Thursday, July 24, 2014

Teaching English Abroad when You Didn't Actually Learn How to Teach

Once you find a job living abroad, teaching English, then what?
by Ann Abbott

As I have written before, many Spanish community service learning (CSL) students want to find opportunities that allow them to continue learning languages, to immerse themselves in other cultures and to live abroad. Teaching English in another country is a popular option.

In a previous post, I shared information and resources about how to find a job teaching English abroad.

Once you get the job, though, then what? Jst because you speak English doesn't mean you know how to teach. So when I talked to Kelly Klus, about her upcoming move to Barranquilla, Colombia to teach English, she asked me for ideas and resources. Here is the gist of what I told her.

Speaking English to English Learners.

Kelly will be teaching in an immersion classroom. That means that she will be teaching social studies, science and other subjects in English. So even when she's not teaching English per se, she will still need to communicate with students in English in ways that facilitate their understanding. Here are some resources and ideas.

  • Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen (Lee & VanPatten). This book will give you the fundamentals about how we actually learn a second language and what that means for how we teach. I was a graduate student at Illinois when VanPatten and Lee were there, and I learned so much from both of them. All the techniques I am about to list, I learned from them. They might seem rather obvious, but actually implementing them is harder than you would imagine. 
  • Speak English only. It's so, so hard for many people to believe that you can speak 100% English even with beginning learners. You can! You should! Incorporate the techniques below, and you will see that it is possible and beneficial.
  • Speak slowly. If you are teaching true beginners, you will need to slow down quite a bit. Furthermore, you will think that you are speaking slowly--yet you will not be speaking slowly enough! It's hard to slow down when you are speaking your own language. But you must. 
  • Speak in chunks. If you have a long or complex thought to communicate it, break it down into chunks. For example, if you are describing your mother, you might say the following. "My mother is kind. She smiles. She is happy. My mother loves people. She volunteers. My mother volunteers in a hospital. With cancer patients. She helps patients with cancer." Those are short phrases. Some are not even complete sentences. That's okay, especially with beginning language learners. Research shows we pay attention to the beginning and end of a sentence--so chunk your sentences so students don't lose what you said in the middle!
  • Repeat. You can repeat the same words, or repeat the same concept with different words. In the example above, "my mother" was repeated. "Volunteers" and "cancer" were repeated. And throughout the example, the entire concept of "kind" was repeated with specific examples. Which brings us to...
  • Use specific examples. If you are teaching about sports cars, give students examples: Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini. If you are teaching about mammals, list some: humans, whales, monkeys. When you tell students you like chick flicks (really? you do?!), tick off some titles of famous movies starring Cameron Diaz or Rachel McAdams. Your goal is for students to make "form-meaning" connections in their brains. In other words, instead of attaching "chick flick" to an equivalent in their first language, you want the word to connect directly to the concept itself.
  • Give visual cues. The visual cues reinforce what you are saying. Maybe students don't know what the word "curly" means, but if you point to a picture of a woman with curly hair and then make a "curlicue" gesture with your finger near your own hair, those visual cues will match up with the word you are saying: curly. You could also write the word "curly" on the board and draw a curlicue next to it. Those are visual cues, too. 
  • Use comprehension checks. When we want to know if students are following us, our natural tendency is to ask, "Do you understand?" Their answer to that question, though, doesn't necessarily reveal what we want to know. What if they're too polite or shy to say no? What if one person says yes, but the others just didn't say anything. In other words, you need to ask different questions to find out whether they truly understood or not. In the example about your mother, you can ask them to write down true or false and say, "1. My mother is cruel. 2. She volunteers in a school. 3. My mother has cancer." You'll really know if they understood by asking them those short, quick, ungraded questions. 

Approaches to teaching.

