Monday, October 24, 2016

Student Reflection

Alicia uses this alphabet book as she helps students learn their letters in the bilingual kindergarten class where she does her Spanish community service learning work
by Alicia Barbas

Durante los días más recientes de mi trabajo en la clase de Kindergarten en el International Prep Academy, he empezado a notar varios elementos que me ayudan a conectar con cada estudiante. Por la mayoría del tiempo, les ayudo a los estudiantes a aprender, a reconocer, y a escribir las diferentes palabras y letras del alfabeto en un libro. La dificultad de este trabajo es que el libro consiste en el alfabeto en inglés y también en español, y la forma en que lo enseño depende del idioma materno del estudiante y de cuánto conoce en este idioma.

Para los estudiantes que hablan inglés, simplemente les tengo que ayudar a reconocer como se llama la letra específica y cómo escribirla. Muchos estudiantes practican las letras de su nombre, y entonces no tienen tantos problemas pronunciando, reconociendo, o escribiendo letras como “a” o “b” en mayúscula y minúscula. Cuando terminan con la letra, identifican una palabra que empieza con esta letra que está en la misma página del libro, como “angel” o “baby”. Algunos estudiantes se confunden con letras como “t” y “f” en los dos idiomas porque son similares, pero lo reconocen después de un poco de ayuda. También es importante reconocer que hay letras en el libro que sólo pertenecen al español, y los estudiantes que practican en inglés automáticamente saben que no van a practicar estas letras, como la “ñ”, la “ch”, o la “ll”. Sin embargo, los estudiantes que practican el alfabeto en español tienen que reconocer estas letras y el sonido de cada letra (aunque muchos también conocen el nombre de la letra). Después de intentar escribirla, identifican la palabra en español que está conectada con la letra, como “ñandú” para la “ñ”.  La mayoría de los estudiantes tiene que practicar el libro entero del alfabeto, mientras otros solamente practican su nombre, que es algo muy importante de saber para el futuro. Con esta actividad, normalmente les ayudo a los estudiantes que tienen más dificultades con las letras o que no las conocen muy bien, pero he empezado a ver la diferencia y cómo mejoran sus habilidades con la escritura poco a poco. Pienso que es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer el alfabeto en su lengua materna, y el próximo paso es que puedan reconocer el alfabeto en los dos idiomas.

Personalmente, fue un poco difícil cambiar la forma en que enseñaba el alfabeto al principio, pero cada día que lo hago, se me hace más fácil. Voy aprendiendo no solamente cómo diferenciar entre los estudiantes que hablan español y los que hablan ingles, pero también la forma en que los estudiantes individuales aprenden. Esta forma de enseñanza es algo nuevo para mí, pero estoy aprendiendo aspectos importantes sobre el uso del español, cuánto aprenden los estudiantes en sus casas y en la escuela, y cómo conectar con cada estudiante. Al final de mi trabajo cada día, me siento muy cumplida y muy segura de que me gustaría enseñar el español en el futuro.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Insights from the 2016 Conference from the Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education

by Ann Abbott

This is just one example of the wonderful information that can be found at Rice University's CLIC website, Bridging Research and Practice.

Last weekend I was very happy to attend the Annual conference of  the Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education (CUALHE) at Notre Dame.

I wanted to attend the conference because in my role as Director of Undergraduate Studies in our department, I will need to lead the assessment efforts when our university goes through its accreditation process in a few years. (My awareness and interest in this level of assessment comes from presentations and conversations with Dr. Staci Provezis in the Provost's Office.) Indeed, I picked up many good ideas about assessment, and I hope that our department can follow through on some of them.

For me and my interests for our department, the highlights were these sessions:
  • "Teaching and Testing Interaction Competence" by Maryam Emami, Kevin García, Katharina Kley / Hélade Scutti-Santos from Rice University. They provided very good examples of how they explicitly teach pragmatics and intercultural communicative competence in their Spanish basic language program. (I loved seeing Helade again! She presented their model of assessment that included the stages of practice --> awareness --> classroom instruction --> practice --> awareness/homework --> assessment, in which they video record their final conversation practice and receive a grade --> practice.)
  • Keynote: ¨Proficiency and Pragmatics: Expanding our Repertoire of Language Assessment.¨ by Julie Sykes, University of Oregon. Julie gave a very inspiring talk with wonderful examples of pragmatics and with a very intriguing look at what they are working on in her program in order to create simulations of pragmatics. I'm looking forward to learning more as her work progresses!
  • "The Evolution of One Foreign Language Department's Electronic Portfolio Assessment Program." by Jessamine Cooke-Plagwitz and Katherine Barbe at Northern Illinois University. It was very interesting to hear how they have their language majors create a portfolio throughout their coursework in the major, an idea that could work for us. They offer three one-credit courses each semester, so that counts as "one" course for a faculty member's teaching load.
  • "Improving the Student Experience through Program-wide Assessment and Articulation." This was a very impressive study of the proficiency levels of students in their basic language program. We have never had a broad assessment like this, as far as I know. This is what I wrote to myself after seeing their results: "What are our goal posts? (It feels funny to use that term while here at Notre Dame at a conference that is held int heir athletic facilities.) We gather data, students create portfolios, we see what students can/cannot do in linguistic and cultural terms, ... but where does all this information sit in relation to what, developmentally, student can actually be expected to do? In other words, I think that we sometimes overestimate where students can arrive without immersion. Other times we underestimate what they can do intellectually and socially."
  • "Assessing the Impact of Community-Based Learning on Student Learning Outcomes in a Spanish Program." by Rachel Parroquin, Connie Mick and Shauna Williams from Notre Dame. Of course I was interested in this! I know all three women and respect them greatly. They have a wonderful CBL program, and their results showed that.
  • "Improving Equal Access in Lower-Division Language Courses: A Collaboration Between the Language Program Director and Accessibility Services" by Muriel Gallego, Ohio University. I am very interested in issues of accessibility for people with disabilities, so this session was inspiring and important.
And here are some of my overall thoughts about this question: What can I bring back to our department?
  • Other programs have an emphasis on intercultural competence and pragmatics that we don't have at any level. Kevin Garcia presented a five-step process that they follow with students: 1) Reflection on how language works; 2) Contrast that between L1 and L2; 3) Analysis of L2 structures; 4) practice in speaking and writing; 5) translingual/transcultural discussion and reflection (at home). I wrote to myself, "This is a good response to the MLA special report that calls for translingual competence, not native-like proficiency. So in the end, what are our goals for the basic language program (BLP)? What do we want to achieve? (It seems like right now we are only focused on language acquisition.) What does the university want tot achieve? Why do they require foreign languages? What do students actually want to achieve in these required courses? Lastly, what does our society need us to achieve to further our civic society?"
  • Conversation partners. Rice and Carnegie Mellon both have "conversation partners" for their language students. The partners are advanced undergraduates (at Carnegie Mellon, anyway), and they are paid for that work. Could we use Mi Pueblo in a more systemic way like this? Or should we implement the conversation partners model?
  • Our department excels at linguistics and second language acquisition research. However, there is a broader body of literature and research out there that people draw upon for their language programs. We should widen our perspective.
  • I like the idea of a required 1-credit portfolio course during students' senior year, like they have done at Northern Illinois University. I wonder if we could do that at a School level, not just the department level.
  • Robert Davis showed the organization chart of their Spanish basic language program at the University of Oregon; he is the director of the program geared toward L2 learners, and Claudia Holguin is in charge of the program geared toward heritage learners. That brought to my mind other ways to organize a language program. At Rice, like Stanford, the language courses are their own program; the linguistics and languages are a separate department. What other ways could we logically organize ourselves? When's the last time we thought about this? How do our new online courses fit in? Could experiential learning have its own channel?
  • How can we make our courses more inclusive for students with disabilities, from a social justice perspective? I was very inspired by Muriel Gallego's talk, but I'd like to know more about how we can do that. We need to do that.
  • Finally, how does the emphasis on pragmatics and intercultural communicative competence fit in with the cultural competence sections I wrote for Día a día: de lo personal a lo profesional? I mean, the perspective of the presenters was still very language based, whereas my sections in the textbook have a more conceptual framework and tackle social issues. How can these two approaches fit together?

