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!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Language Teaching Tips: The First in a Series of Short, Focused Tips

by Ann Abbott

On this blog I usually tackle "big picture" items. I think a lot about what a Spanish major should look like in the US today. I use it as a platform to hopefully make Spanish community service learning more accessible to anyone thinking about teaching with it. I want to share my students' reflections so they have a strong voice in how we construct (or don't) our courses. I'd love it if Business Spanish and specific topics like social entrepreneurship and bilingual social media marketing gained resonance in our field.

But I started out, many years ago, as a course supervisor. Of SPAN 101 and 102. That was my first gig.

I worked on the syllabus, did classroom observations, put together tests, soaked up ideas from my professors and mentors, and much more. I had to pay attention to the little things that make classes work. And even more specifically, that make language learning work.

I'm not sure how many classroom observations I've done over the years and how many TAs and instructors I've talked to about their teaching. It's a lot! Scores. So it recently occurred to me that I should share some of that knowledge on my blog and other sharing sites.

Here is my first of what I hope is many: "Giving Instructions One at a Time." Because sometimes just the way you set up an activity determines how much students take away from it.

End of Academic Year: Time for Reflection

Annie Abbott, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
It was nice to have my picture taken by a professional photographer.
by Ann Abbott

As the spring semester and the academic year come to a close, it's a good time to reflect. Last week I handed in my annual activity report, and that forces you to reflect on the products of your work within a structured (and hierarchical) format. Some of the highlights from that list include:


Incorporating New Areas of Business into Business LanguageStudies: Social Media Marketing.” Global Business Languages 19 (2014): 71-84.  
This was my only piece of writing that appeared in print this year. In it, I use Radio Ambulante as a case study to exemplify linguistically- and culturally-appropriate social media marketing. So it combines two things that I love: the creativity of social media marketing and Radio Ambulante's masterful storytelling--in their podcasts and in their marketing. I'm also happy to say that the article cracked Global Business Language's list of its most popular papers.

I have four other pieces in press, one abstract awaiting word of acceptance or not, and one article manuscript that I'm currently drafting. That was a pretty good writing year for me.


For the first time in decades, I taught a 100-level Spanish class--and it was good! I taught two sections of SPAN 142, one of our fourth-semester Spanish courses that fulfills the language requirement. The students were delightful! I used Dia a dia: De lo personal a lo profesional, the textbook that Holly Nibert and I wrote and published a year ago. It was a great chance to put all that work into a real context, with real students. But most importantly, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to have students at that level do some community service learning. The response to that was overwhelmingly positive!

Director of Undergraduate Studies

My happiest accomplishment in this category was the redesign and simplification of our webpage for Spanish undergraduate studies. This summer I will continue to evaluate and perhaps add to the page, but for now I'm just happy to have a "fresh face" for our page.


I don't know of a better way to end the year than with very meaningful awards. I received two, and they make me very proud--not for me, but to be a part of a community that respects and enacts engaged scholarship and teaching.

Other categories for reflection

Now that that official reflective task is finished, I'll set aside some hours this week or next to reflect on categories that matter to me and that aren't on the official form. How can I improve student learning? How can I set important, pertinent new learning objectives for my students? What "stretch project" should I focus on? Is there more that I can share on social media (including this blog) that would be helpful? I'll let you know the answers...

What are your accomplishments from this academic year? What do reflect upon? Have you set any goals for next year? I'd love to hear from you and learn from you.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Life Long Language Learning: Online Tools for Portuguese Learning

by Ann Abbott

I say it all the time: I love hearing from former students! Especially when they tell me that they are still using Spanish and are interested in continuing their learning.

This week I received this email from a student:

Hi Ann,

I'm not sure if you remember me or not, but I am a former student of yours (like six or seven years ago). I saw you on LinkedIn the other day and have been thinking of trying to pick up Portuguese lately so thought I'd reach out for some direction. I would like to take an online course for credit somewhere to keep me motivated and on task. If you have any insight and advice (and also time haha) please let me know. If you know of any similar advance Spanish courses like that I'd be interested as well. I've been using it a lot and there's always room for improvement! 

