Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Students of Spanish Should Prepare to Be Advocates

Next year's conference will be in Salamanca, Spain.
by Ann Abbott

This year's annual conference of the American Association of Teacher of Spanish and Portuguese celebrated the 100th anniversary of our professional association. The inimitable and admirable Sheri Spaine Long invited me to participate on a plenary panel consisting of several people who had written essays or rejoinders for the centenary issue of Hispania that will come out in December of this year. It promises to be an expansive look at where we have come from and where we are going as a profession.

I'd like to share below my presentation from the plenary. What do you think our challenges are as a profession? What do you think "Spanish" means today and for the future? Do you think that teaching Spanish in this political climate requires us to rethink anything we do? Or teaching it in this changing environment of higher ed? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I don't have a picture from the plenary panel, so I'm sharing
picture from my room in the conference hotel in Chicago. It
was a wonderful conference and great to see so many friends.

My goal for the next few minutes is to light a fire under all our seats.

Online, you can read the very good essay by Prof. Robert Bayliss and Prof. Amy Rossomondo to which I wrote a reply. (Other essays are also available online.) They situate the ongoing work of Spanish programs within the demographic growth of Latinos in the US that necessitates the linguistic and cultural knowledge that we are already providing to our students. My rejoinder says that those demographic changes create tensions, complexities, and, frankly, dangers, that we are not preparing our students for. To truly rise to these challenges, we need to do our work harder, better, faster, stronger.

We need to get political. In many spaces and moments, speaking Spanish in the US is a political act. In a wonderful session at this conference by Stacy Hoult-Saros (Valparaiso University) and Sarah Degner Riveros (Augsburg College), I saw a video of candidate Trump criticizing Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail and declaring that we need to speak English. For many people, he was “telling it like it is.” Is your program explicit about what it means to learn and to speak a stigmatized language? In our classrooms, Spanish might be just a vehicle to communicate what we did last weekend or what our analysis is of a piece of literature, but outside our classroom Spanish is always already politicized.

Furthermore, I don’t believe we should invoke the numbers of Latinos and Spanish speakers in the US as justification of our discipline’s relevance and then ignore the millions among those numbers who are undocumented or in mixed-status families. My work involves community service learning, and colleagues have challenged that work by, among other things, claiming that it reinforces stereotypes of Spanish speakers as undocumented, poor and in need of service. I say that a Spanish program that wants to increase enrollments by appealing to astonishing numbers of Spanish speakers in the US and at the same time erases the lived reality of many of those people is dishonest. So take a look at your program, your curricula: are undocumented Spanish speakers mostly absent, reproducing their lives in the shadows within our larger society?

As we know from recently published analyses of voters in the 2016 election, racism, nativism and Islamophobia are tenacious attitudes in our society, capable of producing political turns that then reproduce and reinforce these same attitudes among individuals and within our systems. Teaching against these forces is not easy. Preparing students to actually push back against these forces when they leave our classrooms is even harder.

So how can we approach this?

Yes, the first step is to simply inform students about these issues, and in many cases help them un-learn notions that have been ingrained in them. For example, Spanish programs are uniquely positioned to help students understand today’s Islamophobia by learning about the attitudes and actions of Christians, Muslims and Jews in Medieval and Early Modern Spain. But the connections to today must be explicit and teased out for students. Do students leave your program also knowing about Arabs and Muslims in Latin America--beyond a bit of trivia about Shakira and Salma Hayek?

After we inform students, I believe the next step is to educate them to be advocates, to turn the knowledge we provide into actions that are big and small. Let’s face it, issues like racism and nativism can create scary, even dangerous situations. Here are a couple of examples of how I broach this in my classroom.

My students watch Kim Potowski’s TEDx talk called “No Child Left Monolingual” and read one of her articles about immigration and heritage languages. In class I put them in two rows facing each other. One one side, I hand students note cards with nativist statements like, “This is the US, speak English.” And worse. The person facing then uses the information from the video and article to present counter arguments and examples from their work in the community. This is surprisingly difficult for both sides--emotions often get the best of them. But we work through this, and hopefully this better prepares them to dialogue with nativist Uncle Dan at the next family get-together, instead of just ducking the issue or getting into a heated debate that is ultimately unproductive or potentially destructive. (This blog post that describes the lesson more fully.)

In another activity, my students read an anti-immigrant letter to the editor and present arguments to refute its specious claims. They relish this. But then I ask them to find one piece of common ground with the writer. They often struggle with this. When they find it--maybe it’s as simple as “I also struggle with changes,” or, “We all want a community that is safe and secure,”--they must begin to write their rejoinder from that common ground. In fact, that’s a model of productive dialogue that you will see in the Hispania Centenary issue.

So just remember, our work is important and we need to dig deep to truly confront our country’s changing demographics. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are working fast and furiously on their approach to confronting our country’s demographic changes. We need to work harder, better, faster, stronger on a better approach.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Student Reflection: Why Take SPAN 332 "Spanish & Social Entrepreneurship"?

Student from SPAN 332 Spanish and Entrepreneurship standing in front of the Refugee Center in Urbana where he did his community service learning work
Wole en frente del Centro para Refugiados
by Olawole Daramola 


El curso SPAN 332 explora el concepto de emprendimiento social en un contexto latinoamericano. Se aprenden las injusticias en el sistema político contra inmigrantes sin documentos. Además, este curso revela oportunidades para transformar estructuras injustas de la sociedad y es un espacio para pensar sobre innovaciones de valor. Además, cada estudiante tiene un sitio donde ellos ayudan la comunidad latina en muchas formas diferentes. La clase proveerá conocimiento suficiente para navegar y entender las dinámicas de cada organizacion en comunidad donde se trabaja. Por ejemplo, si trabajas en El Centro para Refugiados sabrás tener más paciencia y compasión por los clientes porque en la clase escucharás sobre las barreras que enfrentan los inmigrantes. Éste es el sitio donde yo trabajé.