Monday, October 10, 2016

How to Prepare to Be a Facilitator in Business Spanish Class

by Ann Abbott

As I've written here before, I like to have my Business Spanish students practice being facilitators. I think it's a very important skill to have in business, and I think they already have enough practice giving presentations.

But the fact that it is not a common academic assignment can create confusion. So here is one student's explanation to other students about how to prepare.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Tensions in Spanish Programs Cannot Hold

Picture of a wave representing the forces of change coming towards Spanish programs
by Ann Abbott

One of the hats I wear in my job is Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work closely with our advisor, I speak directly with potential students and their parents, and I am on our department's curriculum committee.

On the one hand, I am passionate about Spanish and how it can help students understand our world differently, better. Studying Spanish, studying abroad in Barcelona for one year, and doing the PhD in Spanish literature gave me many wonderful experiences and tools. That was back in the 80s and 90s. On the other hand, I see some very important tensions that make me wonder about the long-term growth of Spanish as a serious, engaged, intellectual program on US college campuses.

1. Spain-centric programs

Spain has central role in both the typical curriculum and in students' imagination of "Spanish," yet Spain is a small piece of the Spanish-speaking world and of Spanish-language cultural production.

2. Spanish as a tool

Many students want to study the Spanish language to add it their their resumes, whereas faculty and courses are aimed at the discipline of "Hispanic Studies," not (or not just) learning Spanish.

3. Heritage speakers 

With few but notable exceptions, Spanish programs are structured to teach Spanish as a foreign language, even though the number of heritage speakers in the US will continue to grow--and second-language learners need to learn about and with the Spanish speakers of this country.

These issues have been clear to me for a while now, but recently, in a one-week span, I saw them play out before my eyes in three different occasions.

Business Spanish Students' Social Media Posts

Students in my Business Spanish course are learning about bilingual social media marketing and creating posts for the Spanish-Advising UIUC Facebook page. The first week, almost all the posts were about Spain, except for the posts prepared by heritage learners that featured information about Latin America and US Latinos.

They were given free reign. They could post about anything. My only directive was that they post something that they believed would be of interest to our Illinois students of Spanish.

And that was Spain. 

Their posts were good. Their intentions were good. You could see as they were working together to create the posts that they were passionate and interested in the topic and in sharing their interest in Spanish. But the idea of "Spain"--as a study abroad destination, as a place to visit, as a historical place--predominated.

Documentary Screening and Student Panel

I attended a screening of Dying to Get In! a couple of days after my students turned in their Facebook posts. (By the way, it was a very good documentary that you can watch on YouTube.) After the film, there was a panel of three Latino student activists speaking about the documentary. They spoke about why they are activists and how other students can get involved.

I raised my hand and said, “I’m from the Spanish department, and we teach students how to speak Spanish, but how can we get them to be interested in Spanish speakers? (We know from reports on campus microaggressions that many students demean Spanish-speakers.)

Interestingly, the students mentioned my “Spanish in the Community” course (they did not know me or know that it was my course) as one way to do that. They said that not many students know about the course, and one student said she is a Spanish minor and she didn’t take the course herself, though she wanted to, because she was trying to just finish up her requirements. Then a Latina/o Studies grad student said that she had met many LLS students who were minoring in Spanish—and she was surprised by that—who want to learn more about their cultures in our classes. She suggested that our departments collaborate more.

So our Spanish program is not seen as integrated with Latino/a Studies, the courses that interest our heritage learners aren’t required (don’t check off a box, yet), and the issues and activism related to Spanish and Spanish-speakers in the US is not featured prominently in the required courses.

Major/Minor Fair

The Division of General Studies hosts a Majors/Minors Fair each year, and our advisor, a current student and I attended last week. In less than two hours we spoke to over 50 students who visited our table.
All were interested in the Spanish minor. None were interested in the major.

Our minor consists of six courses. Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP test receive credit for two of those courses, leaving them with only four courses to complete the minor. Very do-able!

The students who had taken the AP test were almost all white. They were already two courses ahead in our curriculum.

Of the heritage speakers who came to the table, almost none of them had taken the AP test. So they have to go through the entire curriculum, despite the fact that they probably have as much or more knowledge of “Spanish” as they second-language learners who took the AP test.

That makes me pretty uncomfortable. White students, it seems from my non-scientific assessment, are more likely to take the AP test in high school which is probably geared mostly toward second language learners anyway. Then they come to college and the second language learners have another leg up on the heritage speakers because they automatically already have credit for two required Spanish courses.

Finally, I encouraged students to consider studying abroad to complete the minor, and almost everyone—including heritage learners—were interested in going to Spain.


I don't have a nice, neat conclusion for this post. 

These things worry me, and they do have solutions. But the solutions aren't palatable to the people who would need to make the changes. 

But if we don't change our Spanish programs, eventually, we will be changed...

Student Reflection

Alicia Barbas reflects on what she does during her Spanish community service learning work in a bilingual kindergarten classroom.
by Alicia Barbas

Durante mis primeras semanas aquí en la universidad, busqué un lugar para trabajar como voluntaria en el que podría expresar mi pasión por el español, prepararme para ser profesora en el futuro, aprender a apoyar a la gente en la comunidad, y ser inspirada por estas experiencias. Decidí que quería trabajar en el International Prep Academy en una clase bilingüe de kindergarten. Este lugar tiene un ambiente diferente del que estoy acostumbrada, y me está ayudando poco a poco a abrir los ojos a las vidas y la educación de los niños bilingües en esta comunidad.

