I've been teaching middle school for my entire 7 year career (one year I also taught elementary). I have found that through the years my Spanish has deteriorated to the vocabulary and grammar structures that I am expected to teach. For the last two years I have been experimenting and using TPR and TPRS in my classroom, not just as strategies, but as the foundational philosophy of my classroom. I'm finding that my fluency is improving again, not because I have native speakers to talk to or even that I have made a drastic effort to practice my Spanish outside of my classroom.
My Spanish is improving because the class is so spontaneous. Even in my best days of living in Chile and speaking Spanish exclusively I don't think I could have told you that erizo meant hedgehog. But now that I have a student who has two pet erizos, I know it. :) I'm not limited to speaking in the present tense or using regular verbs, so I get more practice all the time. I've also chosen to start reading as well. I'm not reading during the class' free reading time yet, but I did make the conscious decision that if I'm going to ask the students to read regularly in Spanish, then I should as well. Already I can see improvement in my own reading. I am reading faster, and seeing clearer images of what is happening.
41 minutes ago