I am no expert in elementary or secondary education. If you didn't take any education classes in college, and you suddenly find yourself in the role of a teacher, you'll want to do the following.
  • Reflect on what types of teaching kept you engaged. I told Kelly to think about what classes she liked. What did teachers do differently in those classes to engage her? Were there any specific class periods/activities/assignments that stood out in her memory? If you and all your roommates complained about boring lecture classes, then don't stand up in front of students and lecture them. Do what worked.
  • Eudtopia.org. Read what teachers read. Edutopia has everything from "big-picture" issue-based essays to specific curricular materials.
  • Project Based Learning. Personally, I think that PBL is one of the best approaches to teaching. It engages students in their learning like little I have ever seen and culminates in the application of that knowledge. That's a great way to learn and retain what you learn. 
  • Pinterest. There are so many wonderful resources in the Education section of Pinterest. (Yes, you have to skip past the myriad posts about decorating your classroom.) You might be interested in looking through my boards, too
  • TeachersPayTeachers.com. Sometimes you need ideas and inspiration, and the ideas above can give you that. Other times, you need something concrete to do in class--and fast. This is a good site for those moments. Consider posting and selling your own work, too.
I hope that some of these ideas and resources are helpful to you. It's just a start, of course. And please leave a comment to share and tips and resources you have developed while teaching English abroad, either in a school or in private classes. 

Student Spotlight: Kelly Klus

Kelly Klus, just one week before departing for Barranquilla.
by Ann Abbott

It was a delight to have Kelly Klus in both my "Spanish in the Community" course and in "Spanish & Entrepreneurship." She was interested, engaged, smart, responsible and I sincerely enjoyed reading her reflexiones and listening to what she had to say in class. She worked at SOAR in my class, and she did her study abroad in Ecuador

She emailed me a few days ago and told me her big news:

"I accepted a year-long job assistant teaching in Barranquilla, Colombia. I've been meaning to email you since I accepted it; I'm super excited to go. I've been doing some reading and trying to give myself some crash courses on teaching English as a second language in a classroom. If you have any time this week I'd love to pick your brain about what you've learned about teaching languages and any resources that would be good in exchange for a coffee or lunch :) I'm going to be with third graders, a long shot from crazy college kids (ok, so they're just big kids) but I'd still love to hear any advice you have for me."

Kelly's experience: networking

First I asked her how she found this opportunity to work in Colombia. She told me that she told a friend who works in AIESEC that she was interested in living and working abroad. Her friend said, "You should apply for a paid internship through Shape Colombia." She did.

Take-away for all students

Clarify what you want. Name it! Claim it! Then tell everyone you know what you are looking for. Post it clearly and simply on Facebook. Make an announcement at your family reunion this summer. Send an email blast to your high school teachers and college professors. The more people you tell what job/internship/program you're interested in, the more likely it is that someone will be able to help you.

Kelly's experience: persistence and determination

She had to apply for the internship along with all the other people from the US *and* abroad who were also interested. Not only that, she then needed to be matched with one of the many programs within Colombia that participated in the program. In other words, there were many layers to the process. Many people with whom to communicate. And most importantly: many chances for her application to get lost in the shuffle. Kelly told me that every couple of weeks, if she hadn't heard anything, she would follow up with all the people with whom she had been corresponding to say, "Hey, I'm still here. I'm still interested."

Take-away for all students

Be persistent. Think about the process from the other person's point of view. They're juggling lots of work, lots of projects, lots of candidates. Maybe they meant to get back to you but got backlogged. They didn't get back to your email when they intended to, and now it's buried under 100 new emails. Give them a reminder. Or several. If they don't want to contact you, they won't. But if they do, it will refresh their memory.

Kelly's experience: the interview

She will be working in a private English-immersion school in Baranquilla. In the interview, the interviewer simply confirmed that Kelly spoke Spanish while conducting the interview in English. Most of her questions were about Kelly's experiences working at SOAR (which she did for her service learning work in my class) and at Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana. Kelly was able to talk about the many ways in which she kept children on-task, focused and learning.

Take-away for all students

Take classes that give you experience. The interviewer was interested in Kelly's experience. Her hands-on experiences in real-world work environments. She wanted to know what strategies Kelly had learned, how she handled challenges, if she was ready to jump into the job in her school. Take all the CSL courses you can. Look for internships. When you study abroad, do something besides attending classes and hanging out with American friends.