Aprendí mucho en este curso y estoy muy feliz de haberlo tomado. Primero, mejoré mi español--mucho. Además, he aprendido más sobre la realidad de inmigrantes, especialmente los inmigrantes sin documentos. Hay tantos obstaculos no solo para obtener la ciudadanía pero un buen nivel de vida también. Conocí a mucha gente y clientes en la comunidad donde trabajé, y fueron como el mismo tipo de gente de que hablábamos durante clase. En resumidas cuentas, en la clase tuve la oportunidad de hablar sobre los inmigrantes sin documentos y las estructuras injustas que enfrentan y pensar en formas para aliviar la situación. Entonces, en la comunidad, tuve la oportunidad para interactuar y verlo yo mismo. He disfrutado trabajando en El Centro de refugiados durante el semestre tanto que soy voluntario allí durante el verano también. Soy tutor de inglés para tres hermanos que son de México. Es una gran oportunidad y placer ayudarles y El Centro.

Como he dicho, conocí a mucha gente en El Centro de refugiados. Tuve la oportunidad para hablar con muchos clientes y pude aprender las historias de algunos. Un fue un hombre que se llama Mario. Vi a Mario en el Centro cada semana por casi un mes. La mayoría del tiempo hablábamos de deportes, específicamente fútbol. Mario vive en Urbana con su hermano y él trabaja muchas horas en un restaurante. Un día yo le pregunté, “¿Estás contento con todo?”, y me dijo algo como, “Sí, más o menos.” La razón potencial que Mario se mudó de México a los Estados Unidos es para tener un mejor nivel de vida (como casi todos inmigrantes). Mario está contento, pero es posible que él tenga muchas barreras aquí en Estados Unidos por su estatus. Me cae bien Mario, y estoy consciente de que las estructuras sociales y políticas de que aprendí en clase probablemente están afectando a Mario de esta manera negativa. Ésa es la razón por la que me gusta ser parte de trabajo en El Centro de refugiados y comunidades desfavorecidas.

Este curso es útil por mi carrera porque en el futuro puedo verme a mí mismo trabajando con una empresa u organización sin fines de lucro involucrado en mejorar las estructuras de la sociedad para ayudar a gente menos afortunada. Soy de una área de Chicago que es muy desfavorecida, así que tengo compasión y el impulso a ayudar en áreas como ésa. Entonces, puedo construir sobre la experiencia que he recibido en SPAN 332 porque es una experiencia única y significativa a mi y cualquier organización o empresa que se preocupe por el bien de la humanidad. Con eso, creo que cualquier campo de trabajo a que yo vaya, reconocerá y agradecerá la experiencia que he recibido en SPAN 332.

- Wole 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship: Week 1 Lesson Plans

by Ann Abbott

I think it's really important to use the first day of class to set expectations and get students excited. I try to teach it as a typical class so that they know what to expect. However, I have learned over the years that for community service learning courses, it is a good idea to ease into things, to take one step at a time, to use class time to tie up the many loose ends this kind of pedagogy can create.

I usually post my lesson plans on the UIUC Spanish Community Service Learning Facebook Page. Why? Because I post a lot of links that we then use during class for information and analysis. I also often have students write responses to my posts as a way to share their analyses, questions, etc. So look for the blue picture above that will accompany my lesson plans for this semester.

With that in mind, here are my lesson plans for the first week of SPAN 332 Spanish and Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures and Communities.

Week 1, Day 1: Presentación del curso

Conocer a tus compañeros de curso. 

I put students into pairs and gave them five minutes to talk to each other, to find out why they are in this course, to learn a little bit about the other person. Then I told them to go to our Facebook page, and: ¨Haz clic en el botón azul de esta página que dice ¨Send Message.¨ Sube una foto de tu grupo con algunas frases sobre ustedes.¨ This was fun! And since it was a message, it was private. After I got back to my office after class I read and replied to them all. 

This exercise introduced them to our Facebook page, where I post lots of useful information, it showed them the importance of getting to know each other and learn each other´s names, and hopefully it got them excited about the ways that they can be active learners in this class.

Ver los tres pasos en el proceso de emprendimiento.

I wanted to give students just a quick peek into the content we will study this semester. I gave one student a marker and asked her to write the first step as I said it, she gave the marker to another student who wrote the second step, and that student gave the marker to a student who wrote the third step. (I like to get students involved, and yes, writing on the board is actually an important tool, I think.) Anyway, here are the three steps.
  1. Reconocer oportunidades.
  2. Buscar recursos.
  3. Crear algo de valor.

Empezar a pensar en la comunidad donde vas a trabajar 28 horas para este curso. 

The local Latino community where they will work is full of complexities, and we have to guard against stereotypical or superficial projections onto what they will soon observe. I projected the Radio Ambulante website and told them: Vamos a escuchar algunos minutos del último episodio de Radio Ambulante, "Recién llegados¨.

We listened to a little more than seven minutes of the episode, and then I put the students to into pairs. I asked them comment on why listening to that is important for this class and what they should take away from it. They gave very interesting, good answers.

Lamentablemente, la universidad nos pide que les mostremos este video sobre qué hacer en caso de emergencias:

Week 1, Day 2: Presentación de las organizaciones

Choosing a place to work is a big deal! Students are often a little hesitant, a little apprehensive. They want as much information as possible. They might be afraid of making a mistake. Or they´re not sure how they can get there and back in the time they have between classes. It´s complicated. And today´s class is meant to help them decide--to take the step and make their decision. We need them to decide and move on so that they don´t fall behind.