Unfortunately, I don't have good answers to the specific type of learning experience he's looking for. I understand signing up for a for-credit course because the structure and payment make you prioritize it. But I just don't know about 

So I shared the following information, and "Prof. Jason" and Prof. Kelm added more. 
What I forgot to add is that we do offer totally online Spanish courses from the University of Illinois that are for credit. I don't know if any of them fit this former student's interests and level, but maybe they will interest you.

You might wonder what work this former student does now to keep him interested in improving his Spanish and learning Portuguese. What do you think? International business? Agribusiness? Work in the tourism sector?

No. He is an EMT.

I hope that you're using online resources to keep up with your language skills! If you have any specific recommendations, please let me know (in a comment here or at arabbott@illinois), and I will add them to this post.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Student Reflection

[from Ann: As you read this reflection from Joey, think about what questions you would ask him about this situation. What kind of behaviors might he be referring to? Could they be attributed to a number of things? How could you find out more about who attends school in Latin American countries and who doesn't?]

by Joey Gelman

Yo tengo una vista limitada sobre el mundo educativo. Por lo tanto, cuando yo pienso en el sistema de educación, es una idea normal que todo el mundo por lo menos tiene un nivel de educación básico. Pero esta idea no es una realidad y está reflejada en el comportamiento de los estudiantes en mi clase. En mi entrada anterior, hablé de un estudiante que está nueva a la clase y está teniendo problemas en la clase porque no sabe mucho inglés. Encima de esta idea, este estudiante nunca ha asistido a una escuela antes de Central. Es decir, él tiene casi 18 años sin educación formal. ésta es una idea increíble para mí, y desafortunadamente una realidad triste para muchos adultos jóvenes en el mundo.  Entiendo que hay situaciones cuando un niño que tiene 14 años o un poco más joven necesita salir de escuela para trabajar para apoyar a su familia. Sin embargo, la idea principal en esta idea es que ellos salieron de sus propias escuelas, no que ellos nunca asistieron la escuela. Este estudiante no está solo en nuestra clase. Por lo menos hay un estudiante más que tiene una situación similar y me parece que el resto de la clase no ha asistido a la escuela por los años que son “obligatorios” en nuestros ojos. Por esto, aunque los estudiantes no saben toda la información que deberían saber a sus edades, lo más importante, es que algunos de ellos nunca han aprendido cómo comportarse en una clase, cómo respetar el salón, el maestro etc.  Por lo tanto, las normas que aprendieron cuando éramos niños no están inculcadas en estos estudiantes, y se mostró en nuestra clase. Sin embargo, nuestra clase está llena de estudiantes brillantes y amables y algunas veces vimos las chispas inteligentes y creativas en estos estudiantes. No obstante, ellos no han dado un ambiente en lo que pueden aprovechar sus habilidades y entender cómo aplicar sus conocimientos y entender cómo deberían compartir en situaciones específicos antes de ahora. No es su culpa que ellos están en esta situación, pero ahora es nuestro trabajo enseñar a estos estudiantes lo más que podemos en su poco tiempo en una escuela estadounidense. Es una tarea difícil, pero necesitamos intentar. En realidad, no podemos arreglar el sistema  educativo para todo el mundo, pero cuando tengamos la oportunidad, podemos intentar ayudar. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Student Reflection

