day, if you speak Spanish, the children are interested and understand and maybe use some themselves, that’s what it’s all about.”

As I walked away, I thought about my own stress level and sometimes my reaching for some unattainable perfect lesson, perfect outcome, perfect perfect perfect whatever. And then, I heard(yes, sometimes I hear voices) “Valerie, you need to follow your own advice.” What we do is complex, layered and sometimes like trying to put an octopus into a box–and it involves little people who look to us to be models and learn something about being good people in this world.  It’s a lot. Sometimes, if I speak Spanish, they’re interested and understand, and maybe use some themselves. Sometimes, that’s enough.

Valerie Shull teaches Spanish for elementary and middle school children at Rogers Park Montessori School, where she's been…