Escuchar a estudiantes de otros semestres

Familiarizarse con el wiki

Then we´ll move on to the course wiki. I´ll assign an organization to each student and give them time to read the information, explore the website, look on Google maps, etc. Then they´ll present the organization to the class.

Tomar decisiones

Finally, students will make their decisions and sign up on the wiki. The screencast below explains how to do that.
 Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Student Reflection

by Araceli Pérez

Esta será mi última reflexión del semestre, ya que el programa de Abriendo Caminos ha terminado. Aunque no tuve la oportunidad de estar en la última clase de nutrición en el centro, las otras voluntarias dijeron que las familias confesaron haber disfrutado mucho su tiempo en el programa. Yo sé que a mi también me encantó ser parte de esta investigación porque fue una gran manera de informar a la comunidad hispana sobre la importancia de salud y también de otros temas.

Aunque nuestro trabajo en Abriendo Caminos ya terminó, las voluntarias y yo hemos seguido viniendo al centro para trabajar en nuestro proyecto de la biblioteca. Ha sido increíble ver el gran impacto que nuestro duro trabajo ha tenido en un cuarto que antes era sucio y desorganizado. Hemos sacado mucho de las partes electrónicas antiguas que estaban en el cuarto. También hemos organizado y clasificado todos los libros. Hemos sacada bolsas tras bolsas de basura. Y todo ha valido la pena. En la foto de arriba pueden ver que hemos traído repisas y estantes al cuarto donde hemos colocado los libros. Todavía falta mucho trabajo que hacer para que el cuarto se convierta en un cuarto que los niños puedan usar pero el cambio desde el principio que comenzamos este proyecto ha sido sorprendente. Estoy muy orgullosa del trabajo que todas las voluntarias hemos hecho.

Esta experiencia en la comunidad ha sido muy gratificante porque pude aprender mucho sobre las comunidad hispana y al mismo tiempo hacer un cambio en los recursos que ahora tendrás los niños de Rantoul. Creamos una sección de libros en español para los niños hispanohablantes, cual será un gran recurso que yo creo muchos niños aprovecharan

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Student Reflection

by Araceli Pérez

Aunque he seguido participando en las clases del grupo de control en Abriendo Caminos, las otras voluntarias y yo hemos comenzado un nuevo proyecto. Hay un cuarto en el Centro Cultural de Rantoul donde nadie entra, y por buena razón. El cuarto es grande pero está lleno de televisiones y computadoras antiguas, montones de libros en malas condiciones, arañas, polvo, y muchas otras cosas que el centro no utiliza. A pesar que el cuarto está en muy mal estado la Dra. Santiago, las voluntarias, y yo creemos que es un gran espacio que se está echando a perder al no ser usado. Por esta razón hemos decido limpiar y ordenar todos los libros en el cuarto para crear una biblioteca que los niños que van al centro puedan utilizar.

Arriba pueden ver uno de los múltiples montones de libros que hemos comenzado a ordenar. Aunque se nos ha hecho un poco difícil encontrar un lugar para todo, todas las voluntarias estamos muy emocionadas en ser parte de este proyecto. Muchos de los libros que estamos organizando están en español, que me hace muy feliz porque aún recuerdo lo que dijo una de las madres de familia unas semanas atrás. Dijo que le preocupaba que a su hijo se le estaba olvidando el español por no tener los recursos de proveer a su hijo libros en español, cuales le darían la oportunidad de leer libros no solo en inglés.

Además de comenzar este proyecto todavía hemos podido observar las clases de nutrición y preparar la comida que las familias comen durante las clases. He visto que a las familias les da gusto venir al centro  y tomar las clases porque están aprendiendo mucho y también les da la oportunidad de hablar con otras familias hispanas y pasar tiempo con sus hijos.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Student Reflection

by Araceli Pérez

Ya he estado participando en el programa de Abriendo Caminos por varias semanas y puedo decir con confianza que me ha encantado la experiencia hasta ahora. He tenido la oportunidad de trabajar con los niños, que he disfrutado mucho porque planeo ser maestra en el futuro. También  he podido participar en las clases que toman el grupo de control. Me ha gustado mucho participar en estas clases porque me ofrecen la oportunidad de conversar con las madres de familia.

Algo que me pareció muy interesante fue la conversación que tuvimos cuando hablamos del tema de las finanzas. Muchas de las madres hispanas confesaron no saber mucho de cómo manejar el dinero. Esto no me sorprendió mucho porque yo vengo de una familia hispana y sé que ellos también tienen mucha dificultad manejando el dinero y  sus finanzas, Todo esto me llevó a la conclusión que deberían de haber muchos más recursos e información sobre el dinero para las familias hispanas que no hablan inglés. Creo que esta información beneficiaría a las familias mucho. Después de la clase de finanzas muchas madres dijeron que se sentían mas informadas y tenían más confianza en su habilidad de manejar el dinero de una manera eficiente.

Otro tema de que hablamos que me pareció interesante fue de la educación. Muchas madres dijeron que tienen o han tenido problemas comunicándose con las maestras de sus hijos porque no había un traductor en la clase durante sus conversaciones. Otras madres se quejaron de la falta de libros de español en la biblioteca de Rantoul. Estos problemas que han tenido estas familias también son de falta de recursos. Las familias hispanas necesitan ayuda y recursos para estar adecuadamente informadas de la educación de sus hijos y para proveerles a sus hijos una buena educación.