by Joey Gelman

Para esta semana, quiero reflexionar en mi experiencia de una manera más personal con un grupo de estudiantes. Durante la clase de estudios sociales, trabajé con un grupo de estudiantes que no habían acabado sus tareas por el día.  Generalmente, hay un grupo de la clase en lo que trabajo pero ese día trabajé con los estudiantes que o no participan mucho o son nuevos. Uno de los estudiantes está en la clase una vez cada semana si tenemos suerte. Pero mientras el profesor trabajaba con los otros estudiantes, fue mi responsabilidad para trabajar con este grupo. Por primera vez, trabajé con este estudiante, y por fin, estaba interesado en el tema de la clase. Estaba preguntándome sobre las preguntas y entendió las ideas que eran clave para entender el tema. También, había un estudiante en este grupo que tuvo su primer día en la escuela, pero llevó en los EE.UU por cuatro meses. Entonces, cuando lo pasé el paquete que necesita terminar, él no sabía ninguna palabra de inglés. Esta situación fue muy interesante, pero me gusta mucho este reto. Mientras los otros dos estudiantes seguían su trabajo, yo senté con este estudiante y expliqué todas las oraciones e ideas principales para él. Cuando yo reflexiono sobre esto ahora, entiendo que mucha de este trabajo fue simplemente copiar y pegar, pero lo más interesante para mí es la idea que en abril, hay un estudiante que ahora está en esta clase y es 3-4 meses detrás del resto de la clase. Me gustó trabajar con este estudiante, porque fue una experiencia divertida para traducir y ayudar con una gran porción de la tarea, pero me lo mostró que este sistema para los estudiantes no podría funcionar. He hablado de esta idea con el profesor de la clase, pero los dos de nosotros hemos visto el progreso que los estudiantes han logrado. Sus habilidades en inglés son mucho mejores y tienen más confianza pero es frustrante ver al estudiante nuevo, quien ahora está en un ambiente que no puede tener éxito. La clase no puede ir más lento para este estudiante, y él ya tiene 18 años, entonces de junio, él probablemente no seguirá escuela después de este semestre. Por eso, probablemente no habrá aprendido bastante habilidades en inglés para su vida real porque habría estado en una clase donde no pudo avanzar ni tener éxito. Mientras que quiero este estudiante a tener la oportunidad para aprender en una escuela, forzando este estudiante en esta clase que es avanzada frente a un ambiente más personal para ayudarlo, él no tiene la posibilidad para aprender. En mi opinión, es una pérdida de tiempo y puede ser peor para él porque podrá perder su confianza y motivación para aprender si está expuesto a este tipo de ambiente de aprendizaje. Esta experiencia me ha mostrado muchísimos beneficios, pero también algunos negativos en el sistema educativo en los que no había pensado antes de este trabajo. Voy a describir más sobre esta idea en mi próxima entrada.

Student Spotlight: Hannah Rickey

by Ann Abbott

Hannah Rickey was a student in a special section of our Spanish composition course the only time I ever taught it as a community service learning course. That's a course that many students take as freshmen or sophomore, so I was delighted when Hannah was my student again in "Spanish in the Community" and my social entrepreneurship course a few years later as a senior.

She went on to work last year as an Americorps legal advocate.

And now she is transitioning again. I want to share her message to me so that all students can see the connections between law and our Spanish community service learning courses. Hannah doesn't say that she's interested in going to law school, but who knows? Many of my former students have ended up going to law school and some now work specifically in immigration law or with immigrants.

Hannah is a role model not only because she has been working with immigrants' rights, but also because she exemplifies the winding path so many people have after graduation. I say it here all the time here, but it's true: focus on finding a good learning experience for yourself in your first step out of college, work hard, impress your bosses, build your network and follow the opportunities that will arise from that.

Hola Ann!

I've been meaning to shoot you a message since you forwarded Kelly Klus's email last month. It was funny timing to get that message around this time, because I am also in the process of applying for jobs and figuring out what comes next! It seems like I just started, but my AmeriCorps service year is already winding down.

I have loved the experience of working in an immigration office, and I wish I could continue here, but ... I'm starting to look for positions in immigration in Chicago and a few other areas in the Midwest.

I feel like I've gotten so much experience and gained so much knowledge in such a short period of time in this service year, so I'm optimistic moving forward. I have a surprising amount of independence here, taking lead on many of my own cases (Naturalization, DACA, green card renewals), as well as assisting our attorneys in their cases, particularly with asylum and Special Immigrant Juveniles. Our attorneys don't speak much Spanish, so I assist them every day with our multitude of Spanish-only clients, which has of course only helped my language skills and confidence, and also has given me the opportunity to learn so much about those types of cases, in all of their stages. I never would have imagined a few years ago that I'd be in a job where I speak Spanish every day, but I love it, and I'm so glad this opportunity worked out.

I know that your reference and my experience from your classes played a large role in getting this position, and I was hoping to continue to utilize you as a reference on my applications this time around, if that is all right.

I hope that things are going well with you and in Champaign, I miss it very much!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Student Spotlight: Brianna Anderson

by Ann Abbott

What a difference a few years makes! I want to share these two emails from the same alum so that current students can see that it's very normal for careers to follow winding paths.

