By Lily Heritage
As students, we all know the struggles of waking up early for school, sitting through 7 hours of classes, and then finally getting home, only to have homework waiting for us. It can be exhausting. It’s easy to blame the teachers for assigning so much work, but have we ever considered the steps that go into educating the minds of tomorrow?
I talked with Susie Tattershall, AKA Mrs. Tattershall, or better yet, Tattesu. Tattershall teaches Chinese here at Jenks. She is known for her exaggerated presence and unique teaching style. I sat in on her AP Chinese class (which I would’ve been in if I weren’t in newswriting), and I was reminded of the semi-chaotic, but still educational, environment.
“The way I teach is a little bit different than most people because I use total physical response storytelling,” Tattershall explains. “I get a story with the students, and then I create everything myself, and that does take forever… sometimes I’m here until maybe 6 or 7 at night.”
Tattershall doesn’t teach from a textbook, instead her class is based around the needs of her students. This can be time consuming. To keep her students engaged, she takes ideas for stories from students (as outlandish as they may be), then creates this story in Chinese, photoshops characters into a powerpoint, and teaches it to the class. Tattershall uses props (such as wigs, skirts, puppets, etc), and her students as actors to tell the story. When I was in her class, those were some of my favorite days.
“You’ve gotta create all kinds of material to get the language inside somebody’s head. First things first, they have to hear it enough to be able to say any of it,” Tattershall tells me.
Tattershall is confident in her teaching style, and has got it down to a science. Any time a new word or sentence structure is introduced, it’s said so many times in chants and stories that it’s hard to forget, even if you tried. Tattershall speaks about the hurdles of learning to speak a new language.
“Sometimes you see [fluency] in the video projects… Unless you are raised in the culture and are bilingual, it’s really hard to speak another language, and it’s certainly very difficult in an artificial environment.”
Tattershall explains the concept of video projects as a way to learn speaking skills in Chinese, how to collaborate and work with others effectively, while simultaneously learning to work with technology. These 20 minute video projects are assigned at the beginning of both semesters, and is a compilation of all of the material learned in the given semester. The fun part is– the story is up to you. As long as you use what you know, these projects are outlets for creativity.
“Language is interactive. If we don’t do something like that, how can you prove that you can talk to another person using Chinese? It is a lot of work, but it can be a lot of fun,” Tattershall says.
Fun is a major component of Tattershall’s class. Do you know how to say catheter in Chinese? I do. I also can’t think of another class where pool noodle fights are common practice.
All of this comes together to create a classroom environment that is focused on the students’ best interest. The time spent creating said environment is worth it for the reward.
“If students fall in love with my subject, that is my reward… When a light bulb goes off and they’re like ‘oh I get it now!,’ that’s my reward–and if they laugh.”
You can find Mrs. Tattershall in her natural habitat in Building 6, room 6160.