Todo lo que he aprendido en Abriendo Caminos hasta ahora me ha inspirado a continuar ayudando a la comunidad hispana aun después que este semestre se termine. He podida ver de primera mano que los voluntarios son esenciales para que la comunidad hispana pueda salir adelante. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Advice for College Spanish Majors

Photograph of laptop, phone and eyeglasses on table, suggesting to Spanish students that they should "take a look" at opportunities across campus.
Take a look at your campus to find opportunities that will give you experiences and relationships that are complementary to your Spanish major. 
by Ann Abbott

Even though the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign is a huge university, it is possible for students to connect with faculty. I say this proudly: especially in the language programs.

I had many wonderful students this semester, and many of them happened to be freshmen. I took one of those freshmen out for lunch at the end of the semester to let her know that I saw great intellect, talent and creativity in her work in my class. I wanted to encourage her, as a freshman, to consider opportunities on our campus that match her abilities--as well as complement them--and that she might not have found on her own. Or that she might have found much later.

Let me share that list because I would encourage all students of Spanish to look into them.

More languages

This student already has Spanish and French under her belt. Someone who is so obviously good with languages should take advantage of all the wonderful languages we offer on our campus. (That's a rare opportunity, and students might not fully appreciate the value of having access to all these languages on our campus.) Let me say a few things about some of these languages.


Since this student already knows two Romance languages well, Portuguese would be a wonderful addition to her linguistic profile. There are many places and reasons to speak Portuguese, but Brazil is obviously a very important country globally. Furthermore,

Critical languages

For students who are willing to go out of their comfort zone and study a language that is very different from English and Spanish, there are many resources for studying critical languages. (If it were me, I would study Arabic.) The government offers the Critical Language Scholarship Program that sends you abroad. And our university offers many less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), not all of which are critical languages.

Career perspectives

Being able to speak many languages is a wonderful thing, but it is even better to combine that knowledge with some complementary skills. 

International careers
To start, it's good to see what other people who have studied Spanish have gone on to do. (The truth is that today, most Spanish majors are double majors; so look at what their other major added to their pre-professional preparation, too.) Here are three former Illinois students with fascinating international careers; you can learn by reading these posts, and you can also network with them as a fellow Illinois student.

Business minor

It's not necessary to study business in order to find a job after college, but something like the Business Minor could provide good, complementary knowledge and provide access to the College of Business resources. I know that many Spanish majors can't picture themselves in business. In many ways, languages and business can seem like two antithetical sets of values. But it doesn't have to be that way (see the examples above). 

Entrepreneurship opportunities
Again, I suggested something that many language students might immediately dismiss: becoming involved in entrepreneurship opportunities on campus. I told the student, "Don't think that entrepreneurship is just about technology! Or even if it is, don't imagine that students in the humanities don't have something very important to add to those projects." Be prepared to expand beyond your College and mingle with people from other Colleges.
  • Technology Entrepreneur Center. I know that technology is right in the name of this center and that it is housed in the College of Engineering. That doesn't mean that foreign language students can't jump in and learn from the resources and activities they offer!
  • Entrepreneurship at Illinois. You can find all kinds of information here. But here's my advice: jump in! Act on the information! Attend sessions! Speak up at events! People will welcome you.

Informatics minor

When I was an undergraduate, decades ago, I was a double major in psychology and Spanish. If I were stepping back into college today, I would still be a Spanish major. I would study Arabic as much as possible. And I would definitely apply to the Informatics Minor. Even if you think that computer science is not for you, that "other people" are good at that, at least click on the link and take a look. It will open many doors.


There. Those are the suggestions I have for that gifted student--and for any student of Spanish, really. When you're a freshman, you're just trying to get a feel for the place, the people and the culture of this huge place. But if you are lucky enough to find someone who recognizes your unique talents and can help you match them with opportunities on campus that you might miss, at least take a look. Try. A Spanish major is great, but you also want to be building a portfolio that builds on as many of the wonderful experiences on this campus as possible.

Did I miss any opportunities? Do you have different suggestions? Let me know in a comment.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Much Time Does It Take to Teach Spanish Community Service Learning?

Photograph of an old-fashioned alarm clock, representing the question of how much time it takes to teach a Spanish community service learning course
We have precise expectations about how much time Spanish community service learning students spend outside the classroom, but what about the time spent by those teaching the course?
by Ann Abbott

Recently, an interesting question came up about how much work it is (or isn't) for graduate teaching assistants to teach a Spanish community service learning course.

Here's some background on the concept of "time" in my Spanish in the Community course.
  • Students must work 28 hours in the community during the course of the semester.
  • 28 hours means that students work in the community 2 hours a week for 14 weeks out of a 15 1/2 week semester
  • It is a three-credit course
  • The class meets two hours a week 
  • Two hours of experiential learning equals one hour of classroom learning, according to some sources
  • The main grading tasks are three reflective essays and students' community participation self-evaluations
  • So, all in all, for three hours of academic credit, students spend two hours a week in class and two hours a week in the community
What about the person teaching the course? At first glance it seems as if you work less than others because you only teach two hours a week instead of three.

As the course coordinator, there's no question that I spend that "extra hour" setting up the community partnerships, maintaining those partnerships, responding to just-in-time requests for student volunteers, solving student problems with their community partner, helping lagging students find extra hours, etc. If you've put together one of these courses or taught one, you know what I mean!

But recently the question came up about graduate teaching assistants' time.

One thing is for sure, if our baseline is traditionally-taught, classroom-based course, then we will always have problems conceiving of workload equivalencies with experiential learning courses.

TA feedback

I think it would be a good idea to have feedback about the teaching load from the TAs who have taught SPAN 232. 