I hope Kelly's experiences inspire you. And speaking of networking, don't forget that if you are my student, there is only one degree of separation between you and Kelly. Connect with her! Introduce yourself as an Illinois Spanish student who is inspired by her choices, who shares her passion for languages and cultures. Follow her time in Colombia. Learn from what she learns and shares. Network so that you, too, will be able to find your path after graduation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Student Spotlight: Maggie O'Connor

by Ann Abbott


Maggie studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador and was a volunteer English teacher at a local elementary school. She did her CSL work as a classroom aid in the bilingual kindergarten classroom at Garden Hills Elementary as well as the SOAR tutoring program there. In addition, she worked at the Wesley food pantry.

Here are some of her reflections about her CSL work and her application for a Fulbright:

"The main thing that I learned from CSL that I will apply to law school and/or the Fulbright Scholarship should I receive it is that I know a heck of a lot less than I think I do. In other words, you are never really done learning something. 

"For example, I thought going into SPAN 232 that I knew all there was to know about community service learning after being a volunteer tutor already in Champaign and working at a local food pantry during high school. However, when we had group discussions about different forms of ESL, I was completely blown away that I had never understood why a class at an American school should be taught completely in Spanish when the students were supposed to be learning English. It totally made sense why students were struggling to learn math: they were learning it in English, and it was a concept they could hardly grasp in their native language. The concepts are much easier to translate once they are understood.

"I learned the importance of cultural influences and implications when speaking to someone in a different language; for example, one of the students I was trying to tutor hardly looked me in the eyes, which I just interpreted as being shy, but it turned out that she was Guatemalan, which [could have] meant that looking into an adult’s eyes was a sign of disrespect. It was not a language barrier but a cultural misunderstanding, and considering that angle helped me to work with her better and understand that she needed a little bit of extra help coming out of her shell.

"These are very broad generalizations, but overall I will definitely use the lessons of humility about how much I have to learn (especially when it comes to learning outside the classroom) and of how important it is to consider what lies beneath the surface of an issue or a cultural barrier. I used to think it was enough to be able to speak Spanish; when I go to Mexico or am studying law, I will remember that it takes exploration beyond the text to truly understand something and that considering something through another’s lens can entirely revolutionize your perception of a word, behavior, or action."  

Redesigning Spanish Programs for the 21st Century: Bibliography

by Ann Abbott

Dwindling majors in language programs.

Upper-level literature courses that don't make.

Parents who discourage students from majoring in Spanish. "I'm not paying $100,000 for four years just so that you can have fun."

Students who want to study abroad but take business classes.
Or engineering classes.
Or environmental studies.
Photography. Animal sciences. Econ. Internships.

Students who do the Spanish major and love it, but wonder, as graduation draws near, what in the world are they supposed to do now?

Faculty committed to their students' learning but uncomfortable with new directions and expectations.

This is a partial description of the challenges college-level Spanish programs are facing today. And while our departments are filled with smart and creative faculty, grad students and undergrad students, our solutions sometimes are too small-scale or too close to what we're already doing (and students are rejecting) to be effective.

As a first step, let's put together a bibliography that can guide our thinking. Personally, I think this is about a new architecture, not new pictures on the wall. But let's see what you think.

Bibliography

Please add pertinent citations in a comment, and I will update this list.

Alonso, Carlos. "Spanish: The Foreign National Language." Profession (2007): 218-28.

del Pino, José M. "Hacia un modelo de coexistencia en la enseñanza subgraduada del español." Hispania 97.2 (2014): 182-83.

Lord, Gillian & Cristina Isabelli-García. "Program Articulation and Management." In Manel Lacorte (Ed) The Handbook of Hispanic Applied Linguistics. London: Routledge, 2014. 150-67.

Miñana, Rogelio. "The New Mission and Location of United States Spanish Depart­ments: The Mount Holyoke College Experi­ence." Profession. Web.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Student Reflection

Picture is from sasaki.com

by Kelly Klus

As many of my friends and I have been thrown into the reality of graduation, I’ve had several reflective conversations about the Champaign-Urbana community. C-U has an unbelievable amount of resources and opportunities, of nooks and crannies that are impossible to explore within four years. The campus community has so much to offer in the form of RSOs, clubs, fascinating research, professionals and experts in any given field; the surrounding community has even more to add.