Focus on finding your first job. Then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to move forward in your career.

December 2013
Hola Senora! 

Just wanted to send you a quick note and see how everything is going with you.  Things with me are going great!  I am working at a prevention-based non-profit called Dream, Inc. in Jackson, MS.  Our organization focuses on the issues youth encounter.  I work specifically with clubs (mostly SADD Chapters) across the state to incorporate highway safety activities into their schools.  Unfortunately, I haven't had much of an opportunity to use my Spanish recently and am afraid I've gotten a bit rusty!  Grad school is also going well--I just completed my first semester in a Child and Family Studies program at Southern Mississippi and am really enjoying it! 
Anyways, just wanted to say hello and happy holidays!  Hope everything is going well!

-Brianna Anderson

April 2016
I wanted to give you a quick update on my search for PhD programs--I am finally done with visits!

I ended up receiving offers from UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, University of Illinois, and Clemson.

I really liked the human rights/international focus of the program at Clemson, but [she decided on Illinois in the end].
So...I am happy to say that I will be returning to Illinois this fall!  Thank you so much for your help in the application process!

I told Brianna I wanted to get together for coffee when she is back in Illinois and asked her if I could share her story on my blog. This is what she said:

I will be back in C-U! I plan on moving up some time this summer after I wrap things up in Tennessee--my husband is starting with a company in Danville in May. I will be sure to reach out to you when I get settled in! I have no problem with you sharing this in your blog. If it wasn't for your class, I would not be on this career path :)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Student Spotlight: Ken Kliesner

By Ann Abbott

I know I sound like a broken record, but it's true: I love hearing from my former students! 

Sometimes they contact me because they are thinking about their professional path. Sometimes they need a letter of recommendation (and I am happy to support them long after college). Sometimes they friend me on Facebook (I like following their personal and professional adventures on Facebook). But whatever the motivation or method, it's a real joy to see someone move forward and develop.

Ken was a great student last year in my course on social entrepreneurship. I've written about him on this blog before. And it was so nice to have a message from him the other day. I asked if I could share, and he said yes: 

In preparation for our meetings, we would appreciate your giving thought to the following questions:

Hope you are doing well!  Just wanted to give you an update on my life.

So the Fulbright didn't work out, I got to the last round and I ended up not getting it, but I will definitely be applying again next year!  In the last 6 weeks, I got a contractor job at Beam Suntory headquarters (the Jim Beam company) working in International Supply Chain management.  I mostly work with Latin American and Canadian clients, so I get to use my Spanish, and even Portuguese almost every day!  I'm also still applying to NGOs and international organizations, but this is a good way to get experience in the mean time.

I'm so happy for Ken's success. The funny thing is that his message came to me just as I am in the middle of writing a manuscript about the dangers of being too specific in our approaches to Languages for Specific Purposes in university programs. Students really can't be sure what kind of job they will have in the near future, and even in the long term. I can tell you for sure that while Ken was sitting in my social entrepreneurship class, he wasn't asking himself how he could apply this to his future job in logistics. I don't know if Ken even knew about logistics.

So, it was good to have that confirmation that what I'm saying about "less specific purposes" has merit from recent alums' viewpoints. (When I am back home and at a computer, I'll add a link to my slides from the LSP conference last month that talk about these issues.) I also asked Ken if he had any advice for current students. He did, and it is such good advice. I hope everyone will read it. On the one hand, it's an invitation to think about the kind of specific job Ken has now as a possibility for your future job/career. On the other hand, it's an encouragement to keep your mind open about jobs/careers and follow a path that might be winding but that will open doors down the line.

Entonces gracias por llenar el formulario!  Realmente, no podía lograr lo que ya he logrado en esta compañía sin su inspiración, le agradezco mucho.