It's always best to go to the source. I can speculate about how they spend their time, but they know.

What is the "extra" work for TAs in Spanish community service learning courses?

  • First and foremost becoming informed about the local immigrant community context, which has to be accomplished through participation and following social media. In Spanish graduate programs, most TAs have little prior knowledge from their other work in the department. (That other work tends to center on the fields of literary analysis, cultural analysis or linguistics.)
  • To a lesser extent, learning accurate and complete information about state and federal immigration polices. Again, these are actually rarely known by TAS, but it is easier to find out about them through research. 
  • At the beginning of the semester, corralling all their students through the process of choosing and signing up for a community partner, which can be surprisingly time-consuming especially for students who fall behind or want a "different" experience.
  • Throughout the semester but especially toward the end, working closely with students whose placement is not working out or do not have their necessary hours and who need extra opportunities that must be arranged with community partners. 
  • Many campuses have a central CSL office that handles the push and pull of placing students with community partners and following up on those. My campus does not.

A possible way to equalize TAs' work

If the goal is to ask TAs to do more work in "Spanish in the Community" in order to even out the workloads among courses, I would suggest requiring a few more hours on TAs' part of direct participation in the community. That would give them a richer understanding of the community and of the students' experiences. I would not want to add more work for students in order to provide more work for TAs.


In sum, there are some semesters in which everything goes smoothly and the workload is pretty accurately reflected by the syllabus. But there are always semesters in which you have to do a lot of work because students have trouble beginning their work in the community, surprise events happen in the community (e.g., raids, election of an anti-immigrant President!), you need to field requests from community partners for extra volunteer events, or students realize they are behind on their hours (argh). 

What are your thoughts about the time required of TAs, instructors, course coordinators, students and community partners in a Spanish community service learning course?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Student Reflection

by Araceli Pérez

Tener la oportunidad de trabajar en la comunidad es una responsabilidad muy grande pero gratificante. Así que cuando la Dra. Michelle Cruz Santiago informó a mi clase sobre la oportunidad de trabajar en un programa de investigación en donde serviríamos a la comunidad hispana, inmediatamente me llamó la atención. La Dra. Santiago nos explicó que este programa de investigación, llamado Abriendo Caminos, buscaba descubrir si clases de nutrición ayudarían a la comunidad hispana a ser más saludable.

Para investigar este tema a fondo la Dra. Michelle Cruz invitó a muchas familias a venir al Centro Cultural en Rantoul. En el centro las familias se registraron para el programa y acordaron a venir cada jueves para recibir las clases de nutrición. Antes de tomar las clases, la presión, el peso, y medidas del cuerpo fueron tomados de cada miembro de familia. Esto ayudaría a la Dra. Michelle saber cómo estaba el estado de salud de cada familia antes de comenzar el programa.  Las familias también tomaron un cuestionario que les hacía preguntas sobre su estilo de vida. Por ejemplo, de qué tipo de comida comían en la casa, si hacían ejercicio regularmente, etc.

Otra cosa interesante de este programa es que no todas las familias que participaron en la investigación tomaron las clases de nutrición. Como el programa es una investigación científica hubo un grupo de control, que no recibía las clases de nutrición, y un grupo experimental, que si recibía las clases. El propósito de tener estos dos grupos era para tomar en cuenta que es posible que las familias se volvieran más saludables simplemente porque estaban participando en un estudio. En otras palabras, es posible que el efecto placebo aparezca en esta familia. Por esta razón se creó el grupo de control. Este grupo también iba al Centro Cultural de Rantoul cada jueves, pero en vez de tomar las clases de nutrición, ellos tomaban clases de otros temas como la familia, la educación, y las finanzas.

Una última cosa del programa que me gustaría mencionar es que las clases de nutrición trataban de involucrar a todos los miembros de las familias. Así que las actividades eran divertidas no solamente para los padres pero también para los hijos. Muchas de las actividades involucraron a la comida, entonces en cada clase siempre había mucha variedad de comida saludable que las familias podían comer. Los voluntarios, incluyéndome a mí, estaban a cargo de preparar la comida. En la foto de arriba se puede ver todo el tipo de comida que teníamos. Fue muy divertido ver como algunas de estas comidas eran nuevas para las familias hispanohablantes. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Task List for Directors of Spanish Community Service Learning Courses

by Ann Abbott

In some ways the Fall 2016 semester was on of my most difficult. 

But in one specific way it was the best: I scheduled specific times for taking care of all my weekly teaching tasks and did them. That's right, every week I graded, entered grades in Blackboard, and responded to student problems promptly. Preparing the final grades was no problem whatsoever because everything was ready to go. Hurray!

What a relief! In the past, my calendar showed my teaching times (of course) and my office hours. But I used my office hours to address whatever was on my desk, answer emails, decompress, any number of things that push and pull all of us during a normal workday. I would also make my office hours available in Doodle polls for committee meetings. But this semester, I guarded my office hours carefully and used them to catch up on my grading and prep immediately following class.

So in that spirit of organization and prioritization, I'd like to share my detailed list of tasks for directing my Spanish in the Community course. I think it might be similar to tasks anyone does for any Spanish community service learning course. I'm also including it in my "Spanish Community Service Learning in a Box" post where you'll find everything you need to start or spruce up your own course.

Course Director Task List: 

Spanish Community Service Learning Course

Course Materials

⏰ Previous semester. Contact Pearson sales representative if necessary.
  Order Comunidades: Más allá del aula packaged with MySpanishkit.
✅  Contact Pearson sales representative if necessary.