ECIRMAC and SOAR were two of these niches that I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the great diversity CU has to offer- especially grateful that these two organizations allowed me to explore diversity that was not centered in the University experience. According to ECIRMAC’s website, 24.3% of Urbana’s residents speak a language other than English at home, more than the reported 20.1% nationwide. Getting to interact with a portion of this community was inspiring and I know I will continue to seek similar opportunities throughout the rest of my life. I met so many hardworking people--the women that keep ECIRMAC functioning everyday are tireless, the students that volunteer are integral, and the people that come in to seek support are determined, their stories moving.

I’ve spent the past few days at home in the suburbs, and as I was thinking about this last blog post I thought about looking at what resources were available to immigrants and refugees in the community in which I grew up. My preconception was that Naperville’s and the surrounding communities’ diversity is so incomparable to the CU community that I wasn’t expecting to find many services/support/resources for refugees here. I pretty immediately stumbled upon a World Relief branch in DuPage/Aurora (http://worldreliefdupage.org/).  The office offers very similar services to ECIRMAC—legal and community advocacy, citizenship applications, translation of documents, ESL courses. Like ECIRMAC, World Relief seems to be a center that is capable and willing to offer a broad spectrum of services. World Relief has an explicit religious component to their organization-- which differs from ECIRMAC. 

This summer I hope to continue to volunteer at ECIRMAC while I’m in Champaign. I think an interesting project would be to inquire into similar organizations within different communities—like World Relief DuPage— to see how their day-to-day activities, services and programs operate. Opening lines of communication between similar organizations could be mutually beneficial for the organizations and would offer opportunity to recognize opportunities for improvement or change as well as share knowledge and resources.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Results of Community Based Team Projects




Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

What? 

Our group consisted of three members (Ryan, Celia, and myself). The purpose of our group project was to help out the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) organize their fundraising dinner.

The East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) has provided services to refugees and their families in the East Central Illinois area for 32 years. In the past year alone, they have served over 2,100 clients! Their services include resettlement, translation, adjustment, citizenship,and a children's tutoring program. 


Although they are supported by small federal, state and local grants, the Center depends heavily on this annual fundraiser. As a group, we worked diligently to market the event and seek sponsors.We created the flyer pictured below and distributed it to local businesses while asking for any sponsorship they could offer. Even though it was really tough to find sponsors, we still tried to spread the word about the event as much as possible We did this by sending out emails to our current and past professors, leaving the flyers at the local businesses we visited and also by asking some departments to include the flyer in their weekly newsletter. 


On the day of the event, Saturday, May 3rd, Celia and I attended the event and helped out in any way possible. However, there wasn’t much help needed that day since all the tables were set and people were able to serve the food themselves. Additionally, there were assigned people who were collecting tickets. Our presence, however, was much appreciated by the Refugee Center.

(Maritza Guzman)

So what? 

Now that we’ve heard a bit about the what, now I’d like to spend a bit of time speaking on the ramifications of our project, and on the lessons we have learned that we would like to pass on. 

I should start this section by saying that by helping the Center raise necessary funds to continue their services, we helped ensure their organization had the funds to continue their work. As Maritza discussed, the services that ECIRMAC offers are varied, and the majority of these services are completely free to the clients who visit the center. This is great, but it also means that the financial capital gained from fundraising events like the annual dinner are absolutely central to maintaining the mission of the organization. 


And this is something I want to touch on briefly as well: in this way, we learned that although an organization may identify as a “nonprofit,” that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make any profits in order to keep operating! On the contrary to tie in some of what we have been learning in our in-class discussions – all organizations need to be able to produce something worthy and desirable, whether it be a social or a physical product. 


As we have seen through our analysis of Kiva and other such groups, nonprofit organizations like ECIRMAC also need to have all the marks that other good, respected for-profit companies need to have. These include being financially transparent, being conscious of their “branding,” and image, and having reliable, stellar marketing to reach new relevant populations. 


From working on this project with Maritza and Celia, I think we have all come to see that these are indeed challenges and concerns faced by groups like the Refugee Center. We benefited from this aspect as well as from being involved with an organization that does this kind of work so well. 


Because my group members and I do want to work with multilingual and multicultural populations in the future, the experience we gained from directly working with this community was actually a nice complement to the in-class learning we’ve done on the subject. 