Para sus estudiantes, diría que en realidad la búsqueda de trabajo es una de las cosas más frustrantes, deprimentes, desconcertantes y agotadoras que van a hacer.  Sin embargo, no deben perder sus sueños o su esperanza porque en realidad, van a encontrar algo que les gustará y esta cosa probablemente les va a dar una perspectiva diferente sobre su carrera.  Yo quería trabajar para el FBI, y todavía me gustaría hacerlo, pero he aprendido que hay muchísimas más oportunidades de crecer en este mundo, y a veces el trabajo de sus sueños no está alcanzable directamente después de graduación.  A pesar de que quiero trabajar en el sector público o para el gobierno, todavía estoy ganando experiencia internacional valorosa que me hace sentir muy sastisfecho.  También diría que experiencia en el sector privado, o sea en negocios, siempre puede traducir a experiencia beneficiosa en cualquier otro sector, pero no siempre funciona al revés.  Es decir que las habilidades que se puede desarrollar en los negocios son útiles para otros sectores también, pero en el gobierno, por ejemplo, aquellas habilidades no se transfieren tanto porque son demasiadas especificadas.  Pensé que estaba "settling," pero en realidad, mi experiencia con esta compañía ha sido una bendición y sé definitivamente que me va a ayudar con mis sueños futuros de trabajar internacionalmente en el sector público.  ¡Entonces, estoy trabajando en la Cadena de Suministro Internacional, principalmente con clientes latinoamericanos y canadienses, y uso mi español y portugués casi diariamente (y también estoy aprendiendo un poquito de francés)!  En fin, diría que nadie debe pensar de su futuro como si fuera una ruta sola, hay muchos caminos que llegan en el mismo destino.  El futuro es bien espantoso cuando no podemos verlo, pero cuando seguimos con una mente abierta, podemos alcanzar nuestras metas y mucho más en maneras que nunca imaginamos antes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Student Reflection

by Joey Gelman

[from Ann: Joey describes a situation that my CSL students see over and over again. Joey suggests solutions at the level of hiring within the school. I encourage you to think even further back in this chain and identify the role of languages (and missed opportunities to teach languages) in college, high school, grade school, pre-K, homes, communities, churches, etc.]

En la última entrada me enfoqué en la idea sobre el choque cultural para los estudiantes en su nuevo medio ambiente. Para esta semana, quería enfocarme en la idea sobre las escuelas y sus habilidades para servir los estudiantes que sólo hablan español en sus propias escuelas. Durante mi tiempo en la escuela, ha habido algunos días en que los maestros normales no estuvieron en la escuela porque tuvieron citas o conferencias etc. Pero, en está situación, la escuela no tuvo bastante maestros hispano-hablantes para enseñar la clase. La falta de bastante maestros preparados para el grupo de estudiantes de ESL es una tendencia que probablemente existe en la mayoría de las escuelas en los EE.UU. La pregunta es sobre la idea que si las escuelas están listas para dar la instrucción necesaria para ayudar a los estudiantes? Desde mi experiencia, creo que las escuelas no están listas, y necesitan proveer más maestros bilingües si quieren enseñar su programa correcto.

Lo que quiero decir es que, durante los días en los que estuve allí como la unica persona que puede hablar en español, la escuela proveyó maestros sustitutos, pero ninguno de ellos habla una palabra de español. Mientras fue un reto bueno para mi, fue difícil para la clase, porque yo sólo tengo una capacidad limita para hablar en español sobre la mayoría de temas, y en esta clase, los términos del gobierno, las leyes, ideas de derechos etc, no son temas comunes en mis conversaciones normales en español. Entonces, los maestros estaban describiendo temas en inglés, y los estudiantes estaban durmiendo porque no entendieron ninguna cosa. Como expliqué antes, intenté explicar los temas, pero era claro para mi, que si yo no hubiera estado allí, no habría habido nadie allí para intentar a explicar los temas a los estudiantes. También, aunque yo estuve allí, todavía pienso que estos días eran perdidas de tiempo y más importante, una oportunidad perdida para los estudiantes, porque perdieron dos días de instrucción para mejorar sus habilidades en inglés.