Learning Management System (Blackboard/Compass at my university)

 Previous semester, ideally, but any time before classes start.
  Order course site, and copy from previous year.
  Change assignment dates: Reflexiones, Community Participation Self-Evaluations.
  Change assignment dates within the course calendar for the MySpanishKit grammar folders.
  Enroll TA.


 Previous semester, ideally.
  Click on “MySpanishkit” ➤ Click on “Sections” ➤ Click on “Add Sections” ➤ Create new section and name it “SPAN 232 Spanish in the Community [Current Semester].” Wait just a little while for the section to be created and added to the list. (If you don't have an account already, set up your account and gain access to MySpanishkit through your Pearson rep.)
  Copy Course ID and post it on the homepage of the Compass/LMS site so students know how to enroll.
 Click on “Assignment Calendar” ➤ Click on “Grammar Resources” ➤ Following course calendar, drag grammar folders to the appropriate due dates.
*For my course, I assign one folder for each of the first six weeks: 1) Adjectives; 2) Direct objects, the personal “a,” and direct object pronouns; 3) Gustar and similar verbs; 4) Commands: Tú; 5) Preterit vs. imperfect; 6) Pluperfect subjunctive and the conditional perfect. For the other six weeks, students choose which grammar concepts/folders they feel they need to work on. I expect each student’s choices to be different. OJO: students’ grades will not show up in the Gradebook if the grammar folder has not be assigned; therefore, each week students should inform you (slip of paper in class? Email?) of which grammar folder they chose to complete for that week. Otherwise, at the end of the semester you will need to go through each folder and tally the students who have completed each grammar folder.
  In class the first week a grammar folder is due, spend a few minutes showing students how to access and complete the quizzes. This avoids confusion and the need to answer many student emails.
  Each week, enter grades in Compass/LMS for the work they did in MySpanishKit. This is important because it can be confusing to them to do work in MySpanishKit yet their grades are calculated in Compass/LMS. This also reinforces their weekly habit so that after six weeks when they are free to choose their own grammar folders they don’t lose track of the habit.
  When students choose their own grammar item, have them hand in a note with the grammar folder they did/will do.

Course Wiki

 At the beginning of the semester, before classes start and students begin signing up.
  On the front page, update information about community partners if necessary.
  On each community partner’s page, remove names of students from previous semester.
  On front page, at bottom, update course and section information.
  Create new pages for each section’s work log. From the existing work log, copy the title and example and paste to the top of each new work log.
  During the semester, check the work log weekly and communicate with students who appear to be behind on getting started or short on hours.

Teaching Assistant

 At the beginning of the semester, or when you know for sure who the TA will be.
  Put textbook in TA’s box.
  Enroll TA in Compass/LMS.
  Contact Pearson sales rep to give TA access to MySpanishkit
  Provide the link to the Instructor’s Resource Manual (IRM) for the scripts for the listening comprehension activities in the textbook.
  Tell him/her about the Comunidades Companion Website. You can find the audios and videos mentioned in the textbook here, and they can be incorporated into classes to make them more dynamic. 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.). 
  Provide link to course wiki.
  Schedule meeting before classes start to explain course, pedagogy, expectations, etc.
  Ask TA to attend one student orientation (preferably at the Refugee Center) to understand one of the community partners and their expectations for the students.
  Tell TA that they will be expected to communicate extra volunteering opportunities to their class and actively encourage them to participate.

Community Partners

 Several weeks before semester begins.
  Email all partners.
  Ask if they still want to receive students the next semester.
  Share link to their wiki page to see if they want to update it.
  Inform them of semester calendar, including breaks/vacations.
  Arrange any volunteer orientations.
 Throughout semester.
  Email partners every two weeks, then once a month.
 At the end of the semester.
  Remind them of the upcoming end of the semester.
  Ask if there are any problems with students. 
  Send thank-you notes form students.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Student Reflection

This colorful, cheerful, bilingual classroom is where Alicia volunteered this semester.
by Alicia Barbas

Mis últimos días trabajando como voluntaria en una escuela primaria me han ayudado a aprender más sobre los estudiantes hispanohablantes pero también sobre la vida como inmigrante en esta sociedad. He aprendido a relacionar la información que aprendimos en clase a las vidas cotidianas de estos estudiantes y de muchas personas en este país. Aunque haya terminado mi trabajo para el semestre, es aún más importante que siga luchando por los derechos de todas las personas después de los cambios recientes en el gobierno y en la sociedad.

Mientras trabajaba con los estudiantes, sabía que muchos de los que hablaban español como su primer idioma seguramente venían de familias inmigrantes, las cuales podrían incluir personas indocumentadas. Por ejemplo, un día, un estudiante muy inteligente me comentó que iba a faltar muchos días de la escuela en Diciembre porque su familia iba a pasar cerca de un mes en México. Mientras pienso que faltar la escuela no es lo mejor para un estudiante de kindergarten, esto confirmó la importancia de familia y las conexiones con el país materno que muchos estudiantes tienen.

Después de aprender un poco sobre las familias de algunos estudiantes, empecé a reconocer los efectos en la educación que el énfasis del inglés puede causar. Por ejemplo, los cinco estudiantes hispanohablantes en la clase en la cual trabajaba estaban separados del resto de la clase casi todos los días mientras hacían actividades diferentes porque por lo general, aprenden el alfabeto y otras palabras en español en vez de en inglés. Esta observación me hizo pensar en la idea de aislamiento que podrían sentir los estudiantes hispanohablantes en el futuro si los otros estudiantes los identifican como “diferentes” o inferiores. Por esto, hice un esfuerzo para asegurar que los estudiantes hispanohablantes se sentían iguales y que disfrutaban de aprender, tanto académicamente como culturalmente. Aún así, el hecho de que la clase esté diseñada de una manera bilingüe, en comparación con una clase que se basa solamente en inglés, puede unificar a los estudiantes y ayudar que obtengan una mentalidad abierta y respetuosa.