On a personal note, as someone who one day wants to work in the public (or nonprofit) sector, this project helped present me with a more sobering view of the industry as a whole. Put simply, I’m starting to see that working as a professional for an organization that “just helps people” or “just makes the world a better place” is no simple affair. Working to improve the world in this way requires no less innovative, responsible, or hardworking a mind than the for-profit sector demands. Whether one works for Boeing or Kiva, it’s not like the mindset of the employee must completely change


Having spent almost 4 semesters now volunteering at this particular refugee center, I have seen firsthand the positive “so what?” work this organization does with the limited resources they have. As a simple volunteer, I have been fortunate enough to have been thrown completely out of my undergraduate comfort zone, helping clients with complicated and intense issues related to immigration, housing, crime, and law. 


There are few other organizations like ECIRMAC in our community, resources that serve a vulnerable community even as they build relationships with local university students and simultaneously educate our community on issues we otherwise might never encounter. I am extremely grateful to my supervisors at the refugee center, and for my time there particularly, in working for this event and others as well. It has been an intense learning experience I will never forget (and one I plan to continue!) and one I never would have had without this curriculum.

(Ryan Kuramitsu)

Now what? 

Our group has learned a lot about planning a fundraising banquet through this experience. Through planning the donations, entertainment and advertising for the event, we gained invaluable experience in the efforts needed to plan a formal banquet of this scale. 

In order to plan this event we needed to use a great deal of organization and communication skills. Our three group members all had full schedules that were difficult to coordinate, but we made time to meet and split the work in order to reach our best individual results until we could regroup. 


One of the best things we gained from this project was the ability to prioritize. This is a skill that will be helpful to each of us as we continue to develop, and one that I know personally will come in handy next year during my first year of graduate school. 


We would like to offer some advice to future groups so that you can learn from our process. First and foremost, this is the type of event that takes time so beginning earlier in the semester is the best advice we can offer. The event was very successful and the donations for the auction were amazing, but in order to take the fundraiser to the next level we should have begun soliciting donations earlier. 


The first step in planning was to make an appointment with the coordinator of the event so that we could get as much information as possible in order to know what we needed to do. We tried our best to keep in contact with the Center, but they are understandably very busy so we took it upon ourselves to think outside the box. Since we were not given a great deal of instructions or direction, we decided to use the skills we had discussed in class to help the center in every way we could. To us this meant being innovative and thinking beyond this one time event. 


One thing we had in mind but never got to implement was to create a regular source of income for the Center. We had the idea of creating t-shirts that would not only help advertise the efforts and services of ECIRMAC, but help provide a supplemental cushion to the budget. We weren’t given an official response from the Center, but they seemed interested in the idea so whoever takes over for the following year should try to organize this. 


It was amazing to learn about and even witness all that the Center does, and we were all happy to be able to ensure that they have the resources needed to continue their charitable work. 
(Celia Zanayed) 

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

by César, Skye and Kim

What?

Our group project was to act as the “web masters” for the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC) Facebook page. The women from the ECIRMAC office made clear they wanted us to post information relevant to the mission and work of the Refugee Center every weekday (Monday through Friday) to maintain the interest of followers and clients. Our posts varied depending on the amount of news coming from the office. Some of our posts consisted of updates around the office and information about upcoming events so that clients and volunteers were able to easily obtain this information via Facebook. If we did not have enough posts for the week with just office information, then we would post about articles, pictures or motivational quotes that we felt would increase the interest of the Facebook followers. The main purpose of our project was to increase awareness about the Refugee Center through social media (Facebook) and to keep these followers informed about our work. The Refugee Center aims to provide necessary services to the immigrant and refugee populations in the area and this page helps these populations more easily find how our organization can help them. Our goal for the semester was to augment the amount of followers to 350 people (or 350 Facebook “likes”).