El mismo ejemplo existe en la clase del arte para este programa también en Central. Por las tres semanas pasadas, la maestra del arte ha enseñado la clase del arte para los estudiantes de ESL sin su maestro estudiantil, que habló español, porque él se fue para terminar sus requisitos para ser maestro en otra escuela. En esta situación  la maestra habla un poco de español, y yo intento ayudar lo más que puedo, pero también no sé todos los términos del arte para describir lo que la maestra se quiere. Pero para nosotros dos, damos muchos gracias a una estudiante en la clase que es bilingüe. Pero aunque usamos a ella para ayudarnos, no debería ser la responsabilidad de una estudiante que esta en las clases ser la traductora para el resto de la clase. Si la escuela tiene el programa de ESL, necesita más maestros que son bilingües; y cuando la escuela contrata estos maestros, necesitan contratar tantos como sea posible. Entiendo que hay situaciones donde la escuela no puede pagar por muchísimos más maestros, especialmente para este programa en particular. Pero, si queremos que estos estudiantes logren sus potenciales a través de este programa, no podemos tener días como expliqué arriba, o una clase del arte para hispano-hablantes sin una maestra que pueda hablar español con fluidez.

Durante mi tiempo en Centralentiendo cómo importante un programa como así puede ser, pero necesitamos invertir en este programa para que funcionar a su máximo potencial.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Undocumented Immigrants: Invisible in Our Community, Invisible in ourCurriculum

This flowchart makes the information very clear: there is no "legal path" for anyone except the very privileged.
by Ann Abbott

Florencia Henshaw invited me to speak to her students in SPAN 308 "Spanish in the US," and I was delighted to do so. I think we need even more of an emphasis on Spanish in the US and that students need to understand better the complex realities of Spanish and Spanish speakers in the US.

The topic of the week was "El español en la vida pública." I don't know exactly how she was planning to frame that topic, but I decided to talk about our public discourse towards undocumented Spanish-speaking immigrants and our public policies related to them and their lives.

I'll share my notes and resources below in a list format. I only had twenty minutes to talk, and I didn't take the time to structure this as a lesson like I normally would. But maybe something here will strike you and you could develop an actual lesson plan. If you do, I'd love to hear about it!

Pathways to citizenship

I passed out copies of the image at the top of the post, gave students a few minutes to look it over, and then I put them into pairs to share two things: their personal reactions to the information and any information in the flow chart that was new to them.

Ideally, that would be followed up with similar information, but in Spanish. Click here to go to the companion website for my textbook Comunidades. Then click on "Videos" on the left. Then scroll down to the section titled "10-2 ¿Cómo se consigue una visa?" Use those videos to reinforce the concepts of the image at the top of this post and to learn the vocabulary in Spanish.


For many people, talking about undocumented immigrants is taboo. Politically incorrect. Uncomfortable. Instead, I say that if we have at least 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country, not talking about them is wrong!


For most students, the Spanish-speaking community in Champaign-Urbana is invisible. They live in different areas of town (many live in trailer parks rather far from campus). Many work in service jobs, out of sight: in the kitchens of the restaurants where you eat; cleaning the hotel rooms your family stays in during Moms week when the room is empty; on the factory floors, providing the invisible hand of labor that produces the goods you buy in stores and online; etc.

They are here. The Refugee Center reported that in the past twelve months they served 2,300 unduplicated individuals. Most of them are Latinos. Many are undocumented. Many more live here yet never go to the Refugee Center for help. 

Sometimes they decide to be "invisible." In January, ICE announced that it would step up raids. There is fear among immigrants, and they don't want to be too visible.

Undocumented immigrants are mostly invisible in our Spanish curriculum, too. Oh, the scars I still have from faculty members who didn't like the fact that community service learning focused on undocumented immigrants. It will reinforce stereotypes, they said. It will make them think that all immigrants and Spanish speakers are poor and in need of services. Hmmmm. Here is my question for them: what stereotypes are you reinforcing through your literature-based curriculum? What message are you sending by excluding this significant population of our country? 

Public discourse 
The demonization and criminalization of undocumented immigrants didn't begin with Donald Trump, but he certainly whipped up that hatred into a frenzy during his presidential campaign.

In this interview Melania Trump speaks specifically about immigration (2:55 to 4:17). Ask students to watch this part of the video and then using the information in the image at the top of this post, decide how she received her visa. And how did she have the resources to make all those trips out of the country?

Many students think she received her citizenship by marrying the Donald, but she didn't. Still not sure of the correct answer? Read here.