Después de trabajar como voluntaria e intérprete un día en una escuela secundaria, aprendí que la mentalidad de la educación es aún más importante en un nivel mayor. Noté que muchos estudiantes no tienen motivación para aprender y hacer un esfuerzo en la escuela porque piensan que si vienen de una familia inmigrante, indocumentada, o de bajos recursos, el trabajo es lo más importante y que no tendrán los recursos financieros o académicos para asistir a una universidad. En este caso, también aprendí que por esto, es esencial que desde pequeños, todos los niños entiendan que hay formas de obtener las mismas oportunidades que otras personas, y que pueden hacer cualquier cosa en la vida si tienen ambición. Tuve que mantener esto en mente a la hora de trabajar con estudiantes de kindergarten, porque esta mentalidad se empieza a formar precisamente durante la edad que tienen estos niños.

A la hora de hablar y leer en clase, realmente reconocí la importancia de apoyar a estos ciudadanos durante este momento de sufrimiento y preocupación después de la elección. Además de que muchos programas no van a ser realizados, como DAPA y DACA que ayudan con el aplazamiento de la deportación de muchas personas indocumentadas, el hecho de elegir a Tremp como presidente significa elegir a una persona racista que quiere deportar a todos los inmigrantes y crear un “muro” entre los Estados Unidos y México. Esta elección ha creado un país dividido en el cual piensan muchas personas que el racismo y la discriminación son cosas aceptables. El día después de las elecciones, miraba a los niños en mi clase que vienen de muchas culturas diferentes, y tenía miedo por ellos. No es justo que estos niños tengan que crecer en un país que no les acepta. Por esto, es esencial que no solamente apoyemos a los ciudadanos indocumentados, pero también que entendamos los obstáculos a los cuales se enfrentan, que ellos sepan que están incluidos en esta sociedad, y que tengamos compasión por todas personas. Pienso que en este momento, es más importante que nunca luchar por derechos y una vida feliz para todos. Por esto, no pienso terminar mi trabajo voluntario aquí. Pienso seguir ayudando a la comunidad hispana pero también pienso seguir educando a las personas que me rodean. El futuro de esta clase, la comunidad hispana, los derechos de todas las comunidades de minorías, y la vida en este mundo depende de nuestra habilidad de vocalizar y luchar contra estas injusticias. Por esto, no puedo realmente expresar la importancia de los valores culturales que he aprendido en esta clase y en mi trabajo voluntario durante este semestre. Me han inspirado a luchar y a apreciar y apoyar a todos en esta vida.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Student Reflection

by Alicia Barbas

Últimamente, mis experiencias en la clase bilingüe me han enseñado la diferencia entre los niños en el nivel individual, y por lo tanto, entre las formas de las cuales se debería ayudar a cada estudiante. En mi última entrada, hablé sobre las conexiones con cada estudiante, pero mi trabajo más reciente me ha enseñado la idea de trabajar individualmente de un nivel completamente diferente y con diferentes actividades. Por lo general, siempre he entendido la importancia de hacer conexiones personales, pero a través de mi trabajo voluntario, también he aprendido que cada estudiante aprende y avanza de una manera diferente, y por eso, es importante enfocar en sus fortalezas para ayudar con esta educación.

A la hora de hacer nuevas actividades con los estudiantes, les suelo ayudar a mejorar su conocimiento de los números. Primero, señalo a los números de 1 a 30 en una página y les ayudo a contar. Una observación curiosa que tuve es que la profesora me dirigió de practicar los números solamente en inglés con todos los estudiantes, mientras las letras del alfabeto cambian con la lengua materna de cada estudiante. De igual modo, noté que tuve más problemas al contar los números con los estudiantes que hablan el español con fluidez porque conocen mejor los números en español, y entonces suelen equivocarse y confundir los números entre 11 y 19. Sin embargo, entiendo que es más claro y seguro enseñar las matemáticas en un idioma solamente, porque lo más importante en esta materia es que los estudiantes puedan adquirir las habilidades básicas que son necesarias para comprender los conceptos. El hecho de trabajar cuatro horas durante muchas semanas seguidas me ha ayudado a observar el avance de cada estudiante con el tiempo. Por ejemplo, una estudiante que habla español y con la cual trabajo cada vez que estoy en la clase ha podido superar los números de 11 a 19 en inglés esta semana, después de tener muchos problemas durante varias semanas. En este sentido, me siento gratificada de poder ver la mejoría de cada estudiante.

Después de practicar los números, suelo ayudar a cada estudiante con la escritura de palabras en inglés y en español. Aunque una parte importante de este trabajo es ayudar con la escritura física de cada letra, también es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer qué palabra están escribiendo. Lo que he observado más a menudo es que, naturalmente, los que hablan inglés nativamente no conocen las palabras en español, y los que hablan español no conocen las palabras en inglés. Aun así, algunos estudiantes que hablan el español conocen algunas palabras en inglés, y algunos conocen todos las palabras en español que les enseño, mientras algunos estudiantes que hablan inglés o español no conocen muchas palabras de ningún idioma. Por eso, es esencial que yo cambie la forma de enseñar con cada estudiante. Con algunos, tengo que ayudar a identificar las letras y los sonidos dentro de una palabra, y con otros, simplemente les tengo que preguntar si conocen la palabra y lo que significa en inglés o español. Siento que estoy aprendiendo mucho sobre cómo trabajar con diferentes actividades y en diferentes idiomas, pero también con cada mentalidad, personalidad, y nivel de conocimiento de los estudiantes individuales.