The ECIRMAC page needs to continue growing both in likes and in reach, which can only be done with consistent posting. I will be staying on as the Social Media Manager and creating relevant and engaging content for the page. Creating a database of possible posts, images, videos and articles will ensure that posts are useful and will assist in weekly planning. While I am away or unable to post daily, posts can be scheduled ahead of time so that the page does not suffer. We successfully reached our goal of 350 likes by the end of the semester; we believe setting goals like this are important to maintain motivation and measure success. So, another goal should be set for the future. The ladies o fthe center should be educated on the management of the page in the event that a Social Media Manager is not available to run the page for a period of time. More detailed analysis of the Facebook insights would also assist the page in the future as they would provide information as the what type of content is successful and what time of day is optimal.

So what?

During our group project, making our posts relevant to our viewers was crucial, as the likes and comments we receive are able to promote the page and thus enable us to achieve our end-of-semester goal, which was to get the page to 350 likes by the end of the semester. Our posts on the page included things such as motivational quotes, current news, and even the promotion of ECIRMAC’s annual Fundraiser Banquet, which is crucial for the maintenance of ECIRMAC. Setting such goals for ourselves was very helpful because it allowed us to see our progress throughout the semester. This self-evaluation allowed us to assess how to change what we posted in order to gain “likes” throughout the semester. For example, we were able to see that pictures of people that work in the office and our clients received the most “likes” on the page because people like seeing people they know on social media websites; therefore, we would continue to post pictures of ‘real’ people. Additionally, we were able to announce days when the Refugee Center was closed due to bad weather so that the volunteers and clients did not waste their time travelling to the center. The posts that may have been the most helpful were those that made the public aware of events with Mayte and other employees that took place out of the office. We are confident that our continual posts during the semester have helped ECIRMAC because we can see the feedback via Facebook “likes” and comments from community members. If anything, this semester long project has taught us the importance of social media and what we can achieve through it.

Now what?

The ECIRMAC page needs to continue growing both in likes and in reach, which can only be done with consistent posting. I will be staying on as the Social Media Manager and creating relevant and engaging content for the page. Creating a database of possible posts, images, videos and articles will ensure that posts are useful and will assist in weekly planning. While I am away or unable to post daily, posts can be scheduled ahead of time so that the page does not suffer. We successfully reached our goal of 350 likes by the end of the semester; we believe setting goals like this are important to maintain motivation and measure success. So, another goal should be set for the future. The ladies of the center should be educated on the management of the page in the event that a Social Media Manager is not available to run the page for a period of time. More detailed analysis of the Facebook insights would also assist the page in the future as they would provide information as the what type of content is successful and what time of day is optimal.

This assignment taught us a lot about being a team, and about social media management. Through this project we learned the importance of an online presence for an organization like ECIRMAC. This experience has also allowed all of us to have a different perspective of social media; we can now see it as a dynamic working platform and not just a personal outlet. Overall, we are very proud and honored to have been able to assist ECIRMAC in their online growth and reach their goals.

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott


by Carli Smith & Chris Levine

What?

For our project, we created profiles on past U of I students who are working or have worked in social entrepreneurial careers related to Spanish and the community. Each past student was interviewed with the same set of questions. These questions focused on the positions and roles that they have, how prepared they were from the Spanish program at U of I, and advice for future students looking to follow similar career paths. We were able to contact Nicole Stawiarski and Jessie Faus. To create these profiles, we decided to write blog posts for Ann’s blog that showcased the students’ achievements, along with allowing them to explain what they’re up to, how they’re doing it why they took the path that they did.

So What?

These profiles showcase the strengths of the Spanish program at U of I, specifically Spanish in the Community and Spanish & Entrepreneurship. Each profile displays a different social role that Spanish students can look for after graduating from the University. Through reading these responses and talking to these former students, it is evident that they are applying material from Spanish in the Community, Spanish and Entrepreneurship and the Spanish program at U of I in general. Current and future students now have access to these profiles to aid in their search for possible career paths through the Spanish program at U of I. Given the struggle to find jobs for students currently graduating, it can be intimidating to graduate with such abroad major. These profiles help not only give current students ideas about the possibilities with their Spanish degrees, but to encourage them to do great things similar to what these former students have done.

Now What?