En el International Prep Academy, las clases de niveles primarios están formadas en un sistema de educación bilingüe de dos vías. Esto significa que el tiempo está dividido igualmente entre los dos idiomas para que los niños reciban instrucciones, lecciones, y práctica en inglés y en español. Durante cada semana, también aprenden sobre la música o la comida de un país hispanohablante para involucrar el aprendizaje de la cultura que está vinculada al español a la educación básica de los dos idiomas. La comunidad en Champaign está compuesta de personas de muchas clases sociales diferentes, pero también de culturas diferentes. En estas clases, hay niños de muchos patrimonios culturales diferentes, y hay niños que hablan predominantemente en inglés, pero también hay otros que hablan el español en casa. Esta mezcla de lenguas, costumbres, y culturas, combinada con la educación bilingüe, ayuda a formar una educación única e importante que puede enriquecer a las vidas de estos niños.

Con este trabajo vienen muchas responsabilidades durante mi tiempo en la clase. Les voy a tener que ayudar a los niños a escribir letras y palabras en español y también en inglés para que puedan avanzar sus habilidades de leer y escribir, para que puedan reconocer la diferencia entre los dos idiomas, pero también para que puedan realmente valorar a las culturas y los idiomas que les rodean. Similarmente, le tendré que ayudar a la profesora a explicar y hacer actividades en los dos idiomas. Este tipo de trabajo requiere paciencia, una habilidad de enseñanza en los dos idiomas, y respeto para todas formas de vida para que les pueda apoyar a los niños en cualquier situación. Este es un trabajo diferente a cualquier trabajo voluntario que he hecho antes, pero tengo muchas ganas de adquirir habilidades nuevas, ayudar a estos niños de varias formas, y cambiar mi perspectiva sobre el mundo durante mi tiempo en el International Prep Academy.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Spanish Community Service Learning Course: Here Is Everything You Need

by Ann Abbott

Starting a Spanish community service learning course is challenging but very doable.

This semester I have talked to two faculty members who are either starting or planning to start a Spanish CSL course, and I have shared everything I have with them.

So I thought I'd share it with all of you, too. You might think of this post as "Spanish CSL in a box."
  1. Course description for "Spanish in the Community." (Scroll down to SPAN 232.)
  2. Textbook: Comunidades: Más allá del aula. (I am not trying to hawk my book--I barely make any money on it anyway. Ask your Pearson sales rep for a review copy.)
  3. Syllabus
  4. Course calendar. This calendar for Fall 2016 includes a visit to our Krannert Art Museum to visit a pertinent exhibit, so you would simply change the dates around a bit.
  5. Comunidades Companion Website. You can find the audios and videos mentioned in the textbook here. I think the videos are especially valuable. The site isn't very intuitive, so do the following: Go to "Select chapter" --> Select any chapter --> Click the "Go" button --> Navigate using the categories on the left (Audio, Video, etc.). 
  6. Instructor's resource manual. I think you'll find the instructions for setting up a community partnership and a course very helpful, and it's at the very beginning of the document. I also use this document to read the scripts for the listening comprehension activities that I do in class.
  7. Topics for ensayos de reflexión. This is an updated list of the topics and instructions that I give to students for their reflective writing.
  8. Readings that I use with students: 1) "Sociolinguistic Dimensions of Immigration to the United States" by Kim Potowski; 2) "Introduction: Heartland North, Heartland South" by Allegro and Grant Wood; 3) "Civic Engagement and Community Service Learning" by Ann Abbott (this is an abridged version of a chapter that is forthcoming).  
  9. Course wiki, where students sign up for the place where they will work and log their work hours weekly (here's an example). If I had to do it all over again, I would use Google docs. But back many years ago when I set this up, Google docs had a limit of 200 people, and that caused problems for me.
I hope this helps you! Of course, I'm always available to talk by email (, and my office phone number is 217-333-6714.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Student Reflection: Araceli Pérez

By Araceli Pêrez

¡Hola! Mi nombre es Araceli! Soy estudiante de tercer año y estoy estudiando la educación primaria con una concentración en el español en la Universidad de Illinois. Este semestre estoy tomando el curso: español en la Comunidad. Para este curso tengo que completar 28 horas de servicio en la comunidad donde trabajo con la comunidad de hispanohablantes en Champaign-Urbana. Estoy muy contenta de tener la oportunidad en la que no solo puedo practicar mi español, pero también ayudar a las familias de habla hispana en mi ciudad. Sobre todo estoy emocionada porque ésta no sería mi primera vez trabajando con las personas cuyo primer idioma es el español. Me crié en un barrio de Chicago donde la mayoría de la población es mexicana, lo cual tiene sentido, teniendo en cuenta que también soy mexicana. No sólo eso, sino que también mi primer idioma es el español. Esto quiere decir que he tenido muchas experiencias con la comunidad de habla española.

 Una de mis experiencias más memorables fue cuando fui voluntaria para la biblioteca pública de mi barrio durante mis veranos de la escuela secundaria. Hacer servicio comunitario en esta biblioteca fue una experiencia increíble porque me dio la oportunidad de hablar con los estudiantes que les gustaba leer, pero sólo podian leer en español. Fue muy gratificante ver qué felices se ponían los estudiantes jóvenes cuando les leía y por tener la oportunidad de hablar sobre un libro que amaban. 

A pesar de que el lugar donde estaré dedicando mi tiempo este semestre es un poco diferente de lo que he hecho en el pasado estoy muy emocionada. Espero mejorar mis habilidades de expresión oral y escritura en español. También espero poder tener una mejor idea de la forma de vida y costumbres de la comunidad mexicana y puertorriqueña con que voy a trabajar. Estoy más que feliz de poder aportar mi pequeña parte para el grupo de personas con que me he identificado toda mi vida, los hispanohablantes.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Student Reflection: Alicia Barbas

by Alicia Barbas

Mi nombre es Alicia Barbas, y este es mi primer año estudiando aquí en la Universidad de Illinois. Llevo muchos años hablando el español y viajando a España para visitar a mi familia, y tengo muchas ganas de empezar a usar el español en un ambiente diferente. La clase de Español 232 ha sido muy influyente en mi vida durante mis tres primeras semanas aquí porque me ha enseñado la gran importancia de usar el español en nuestra comunidad y también a ayudar a las personas lo más que pueda.

Siendo de familia española, crecí hablando el español en casa y el inglés en la escuela, y he visitado a mi familia en España casi todos los veranos de mi vida. Para mí, el español es un idioma muy útil para comunicarme con mi familia y para abrir las puertas de oportunidad en mi vida. Siempre me ha encantado la belleza de la música flamenca y la experiencia de comer mis comidas favoritas en los restaurantes pequeños de España. La pasión y la preciosidad de la cultura española me ha realmente enriquecido la vida y me ha enseñado a valorar las diferencias culturales entre las personas. Similarmente, el hecho de ser bilingüe me ha dado ventajas en el aprendizaje en la escuela, en la escritura de los dos idiomas, en las relaciones con mis familiares, en el esfuerzo de aprender otros idiomas, y a mantenerme en la ruta de ser profesora de español en el futuro. Aun así, he aprendido que hay muchas personas a las cuales el hecho de ser bilingüe les podría beneficiar de todas estas formas con solamente un poco de ayuda. Durante mis primeras semanas en esta clase, he aprendido que poder hablar el español es muy útil en este país por muchas razones individuales pero también globales.