Generalmente, antes de empezar estas actividades diferentes, hago un esfuerzo para aprender sobre cada estudiante. Les pregunto cómo fueron sus fines de semana, qué hicieron, y cuál fue su parte favorito. Esto no solamente les motiva a los estudiantes para trabajar conmigo, sino también me ayuda a aprender un poco sobre las cosas que les gustan hacer y cómo son sus vidas con sus padres y en casa. Es importante trabajar individualmente con diferentes personas para hacer conexiones con los estudiantes y para aprender que cada persona tiene una cultura, una historia, una personalidad, y una mente diferente. Cuando uno aprenda esto, crea la posibilidad de enseñar los conceptos eficientemente, de experimentar con otras culturas y lenguas, y de realmente entender al estudiante como persona.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Connecting College Students with Alumni: A Classroom Networking Project

This image lists the seven steps of the classroom project for networking with former students of a Business Spanish class, which are also listed in the blog post.
Look below to click on the links from the slide above.

By Ann Abbott 

On Friday I will give two talks. One is a noon-hour workshop on service learning, and the other is a quick description of a classroom project for our School's Share Fair. Here's what I will share in the second talk.

Connecting Students with Alumni: A Classroom Networking Project

Making the transition from language student to working professional can be a difficult and mysterious process to our current students. In my Business Spanish course, students work on a networking project that connects them to former students who were in their seats just a few years ago but are now in the working world. I will share the specific steps and resources I use for this activity—from researching alumni LinkedIn profiles to writing a “cold” networking email. This activity can be adapted to any language and any course.  On their end-of-the-semester course evaluations, several students listed this project as one of their favorite components of the course.

1. Research alumni.

I am connected to many former students through LinkedIn. I assign each current student in my class one of my former students to research through LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc.

2. Prepare pitch.

If you Google "Cómo preparar un pitch," you will see lots of videos and posts, and they all concentrate on how to pitch your business idea to get funding. Instead, this is the formula I like to present to students to pitch any idea: 1) Define the problem (and why it matters). 2) Describe the current solutions (and why they are insufficient). 3) Explain your idea and why it solves the problem (better, cheaper, faster, etc.). So in my class, each student has to "pitch" the alum who they researched to all the others in the class as one of the three people we should contact. For example, 1) We want to find jobs abroad, but we don't know how to do that; 2) You can go to the Career Center, but you won't find specific names of alums you can contact; 3) This person lives and works in Europe, so we should contact her/him for advice.

3. Vote.

After listening to all the pitches, students in the class vote for the three alumni we should reach out.

4. Form three teams.

Once we have identified the three alumni we want to contact, I re-arrange the students into three teams, one per alum.

5. Review etiquette of networking emails.

I ask students to read all the resources listed in this blog post: "Helping Students Sharpen their Networking Messages."

6. Write, edit, send email message to the alumni.

It might surprise you how much you need to help students edit and reshape their messages. Give yourself plenty of time to give feedback and edit before they send. They should also include you in their message. I also alert my former students ahead of time that they will receive a message from my students. I let them know that I totally understand if they do not have time to respond!

7. Share results: 1, 2, 3.

This is the fun part! If or when students receive replies from the alums, then you can share with all the other students. I share them on my blog, but whatever your mechanism, I suggest archiving the responses so that you can share them with future students. You can also use them as you promote your course and program to potential students.

Students appreciated this project.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Amid Falling Enrollments It Is Imperative to Advertise Your Spanish Courses

by Ann Abbott

I'm our department's Director of Undergraduate Studies. I work hard with our advisor, Tasha Robles, to try to increase the number of students in our courses and our major/minor.

It's not easy. And yesterday I was sad to see that our numbers are low compared to the Spanish programs in most other universities in the Big Ten. (By the way, Indiana University is doing something right!)

And it's even harder when students don't have enough information to get excited about our courses.

As of right now, with just a couple of days before students begin registering for spring 2017 courses, this is our situation:

  • Several sections of "generic" courses don't have a title or description in the online course catalog.
  • The advisor has received no flyers about any courses.
  • I haven't seen any promotional materials for any courses except for Basque.
I'll share the checklist below with our faculty.

How do you advertise your courses to increase enrollments?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Service Learning Workshop for Liberal Arts and Sciences

by Ann Abbott

Next week I´ll give a workshop on Service Learning. My goal will be to help people from many disciplines envision how service learning can work for their courses and within our local community.

Workshop Description

Research shows that service learning helps students better understand "messy problems"--the kinds of complex, interconnected issues that challenge our communities and that lie at the heart of our disciplines. In this workshop we will start with the basics of service learning to understand what it is, why the AACU lists it as a "high-impact educational practice," and what it looks like in a variety of disciplines. Then we will turn to our local community. As we identify strengths and challenges within our cities and nearby areas, we will sketch out specific ways we can connect our courses and disciplines to community-identified needs. Service learning students are often eager, yet nervous to step outside the campus to learn and serve – so are many professors. After this workshop you will have a concrete idea for a service learning course or project and know the steps for its design and implementation.

Workshop Steps

  • Explaining how my courses are structured.
  • Giving examples from multiple disciplines.
  • Exploring strengths and challenges of our local community.
  • Connecting academic goals to those community-identified needs.
  • Detailing how to create partnerships.
  • Showing how to weave the community and the classroom together through classroom transitions, activities, homework and assessments.
  • Wrapping it all up with a one-month calendar that takes you from beginning to end. (This is something I created years ago and just ran into it the other day. It was like finding a $20 bill in your pocket--a gift.)