Our project pertains to applying material from Spanish in the Community, Spanish and Entrepreneurship and the Spanish program at UIUC in general to careers and life after graduation for students. Therefore, it seems that the first step from here would be to get more students to go through the Spanish program here and then keep them there. As stated before, it can be intimidating to have a major as broad as Spanish-a lot of current students are not sure which direction to take that knowledge after graduation, and they are not the first. These profiles we have created are one small piece of a solution that guides students to being successful after graduation and finding careers they truly enjoy. We need to make these profiles available to current (and possibly even aspiring!) Spanish students to show them that there are more possibilities out there with a Spanish education than they might think. However, as stated before, these are only one small piece of a solution-we must explore other outlets that can provide current students with ideas, guidance and even reassurance! Maybe we could incorporate the study of Spanish into career fairs. Maybe we could have employers currently working with former students give a presentation or offer advice for current students. The possibilities are endless! Offering all of this guidance to current students will help them feel more comfortable with their path of study, think of different ways to apply everything they’ve learned after graduation and, ultimately, be successful in a career they enjoy.

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Kelly and David

Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

What?

For our project, we chose to write a grant proposal for the after-school program called SOAR that takes place at Garden Hills elementary school. The SOAR program is designed to help second language learners from low-income families in the Champaign Unit 4 school district improve reading, writing, and math skills. The program is coordinated by the University of Illinois Center for education in small urban communities in conjunction with the bilingual program at Garden Hills. Each semester, three days of the week, University service-learning and volunteer students travel to Garden Hills to work with an assigned student for 1-2 hours after school. The student volunteer/SOAR student pairs spend time reading in English and Spanish, working through math problems together, and playing educational games. The program has been successful in helping to close educational gaps and has received praise from tutors, bilingual coordinators, teachers, and families of the students. 

We looked at a few grants; based on the organization offering grants’date of submissions and which grants were aimed at awarding funds to social reform programs like SOAR, we decided to apply to the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (YAB) grant. The grant stated that they wished to allocate money to programs in multiple areas around the country with the purpose of encouraging elementary age kids to take leadership roles in service-learning programs in small urban communities. 

While SOAR’s current focus was not on the elementary-age kids as leaders in service-learning in the Champaign-Urbana area, instead being focused on the University students’ roles as tutors, David and I saw an opportunity to expand the SOAR program in ways that would include more than just reading and writing help. 

We realized that in order to meet the criteria put forth by the YAB, we would need to propose an expansion of the roles of both the University student volunteers and the SOAR students which would involve a) having BOTH parties engage more meaningfully in their community in order to expand their scope of awareness in the greater community; b) identify Latino leaders in the C-U area that could serve as role models for community leadership and participation, and; c) demonstrate clearly the opportunities available for pursuing higher education to the SOAR kids, and reinforce its value to the University student volunteers by expanding their relationship to one of mentorship in which they could work on community oriented service together, involving field trips to UIUC campus and other sites with clear strategic value. 

We knew that SOAR had received money from an organization called Orange Krush in the past, and this past year had received a small sum of money from a Social Work club on campus to help buy snacks. We were also aware, however, that SOAR could use more funds to buy healthy snacks for the kids since they stay after school and were in need of more Spanish kids’ books.

So what? 

We started by inquiring to SOAR’s project coordinator, Lila Moore, about how the funds could be used and how much money she thought would be necessary to help the program run more efficiently. We realized, as we began the application for the State Farm YAB grant, that the minimum amount allotted was $25,000-- much more than we had originally thought.We did not need that amount if we were just looking to supply SOAR with needed Spanish kids’ books and healthy snacks for the academic year.

However, we met with Lila in person, began brainstorming, and came to the conclusion that the $25,000 could actually allow us to be creative and really think about possible ways to expand the program and make it more meaningful for both the SOAR kids and the University student volunteers alike. With Lila’s help, we came up with a list of things that we saw as potential ways to expand SOAR, make it more efficient, and create a more engaging ongoing participatory dialogue with clear educational and societal value within the community. 

We realized that with more resources and manpower, there were ways to expand and revitalize the structure of SOAR that would incorporate a greater service-learning component on all levels. 