El apoyo de la gente en la comunidad es algo muy importante en nuestra sociedad, y es una idea nueva para mí. Ayudé unas cuantas veces como voluntaria en mi pueblo en casa, pero fue solamente en inglés. Creo que este proyecto de trabajar como voluntaria en una clase primaria bilingüe me va a abrir los ojos a las vidas que viven otras personas, y cómo interpretan los niños el idioma en la escuela y en sus casas. Quiero ayudar que estos niños crezcan con la habilidad de ser bilingüe pero también que valoren todas las posibilidades que trae el español. Les quiero enseñar la importancia de las perspectivas abiertas para aceptar a la gente de todas las culturas en el mundo. Creo que el hecho de aprender cómo viven estos niños en casa y cómo son en el nivel personal me ayudará a reconocer la importancia de apoyar a la gente en mi comunidad y a intentar mejorar sus vidas lo más que pueda. ¡Tengo muchas ganas de empezar este trabajo voluntario!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Student Spotlight: Maura Benson

by Ann Abbott

Finding that first position out of college can be a real challenge for students. I would say it's especially challenging for students who are inclined toward going to graduate school yet aren't quite ready to commit to a program of study right away. That is definitely the category I would put Maura in: grad school material (100%), but she hadn't been thinking about grad school until much later in her studies. Plus, she's talented in many areas, so choosing a graduate program is even more complicated: MD/PhD? Nursing? Community Health? Medical Anthropology? She would excel at them all!

Maura gave me permission to share this quote from her email to me and her position description (image above) so that other students can see a possible path for themselves. 

There are many opportunities out there! Even if everyone around you is going straight from a campus job fair to a job with a big company in downtown Chicago, that doesn't mean that is the only path. 

In college, try to have a wide range of experiences with a wide range of professors who can mentor you. Maura certainly did that.

Here are her words:

"My summer has been busy as I balanced a couple of Nursing Assistant jobs and applied for the Fulbright scholarship, but I have been happy to be at home with family and friends. I do have some more recent news that I think you might be interested in - I received and accepted a Jesuit Volunteer Corps position in Austin, TX! My year-long position is called "Employment and Legal Services Specialist" and it sounds like it will be dynamic, requiring interaction with legal services, immigration policy, and worker's rights. I leave this Wednesday for Austin! I've attached the job description in case you want to get a better understanding for what I'll be doing. Due in part to my experiences in your class and at the refugee center (SPAN 232), I was able to demonstrate knowledge and experience for the position. Without your encouragement, inspiration, and leadership in that class and since then, I would not be where I am today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Leadership in University Language Departments

Sometimes I wonder whether the time and energy we put into selecting (and then critiquing) our departmental leader might be better put to use refurbishing the "ship" they are asked to lead. 
by Ann Abbott

As my department began to transition from one Head to another, we were all invited to speak to the Dean. Specifically, we were asked three questions:
  1. What do you consider the qualities in an effective leader for our department?
  2. What are the major challenges facing your department?
  3. Who would you suggest for the position?
I carefully reflected on these questions, and I'll share my thoughts here. Yes, they were written for my specific department, but I think that many of the issues transcend our situation. I'd also love to hear your thoughts about leadership needs for Spanish programs today--and for the future. Please leave a comment to let me know what I'm missing here!

What do you consider the qualities in an effective leader for our department?

Supported and supportive

Usually people in a department think about what a Head (or Chair) is supposed to do for them. And that is important. They should support their people (tenure-track faculty, non-tenure track faculty, staff, etc.). But the Head needs to be supported, too. They need mentoring and guidance about the role of Head--for which they have not been trained. They need frequent information about where they are doing things right and where people are unhappy. Right now, that only comes at the end of the five-year period--too late! And, of course, the Head needs to truly listen to the feedback--even if it is often contradictory.

Able to delegate

In our department, we need to break the nodes of power. Our pattern is to invest this person with power--in part because our bylaws structure power that way but also in part because people are happy to let someone else do the work--and then resent their power. We need a culture of ownership over the success of the department. (And we need to have a clear understanding of what "success" looks like for a department.) Right now, people are incentivized to work for their own, individual success.

Organized--information, money, time

I have seen our Heads "entregarse" completely to the job. They want to do the right thing for the department. They want to help. They believe they can help. But then they become resentful of all the work that they do, especially because it is usually not truly appreciated by the people for whom they are working. So, I would suggest that deparment leaders need to contain the job, as much as possible. The job will always be too big. You cannot give your "self" over to the job. And no one is asking for that anyway. (I know this must be incredibly difficult to pull off! I'm not saying it's easy.)

One way to combat this could be to come together as a department and identify about three priorities for the academic year. In the absence of a well-articulated set of priorities, people feel that the leader does what she/he wants, that power is absolute. If someone goes to the Head and asks for something, and if the Head can't give them what they want, it feels personal. Instead, those kinds of decisions (at least some of them) could be clearly articulated and then revisited the following year.


We have a rules-based culture that is risk-averse. A leader needs to transcend that. Run meetings differently so that we don't always fall into the same patterns! Shake up the committees so that we don't always get the same (lack of) results! Call on different people so that the same voices are not always dominant. 

Focused on communication and celebration

In our department, many people (not all) are sizing each other up and putting each other in their place. We spend so much time and energy on that. How do we move from that to what everyone really wants: a sense of regard, esteem and recognition? Heads have tried to celebrate people's accomplishments, but people reacted very cynically. Furthermore, this sense of celebration and community is complicated by the fact that we work outside the office. But if--if!--there is a way to make people feel seen, appreciated, celebrated, then I think we could solve many things.

What are the major challenges facing your department?

Here, I am confining my comments to the undergraduate program.

Changing profession and enrollments

Our undergraduate program has no "stamp." The courses are designed for the 6.1% of language students who go on to graduate school in languages. This makes recruitment difficult. 

Changing student body

Today's students are results oriented. Proficiency oriented. Visually oriented. They compare and shop programs. We look lackluster and vague. Even when we try to sell ourselves as a secondary tool, we are not offering them the tool (proficiency) that they want.

Need for income generation

While we don't want to chase dollars at the expense of our academic integrity, we know that the fiscal situation of the univeristy is unlikely to improve. There are many, many, many ways we could use the valuable knowledge and skills we have within our department to generate income, but there is scorn towards providing value in different formats (e.g., online courses) and for different audiences (e.g., business owners).

Talent management

Our program (and the university as a whole) is very hierarchical. Thus, we find leaders who manage by title rather than talent. We are not fully taking advantage of the talents among us. This is not conscious, for the most part. Rather, the hierarchical environment renders certain talents and capabilities invisible.


These are my quick, scant notes. They can certainly be expanded and explained further. I also would like to return to this post 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Student Spotlight: Jill (Rollinger) Baranowski

by Ann Abbott

I love hearing from former students. And it's extra special when several years have gone by and so you can see how much their lives have grown in many different directions.

So I was delighted to receive the email below from Jill (Rollinger) Baranowski recently. First of all, I'm so happy to see that she seems happy--and knows what makes her happy. That is the most important thing of all. Always.