"I immigrated the right way," is a phrase that we must always challenge. It implies that others could do it "the right way," too, but they choose not to. Sometimes people say, "my grandparents/great grandparents came her the right way." I won't go into the history of our immigration laws here (and the questionable veracity of family lore), but those same people today often wouldn't have a pathway either.

You could write a book about the Trumps' attitudes about immigration. Read what Ivana Trump has to say about undocumented immigrants and why they are necessary in the US!

And if you want to understand better the fastest route to "legal immigration" to the US, read about the "Inmigrante Inversionista."

Public Policy

Beyond our public discourse on undocumented immigrants, we have public policies that control and constrain them. I have a chapter about public policy and foreign language community service learning in a forthcoming book from Multimedia MattersCreating Experiential Learning Opportunities for Language Learners, edited by Melanie Bloom and Carolyn Gascoigne. With the students I shared two:
  • ITIN. For people who do not have social security numbers, like undocumented immigrants, the IRS gives them an ITIN which they use to pay income tax and to get a mortgage to buy a home. So...undocumented immigrants DO pay taxes. They certainly pay all taxes for which there is no choice: sales taxes, property taxes, taxes/benefits taken out of every single person's paycheck by their employer. Many use the ITIN to pay income taxes. Furthermore, many citizens DO NOT pay taxes. The headlines today were about the list of very rich actors, politicians and business people who use shell corporation to avoid taxes. And many American citizens do service jobs (babysitting, hair cutting, gardening, lawn mowing, odd jobs) that they never report and pay taxes on.
  • TVDL. In Illinois, people without a social security number might now qualify for a TVDL. However, that doesn't mean that they will actually be helped by the employees at the DMV to obtain one. I have heard stories about people who inquired about getting a TVDL and were told misinformation by grumpy (racist? xenophobic?) DMV employees. There are also rumors of those employees asking for payment to "help" people get their TVDL. Just because there is a law on the books that is meant to provide a more just experience for undocumented immigrants doesn't mean that the human beings involved in that policy are being just themselves...
So there you have it. My notes. My resources. It's not a lesson plan. It's not a unit. But they are my thoughts. And the feedback I felt while I was with the students and after I left was that they were interested, intrigued and wanted to know more.

P.S. Tammy Jandrey Hertel shared this wonderful resource: "Gangs, Murder and Migration in Honduras" from Latino USA.

Katherine O'Donnell Christoffersen also shared this music video about ICE and the #Not1More hashtag we and our students can use in advocacy efforts. (You can also look at the Pinterest boards Florencia Henshaw and I have created: Videos about immigration and Música sobre la inmigración.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship: Week 10

SPAN 332 Spanish and Entrepreneurship Spring 2016 @AnnAbbott with a picture of a table and some printing work to convey the idea of creativity and work required by social entrepreneurship
We focus on social entrepreneurship that is linguistically and culturally appropriate, with 28 hours of service learning.
Week 10
by Ann Abbott

Semana 10: El riesgo


We talked about ethics. Why? Because people normally think about risk as a financial game that entrepreneurs play. Sometimes they win. Sometimes they lose--and lose big. But with social entrepreneurship, losing your reputation is one of the biggest risks for the organization. 

As always, we spent the first five minutes of class in paired conversation. Like I always say, in community service learning (CSL) classes, students have to be able to start and maintain conversations in Spanish, often out of thin air. Those five-minute "hablar sin parar" activities are very important.

I transitioned us to our topic--ethics--and emphasized that compliance and ethics are two different things. Just because you are not breaking a rule or a law does not necessarily mean that you are doing the most ethical thing. 

Then we went straight into the series of activities that I shared with students, and that you can find here on my SlideShare.


On Thursday, I started out with information that I had given to Florencia Henshaw's students in my very short 20-minute talk in her "Spanish in the US" course. (Link coming soon.)

It was easy to transition back to our discussion on ethics after that, and we did the last activity on the handout. All in all, I believe we had a good discussion this week about ethics and ethical dilemmas in multilingual, multicultural environments. It's just one week, but I hope that it plants some seeds with them about behaving ethically, even when others are doing something that is unethical.

If you are interested in this topic with your students, here are some resources.