POLK COUNTY, Fla. –  A Polk County art teacher is showing her class what it feels like to be immersed in a classroom where the teacher speaks a different language, and they’re still expected to succeed.

  • Art teacher conducted experiment for Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Chanique Davis conducted class in Spanish only
  • Students said they learned a lot about others who speak different languages

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Lake Alfred art teacher Chanique Davis conducted the experiment on September 13 with her fifth grade class.

She told the class in Spanish that she would be teaching the class in Spanish and they were expected to turn in their work correctly.  Some of the students served as interpreters.

When she finally switched back to English, her English speaking students told her they felt nervous.

"I didn’t understand what she was saying and I thought I was going to get an F," fifth grader Keydajah Tention said.

The bilingual students called the experiment exciting.

"I felt more comfortable here," said Emiliano Barrios, who said he learned Spanish as a second language since his father is from Mexico.

"It made me feel pretty good so I wouldn’t get picked on just because I don’t’ know English," Zamir Rivera Vazquez said.

Vazquez moved to Polk County two years ago after leaving Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

One of Davis’ Puerto Rican students said she was surprised her teacher could speak Spanish. Davis’ mother is African American, and her father is Dominican and Haitian.

"I learned that anyone could speak a different language," Ambar Muniz said.

Whether bilingual or not, all of the students said they learned from the exercise.

"I learned that it’s not always right to be mean to other people that speak different languages," William Henson said.

"What I was really trying to get them to take away from it was the importance of making sure we are respectful, kind, and understanding of other individuals who may not be from the United States of America who speak other languages," Davis.

In a video of the experiment posted to Davis’ Instagram account, she told her students to think about how students from other countries feel when they come to the United States.

"Imagine how students who come from another country feel when they come to our country, United States of America, and they can't speak our language but they’re expected to understand everything that’s going on and get a good grade. Do you think they would feel nervous like you?" Davis asked.

"Yeah," her students responded.

Davis also is teaching her first grade students the basic steps of bachata, while they make drawings of guitar and learn about the influential role of the guitar in several genres of Latin music. She also decorated her classroom door with a three dimensional image of Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa music, and had students make replica drawings of her while they listened to her music.

According to school statistics, Hispanic students make up the majority of students at Lake Alfred Elementary, accounting for 39 percent of the student population.