Students: I'd love it if you would do the following:
  • Read the first post I wrote about Jill
    • Are you willing to do the networking that I talked about on that post?
  • Read Jill's letter below.
    • Compare where she was in 2010 and where she is now, in 2016, in terms of her career.
    • Note how your beginning doesn't have to be your ending.
    • Really think about your passions, and ask yourself if you are on a path to wed your passion and your career. 
    • If your major or your career doesn't feel like a good fit to you right now, no problem! Just like Jill, your career will have many steps and many doors. Take note of how the path she wants to go down now doesn't negate all the wonderful experiences and learning opportunities that she had in her previous job. 
    • Notice how Spanish can be a part of your personal and professional life years into your future. What can you do right now to keep your Spanish up? Do it! Don't get rusty and insecure in your Spanish.
    • Look at how Jill is using volunteering--and Spanish in her volunteering--to explore and bolster her career plans. How can you do that, too, whether you are still at the U of I or somewhere else?
I'm grateful that Jill contacted me. I hope you will contact me, too!

Hi Ann, 

I have been reminiscing about my years at U of I, and I remembered that you were someone who always took a special interest in me and my career path! Well, I wanted to drop you a note with a little update on my life!

First, let me refresh your would remember me by my maiden name, Jill Rollinger. I took your Spanish for Business class in Fall of 2009. I think you featured me on your blog in the following spring, highlighting my acceptance of a job with Nielsen as an engineer.

As the name-change indicates, I married my high school/college sweetheart in 2011, a year and a half after graduating. We have been living in Tampa, Florida for the last 4 years and I'm very proud to say he is running a successful business as a freelance artist: (Proof that you can make anything into a career if you're passionate enough and willing to put in the work!)

As for me, I worked for Nielsen for 5 years, taking advantage of multiple opportunities to step up into leadership roles! I really did love the work and learned so much in just 5 years. However last summer, I decided to leave Nielsen and come back to school full-time. I have been taking prerequisites for the last year now at the University of South Florida, and I will be applying to Medical School this summer in hopes to begin in Fall 2017. It is a rather drastic shift in career path, but I couldn't be more excited. 

It has been really cool to watch the pieces of my life fit together. If you recall, I studied abroad in Spain before taking your class and have always loved the idea of using Spanish in my career. Well, it was like an epiphany when I realized how valuable Spanish will be in healthcare. I have actually been volunteering for the last 9 months at a free clinic for migrant agricultural workers and their families. The vast majority speak very little English, so I work in multiple roles, conducting intake interviews and paperwork, translating for doctors and the like. I'm still working on picking up appropriate medical terminology, but overall it's been a huge confidence boost to realize I can be pretty functional in Spanish! It has also had a profound impact on me to work with this population. Reaching underserved groups with quality healthcare is one of the biggest reasons I decided to pursue the career change!

I hope you and your family are well. I enjoyed browsing some of your recent blog posts and was reminded of why you inspire me! :-)

Enjoy the beautiful Midwest summer!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Teaching Spanish Community Service Learning Students about Advocacy: Press Release as Example

Teaching Spanish Community Service Learning Students About Advocacy
Let's show students what active citizens and advocates do after a loss.
by Ann Abbott

Do you know about the yesterday's announcement about the Supreme Court's split decision on DAPA and Extended DACA? It is very, very disappointing.

I'm sharing CU Immigration Forum's press release below for a few reasons:
  1. Inform. I find that many of my students, especially L2 learners of Spanish, do not have much good information about immigration, immigration policies and comprehensive immigration reform efforts. I will ask them to read this press release.
  2. Model. More and more, I am trying to show my CSL students what they can do beyond volunteering. I like to give them concrete examples of what advocacy looks like. This is one.
  3. Analyze. I 'd like students to separate out all the individual pieces of advocacy within this press release. (Including the press release itself.) Then put them on a scale of least investment to most investment.
  4. Create. I want to put them in small groups and ask them to take this one long press release and think of as many smaller bits of it that could be used in CU Immigration Forum's marketing efforts. For example: You have five minutes to come up with as many individual tweets as possible. Go! Now, you have five minutes to come up with as many Instagrams as possible. Go! Etc.

SCOTUS Ruling Defers the Dream 
for Millions of Immigrants

The CU Immigration Forum expresses its regret over today’s Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Texas. The court has, in a 4-4 ruling, deferred the implementation of President Obama’s initiatives of expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the CU Immigration Forum still encourages all immigrants looking for an immigration remedy to schedule a legal consultation with The Immigration Project, a non-profit immigration law firm based in Normal, Illinois with an office in Champaign, IL. The Immigration Project’s four licensed immigration attorneys screen immigrants for other forms of immigration relief.

The Immigration Project and the CU Immigration Forum are hosting an informational meeting on Thursday, June 30, 2016 starting at 5:30pm at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in the fellowship hall (downstairs) at 2200 Philo Road in Urbana, Illinois. Immigrants that are interested in learning about the next steps after the Supreme Court’s decision are encouraged to attend. Free additional parking is available behind the church.  For more information about the meeting, contact the CU Immigration Forum at 217-417-5897.

Additionally, the CU Immigration Forum wants to remind the public that the original DACA program from 2012 is still in effect. It provides the legal permission to work to residents who were brought to the U.S. while under the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. since 2007, were not over the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, and have pursued a form of higher education. We encourage all those who meet the requirements to come to the meeting to set up appointments to begin the application process while the 2012 DACA program is still in effect.

"The fight is not over. The Immigration Forum intends to press our elected officials for definitive legislation that will deal once and for all with this country’s longstanding immigration problems," says Tom Garza, President of the CU Immigration Forum. "Until that comes to pass, we will continue to stand with these hard working Immigrant Americans as they struggle with living their lives in the shadows, and join them in their hope for a brighter day when they will be recognized as the full partners in our communities that they have long been."

“These programs had the ability to positively impact the lives of roughly 4.3 million U.S. citizen children,” explains the Executive Director of the Immigration Project, Jasmine McGee.  “Now immigrant families remain in limbo – unauthorized to work legally but unable to leave their children alone in the U.S.  Studies show that a U.S. citizen child growing up in a household with an undocumented parent faces increased stress from the fear of having a parent deported.  In addition these children live in families with lower incomes, inferior housing, and are less likely to take advantage of community services.”

In November 2014, President Obama proposed programs that would provide the legal permission to work and protection from deportation for the parents of U.S. Citizen and lawful permanent resident children. These executive actions expanded the existing DACA from 2012 and created DAPA. Shortly after its introduction, some state governors came forward with a lawsuit and delayed the implementation of these programs. Since then, an estimated 5 million immigrants have been hoping for the start of these programs, but today their dreams for financial and emotional security for their families have been again deferred.

President Obama’s deferred action had the potential to drastically impact the well being of thousands of families in central and southern Illinois. Reports have show that families with an undocumented parent could see a 10% increase in annual income.  Furthermore, according to the Center of American Progress, these two immigration programs could have lead to the creation of almost 2,000 new jobs in Illinois and an almost $8 billion increase in cumulative income of all state residents over the next decade. Additionally, the American Immigration Council has estimated that with these programs, Illinois stood to receive an additional $347 million in tax revenue over the next five years.

In Illinois, there are an estimated 519,000 residents who are undocumented, with a portion living in Champaign County, Illinois. The majority of the undocumented population eligible for DAPA in Central and Southern Illinois have strong roots, strong family ties, and have been residing for more than ten years in the U.S.

The programs considered today by the Supreme Court were meant to alleviate immigrant families from deportation temporarily. The Supreme Court decision should impel Congress to stop putting politics over people and to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Local residents who want to take action should call Congressman Rodney Davis at 202.225.2371 and tell him to support a just and humane immigration bill.

Megan Flowers
Communications Director
La Línea Program Coordinator
University YMCA
P: 217-337-1500
F: 217-337-1533

Sunday, May 29, 2016

My Manifesto as a Non-Tenure Track Faculty Member

by Ann Abbott

I love my job. I have a wonderful position: Director of Undergraduate Studies. I feel respected on my campus. (I earned that respect, of course.) I am surrounded with resources and inspiration. I wish my department would embrace a more progressive undergraduate curriculum, but, hey, I understand where my colleagues are coming from. I have a fabulous office and work with many great people--not to mention my students who always energize me.

But there's a dark side to being non-tenure track. Sure, there are the contract issues. Honestly, though, that doesn't even worry me too much. (Just a little.) I have always known that I can create another career for myself at any time. Smug? No, I am just confident that I have the smarts, creativity and skills to give another type of employer a lot of value. Or I'd put together something of my own.

Really, it's the little digs that do it to me.

To be honest, they don't come from everyone. But some people really want to put you in your place. (Maybe it's unconscious? I don't know. Don't care.)

Mostly, I just shrug them off. Yes, I fret about them and pour out my hurt feelings to my husband in the evening (or the poor soul who will listen to me on the phone while my husband is still at work.) But after a good night's sleep, I'm usually able to regain my perspective and slip right back into my routine of looking ahead, creating something new, tackling problems like I'm working on a puzzle. That's me.

Sometimes the digs aren't at me. They're at someone else who is NTT. About being NTT. For forgetting her place. Or perhaps the worst: being the best suited person for a position but not even being considered because, you know, NTT.

A couple of really egregious cases have come up lately. Or maybe my consciousness has been raised. I don't know, but I felt the urge to put together my NTT manifesto. It's full of pride. Imagine me SHOUTING it out loud. That's what it is. I'm not angry. (I ain't even angry.) This isn't aimed at anyone. This isn't timed to any particular slight. No, it's just a very clear statement of who I know myself to be!

A very clear statement of who I know myself to be!

(It feels a bit scary to put this out there. I'd love to know what you think. Did I go too far? Is it right to be so assertive?)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

My Summer Schedule: Selectively Working

by Ann Abbott

Yes, this gazebo is in my back yard.

Yes, this is where I plan to several hours each day. With my laptop. With a pitcher of herbal iced tea. Listening to the birds. With some privacy, while the kids are in just a few steps away in the house. Away from the phone. Alone with my work.

I'm trying to balance work and family; disconnecting from work yet advancing on projects; enjoying my creative process without burning out; keeping my family close while also claiming my own space.

Does this sound anything like your summer? Maybe the particulars are different, but do you also have to manage competing needs? Between wanting to be active and wanting to just still your mind? If you're a mother, do you want your kids to have fun yet refuse to turn yourself into a taxi driver and money machine?

Summers are a little complicated.

I hope that by limiting my summer goals, I can both accomplish something and revive my spirit.

Online course development

I am designing the fully online third-semester Spanish course. I'm excited! I plan to blog about that process, so I'll fill you in on the details as I go along.

Personal, entrepreneurial project

For some time now, I have wanted to add a "services" page to this blog and offer my consulting services. I'd like to help organizations, especially small/medium businesses and nonprofit organizations, better reach and serve Spanish speakers. That might be through bilingual social media marketing--something I teach in my Business Spanish course. Or it might be consulting on services and programs to ensure that they are linguistically- and culturally-appropriate.

And since I have a tendency to go overboard...I also really want to start a second blog. In fact, I already bought the domain name and hope to launch it this summer. It would give advice about college--from getting in, to succeeding in college, through transitioning out to the professional world. Now that I've given away my secret, I think I'll have to actually follow through... Keep me accountable, friends. Please!

Academic writing

Confession: I had a mini identity crisis these past few weeks. Although I've always been non-tenure track, within the past few years I have felt more push to "remember my place." Maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe I am reading too much into things. And maybe not. So I've been questioning: why maintain a productive research agenda and publication schedule if it's not really "my place"? 

Why? Because, I have decided, I have a lot I want to say. That I want to share. That I think deserves to enter into the scholarly conversation. And I care deeply about the topics. I think they matter. They deserve "a place" within Spanish studies.

So this summer I will write. Not at a break-neck pace. Not feeling external pressures--because there are none. Just slowly, surely, one-hour-a-day, putting my thoughts and insights into writing. I'll write-on-Skype with a good friend for both accountability and encouragement. I'll work towards these goals, but I won't fret if I don't accomplish them all:
  1. Revising and submitting a manuscript to Foreign Language Annals with data from the survey that Rejane conducted with our community service learning students.
  2. Writing and submitting a short piece to The Language Editor about teaching digital literacies through bilingual social media marketing. Due July 1.
  3. Writing and submitting a chapter for the volume related to the LSP conference. Due July 31.
  4. Drafting a short piece for the AAUSC 2017 volume.

Healthy, relaxing meals

I don't want to call it dieting. I don't want to feel restricted. So I'm trying to take an approach that focuses on slow cooking. Slow eating. Enjoyment. We always cook from scratch and include fruits and vegetables, but sometimes I get caught up in tasks and come to the kitchen late, resentful of  the labor of cooking, indecisive about what to cook. Instead, I want to come to the kitchen con calma. To eat con calma. And to clean con calma.

Lots of movement and exercise

I've bumped up my strength training from three times a week to four. I hope to find a power lifting competition and train with a mind towards that. But because I spend so much time on the computer (writing, social media, email, oh my!), I tend to live a rather sedentary life. So I want to walk more. Bike more. 

Family, fun and relaxation

Okay, the kids have been out of a school for a week, and I'm already going a little nuts. And when they do finally begin their activities (though one refuses to join any activities), I think I'm going to find myself negotiating schedules (drop-offs, pick-ups, car swaps) in three different places at once. Frankly, I think Giulia, who is sixteen, should get a scooter for the summer, but I've been out-voted due to safety concerns.

I plan to knock off all work at 3:00. Then we can go to a park, a movie, the pool, the library...wherever we want to go to do something fun. If not, we'll end up spending the whole summer in the house, in the A/C. Which now that I typed that sentence, it actually doesn't sound too bad...

Relaxation. Now that is what I'm really thinking hard about. Let me tell you my ideal scenario: One a month (June, July, August), I would have a three-day weekend all to myself. In a nice hotel. Not very far away. Maybe even here in town. But just by myself. No responsibilities. Nowhere to go. Writing. Daydreaming. Sitting in the jacuzzi. Let's see if I can make that happen...

What about you?

What are your plans? What are your goals for the summer? Do you also have the occasional identity crisis like me? Do you crave time to yourself? Are you carving time out for yourself? I'd love to hear your plans and tips so I know that I'm not in this alone!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Writing Strategy: Don't Write, Just List

Picture of laptop, coffee mug and notepad with list of ideas to represent the writing strategy of lmaking a list
This week I found myself mildly fearful of producing a set of PowerPoint slides for a an online course I'm developing. (I still consider that a writing project because it's about developing a thesis, supporting it iwth arguments and providing evidence.) So I finally sat down yesterday morning, grabbed my pen and a small notepad (the fact that it was small made my task seem small, too) and made a messy list of my ideas. Now I have started. Now when I give myself an entire hour to work on this it won't feel like I'm beginning from ground zero. 
by Ann Abbott

Do you ever procrastinate on a writing project?

I do. Not as much as I used to, but still, it happens. Even with a relatively small writing project I sometimes feel like I need a block of time (even if it's small) that I don't have. Or I think that since it won't take long I can wait until it's closer to the due date. Or I just don't feel like I'm in the mood for writing.

So I've learned not to write. Just to list.

See, successful writing comes in large part from having strong, clear ideas with supporting evidence. That's structural. And for me, a lot of that can happen before I even write a complete sentence at all.

The trick is to know that jotting down your ideas and listing them is writing that doesn't feel like writing.

Making a list has none of the psychological pressures of "writing." Jot down. Scratch out some ideas. Let me think about this for a couple of minutes. None of those phrases cause as much anxiety as "writing."

So that's what I try to do when I feel myself procrastinating on a writing project. Just make a list. 

I often write letters to myself, and looking through some of those letters recently I came upon this advice I had given myself:

"One thing that worked well for you and always does was to jot down ideas, let those soak in and percolate for a while, then write from that list. ... Don't forget this important strategy. Long before something is due, jot down your ideas. Your brain will work on them even when you're doing other things."

Do you use this strategy? Do you have other advice for moving from the procrastination stage to the pre-writing stage? From pre-writing to writing? I think this is so important because I meet so many people with wonderful ideas, fascinating experiences, important knowledge, funny stories who could edify the world with their writing. There's nothing wrong with not writing, of course. You're still smart, funny, wise and experienced without writing anything! But if you want to write and fear holds you back from crossing the threshold between not writing and writing, then why not try to just list your ideas. See if that moves you into writing.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Welcoming New Faculty and Staff to Your Department

bouquet of roses and How to welcome new faculty to your department and build community
How do you welcome new members to your faculty?
by Ann Abbott

This past year we were lucky to hire three instructors in our department to help teach Spanish, one advisor and one Teaching Assistant Professor to direct the Portuguese language program. For a department that has not experienced the same growth in non-tenure track faculty that many other departments have, this was a big jump.

Perhaps because we were not used to hiring so many people at once, the "onboarding" (as they say in business contexts) was bumpy...and at times non-existent. Some things were out of everyone's control (e.g., late arrivals due to visa issues, problematic visa categories, etc.), but other things, in hindsight, could have been handled differently.

But when it comes down to it, people in our department work very independently, are rarely in their offices, and share no real common spaces. Building a sense of community is hard in a department that doesn't really function as...well...a community. (This is not a criticism. It's simply the way that many people in the humanities work when they are not teaching or doing committee work.)

I won't revisit the past here. Instead, I want to share some ideas for beginning to create a sense of community, at least among the non-tenure track faculty.

Write on Site Meetings. Just because a person is non-tenure track doesn't mean that they do not have research and writing projects. Perhaps a Monday and Thursday meeting each week could be a good chance for people to bring their laptops, focus on their writing and build a sense of camaraderie.

Grading "Parties." The instructors were hired to help out with any course the department needs, but mostly the composition course. I know that students write three compositions in that course, and they are graded in stages. I can find out the deadlines in that course and organize an afternoon (or evening or weekend?) grading party. I say party not because it would be fun, but because we could make it more enjoyable by sitting together in a conference room, playing nice music, ordering/bringing in food, etc. Of course it wouldn't be required, but it might be a way to make that big, daunting task a little less daunting.

Lunch. A few years ago, a storage room in our building was cleared out to create a faculty break room because there was no common space in our building for people to meet and build a sense of community. I don't think that this break room accomplished what it was supposed to, but at the very least there is a place to sit for lunch and also some comfortable chairs. I almost always eat lunch at my desk, but it would also be nice to see if people wanted to meet up for lunch or coffee breaks in this area.

Personal invitations. I invited all of the new people to our home for dinner toward the end of the fall semester. Not everyone was able to come, but it was a nice way to get to know each other outside of our building and offices. Although my evenings and weekends are pretty packed with the children's activities, I definitely would like to make more time for relaxing and socializing with colleagues and friends.

I hope to implement at least some of these ideas next year. It's too late to make their arrival in our department be more warm and fuzzy; that time has passed. But it's never too late to strengthen relationships and support each other as we go about this difficult and often stressful job. 

It's not my job alone to make others feel welcome in our department. Furthermore, we work independently and always will. We often work from home or cafes where you can work, uninterrupted and write freely. The truth is, to be successful in our department you need to be very independent, resourceful, and proactive.

But in the end, whatever I am able to do for and with new people, I will also be doing for myself. I sometimes feel isolated. I sometimes want someone to write with. I could use the accountability and structure of grading parties.

And what about you? How do things work in your department? Do you think that academics have a particularly difficult time of creating community? Do you feel that your department is collaborative? I'd love to know other ways of approaching this issue.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Student Reflection

Consider this a manifesto from Joey about what we need to do differently in our country regarding when we teach languages, how we teach them and what we teach in those classes. He has hit upon our country's contradictory relationship with languages and language speakers, both in terms of official language policies and in the every-day practices of language ideologies. Bravo, Joey.

by Joey Gelman

No puedo creer que ésta sea mi última entrada sobre mi experiencia con el programa de ESL en Central. Me ha encantado mi tiempo allí y he aprendido mucho sobre el tema de la educación para estudiantes que son sólo hispano-hablantes o que son recién llegados a los EE.UU. Lo más interesante pero también lo más triste que he aprendido es que nuestro sistema de educación y también la mayoría de las personas que pueden ayudar a estos estudiantes no están preparados.  Como he explicado durante mis otras entradas, la mayoría de las maestras, la facultad y también otros estudiantes no pueden hablar ni entender español. Por lo tanto, muchos de los estudiantes en ESL no tienen el apoyo suficiente para tener éxito. La culpa es nuestra.

La manera en la que nosotros aprendemos los idiomas y por lo tanto entendemos sobre las culturas asociadas con estos idiomas no es correcta en mi opinión. Por eso, no podemos tener el nivel necesario para estar acostumbrados hablando español. Nosotros  enfocamos demasiado en la gramática y perdemos el enfoque necesario de aprender el español de  manera conversacional.  Pero me voy de tema. Pero nuestra falta en esta categoría no nos permite mantener nuestras habilidades de español después de la escuela secundaria por ejemplo, mientras que otros países tienen un sistema diferente que permite a los estudiantes a retener las habilidades de saber otros idiomas mejores

Esta idea de la manera en la que nos enseñan el español es la prueba de por qué el programa en Central no puede lograr las cimas que necesita.  Por ejemplo, la mayoría de los estudiantes que toman las clases de español en  el programa regular en Central no han aprendido suficiente español para interactuar con los estudiantes en ESL. No es su culpa ni la culpa del Central, pero es el sistema en todo el país. Además, en mi experiencia, sólo hay un par de maestros que son hispano-hablantes y para el grupo en el que trabajo, sólo hay un maestro para 20 estudiantes por casi todo el día. En otras palabras, sólo hay pocas oportunidades para los estudiantes de ESL para hablar, interactuar etc. afuera de su propio grupo en lo que están en clase. No existe la oportunidad necesaria para dar a estos estudiantes un ambiente cómodo en la “vida normal” con el resto de la escuela.

Por ejemplo, ya sean los maestros sustitutos o administradores del programa, casi nadie habla español. ¿Cómo puede ser administrador/a de un programa de estudiantes que son hispano-hablantes y no tiene la habilidad para hablar en español? Ésa es una idea inpensable para mí. Sin embargo, esta situación refleja la deficiencia en otros idiomas que los EE.UU tienen. Otra vez, no quiero decir que es la culpa de los individuos, pero es la culpa del sistema que nosotros no somos preparadas para encontrar a personas que hablan otros idiomas. 

Yo sé que nunca entenderé lo que los estudiantes de ESL necesitan hacer para llegar a este país y las situaciones que eran tan difíciles e inconcebibles.  Sin embargo, cuando ellos llegaron o cuando otros estudiantes lleguen, ¿no deberíamos estar listos para ayudarlos? No puedo imaginar las dificultades para estos estudiantes en sus propias transiciones a los EE. UU, pero una de las únicas cosas que puede conectarnos es un idioma común: el español. Después de mi tiempo en este programa, esto es claro a mí que como una sociedad, no podemos ofrecerles una sensación pequeña de la comodidad porque no tomamos el tiempo suficiente para prepáranos  a hablar con personas que no hablan inglés. Otra vez quiero aclarar que no es una reflexión sobre el sistema en particular en Central, pero Central sirve como un ejemplo de muchas escuelas en todo el país que no pueden ayudar a estos estudiantes de la mejor habilidad porque como un país, no tenemos las habilidades básicas para ser serviciales a un grupo de personas, en este caso los estudiantes en ESL de Central que solo están pidiendo una oportunidad para mejorar sus vidas, y la hacemos cada vez más difícil con el hueco de los idiomas. 

Entiendo que esta entrada es sobre un tema que es mucho más grande que yo. Sin  embargo, mi trabajo en Central me ha expuesto a los defectos de la manera en la que nosotros intentamos ser el hogar de muchos; no importa sus idiomas, orígines o culturas, pero la pregunta es: ¿estamos listos para tener esta responsabilidad? En este momento, creo que no.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Student Reflection

As you read Joey's reflection, think about this situation from many angles. The students' perspectives (as he shares in the second paragraph). The volunteers' perspectives. The schools' perspective. And others. What was your high school experience like? Was it "do or die"? Or did you have a feeling that high school flowed into simply another stage for you? Do you think it's easier or harder to learn a language under high pressure? Do you think these students would have used more English if more English-speaking kids befriended them? 

by Joey Gelman

Para  esta semana yo quiero enfocar mi entrada en el compromiso de hablar español  o inglés durante el día por los estudiantes.  Como he dicho antes, la mayoría de los estudiantes son de Guatemala, y su lengua materna no es español sino Q'anjob'al. Por lo tanto, cuando los estudiantes no necesitan hablar con el profesor, o no quieren que los maestros sepan lo que ellos dicen, ellos usan Q'anjob'al. Esta práctica instinta tiene algunos problemas. Primero, muchos de estos estudiantes, ya tienen 17 ó 18 años así que después de que este semestre habrán terminado con la escuela, y también con una oportunidad consistente para practicar sus habilidades con los idiomas. Me parece que estos estudiantes no se den cuenta de lo que la realidad de lo difícil que será en algunos meses. Después de junio, muchos de estos estudiantes deben depender de si mismos para encontrar trabajo, empezar una vida saludable, etc. Pero en las clases, ellos no aprovechan la oportunidad para obtener una habilidad básica de hablar ni trabajar en un ambiente que está lleno con inglés. También para estos estudiantes, ellos no tienen fluidez con español en términos de escribir. Por lo tanto, si ellos siguen hablando en Q'anjob'al, y no mejoran sus habilidades en inglés ni español, ellos estarán en problemas. 

Aunque hablo de los defectos de los estudiantes, también necesito recordar la situación en la que los estudiantes están. Por la mayoría, como el profesor en Central se refiere, estos estudiantes están en una situación como la película el “Hunger Games.” Ellos han estado escogidos por sus familias para encontrar una vida mejor en los EE.UU y es el reto de la idea de la “sobre-vivencia del más apto.” Esta es una responsabilidad increíble y uno que yo nunca podría entender. Entonces, me parece que una de las maneras que ellos pueden sentir cómodos en su nuevo ambiente difícil e incómodo, es hablar en su propia dialecto. Aunque ellos necesitan entender cómo hablar en otros idiomas para sobrevivir en los EE.UU, necesitamos recordar que aunque ellos tienen 18 años, todavía son niños. Muchos de ellos todavía tienen las características de niños y aunque ellos necesitan ser “adultos” pronto, las expectaciones que estarán en los estudiantes son enormes e injustos. Sin embargo, esa es la realidad y una reflexión que tiene dos lados, porque ellos necesitan entender y hablar inglés y español para sobrevivir, pero también necesitan encontrar una comodidad en sus nuevas vidas en el ambiente duro que es los EE.UU.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Community Service Learning Students and the Peace Corps

Take your engagement with cultures and languages even further: consider the Peace Corps.
by Ann Abbott

I know several students who have gone to the Peace Corps after a college experience filled with travel, language learning and transcultural encounters. It's a fantastic experience, and they come back with unique perspectives and skills.

Scrolling through LinkedIn this morning, I came upon a blog that my former student, Andrew Piotrowski has contributed to. His posts are about El Salvador, and I just loved reading them. I admire the way he presents his experiences, the people who he worked with, and the way the he sees things now that he is back in the US. I encourage you to read them on Peace Corps Volunteers: Stories about the Toughest Job You'll Ever Love.

If you search through this blog, you'll find old posts from Andrew. Here is what he wrote to me after I told him I much I loved his blog posts.

Thank you Annie! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I feel like I got my start blogging by writing articles for your blog to earn that extra credit hour I needed back at U of I. That was a great experience, and I'm grateful that you helped me reach others through writing!