The needs that we identified were the following:
  1. Developer/coordinator paid internship position: a dedicated developer/coordinator for greater service-learning integration into the program, which would be a paid internship at least part of the time to assure dedicated hours, and whose primary task would be to change the tutor/student relationship, in which currently the SOAR kids are “passive”benefactors of learning assistance, to a mentor/service-learning partner relationship in which the SOAR kids are offered the opportunity to engage in community service-learning themselves. In short: greater integration ofservice-learning into the current SOAR mission. This would help build the next generation of community-minded adults, demonstrate and reinforce the value of higher education, and help narrow the marginalization factor so prevalent in immigrant communities. Academic learning would bebalanced with reflection on each participant’s relationship to the process of participating in the greater community. Example: Developer/coordinator plans service-learning activities/modules, integrates them into current structure, calls volunteers to briefings, fosters team culture, facilitates feedback sessions, works closely with Lila to ensure daily logistics of program are met. 
  2. Streamlined and secure transportation: primarily, this would save time for UIUC students--time that could be spent developing/experimenting/implementing new components/methodologies to the program via leadership/teamwork that are based on a service-learning approach. UIUC volunteers currently waste much time individually organizing their own transportation to Garden Hills, which is not located centrally. Increased time would facilitate planning sessions for volunteers while likewise engaging them in leadership skills development, also allowing for discussion about what is working, what isn’t in the service-learning component development, etc. Currently, the transportation budget for SOAR is contingent on funding that the bilingual program at Garden Hills is able to earmark. This is not secure and is reviewed year-by-year. A secured source of funds would additionally cover any potential shortfalls to keep the program running, and also offer possibilities for taking the kids and mentors on field trips to sites of clear service-learning value. Examples: a) Daily shuttle from campus to Garden Hills for UIUC volunteers and back on days the program runs. b) Field trip to UIUC waste/recycling facilities to see how waste management in the University community works. Students and mentors would also volunteer time towards a activity of managing waste and/or raising awareness about waste.
  3. Role models: introduce SOAR students to Latino role models that will inspire them, entertain them, and provide them with clear examples of how community engagement combined with education can leverage individuals into greater community involvement, thereby building greater communities.
  4. E-books (Kindle, etc.): While the SOAR kids currently have access to traditional books in print as well as computers to some degree, the importance of technological competence/awareness is key to mobilization and access for future generations.

Now what?

In its first several years SOAR has proven itself to be a program worthy of community support. The need that exists for greater integration, inclusion,and access for the first generation children of Latino immigrants in our community is greater than the program alone can currently meet. There is still much work to be done towards both ensuring that the SOAR program can continue to receive the necessary funding to meet the current budget and also continue to develop the program in ways that continue to make it successful and progressive. During our research and work on this team project, we have addresses some very important questions on what possibilities exist for making the program even better than it is. How can we attract investment in this project? Although we are confident that we’ve identified certain key needs, we learned that as students the scope of what ultimately can be done is beyond our reach. Sadly, we were unable to complete the application for the State Farm YAB grant by the deadline on May 2nd, 2014. Perhaps if we had realized the scope of what soliciting a$25k grant involved in terms of research hours and writing earlier in the semester, we’d have had time to develop a team of people to help us with it. The State Farm YAB grant application alone required approximately 25k-30k words of focused text describing the proposal, its objectives, limitations, supporting research, etc. 

Despite our taking on this project due to being passionate about using the fundamental idea of social entrepreneurship to enact a change that we see as being extremely positive in our community, the sheer scope of it was beyond our reach within the time and resources that we ultimately used, which ultimately were 4 months, a good computer, a good internet connection, and our experiences thus far in the service-learning community. Although we were unable to apply for the grant this semester, we feel confident that the work that we have done in identifying key areas in which SOAR can benefit from increased and secure funding is a solid foundation for another group of social entrepreneurs to move forward with enacting a proposal. The work that we have done, if continued upon, can create a lasting value within the community and beyond. The proposal that we have outlined would serve to give greater agency to an entire demographic in the present and the future, enable young academics to prepare themselves for greater and fuller participation in social projects of varying scope due to their experience, and increase awareness of the ultimate value of service-learning pedagogy: the value being one that enacts positive change in communities by tackling problems that have no other solution.

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

What?

The team project that we chose to do was to plan, promote, and carry out a Spanish-language booth at a community literary event called Read Across America at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, Illinois. We had three group members who divided the work amongst themselves early in the semester to carry out the project in the most efficient manner possible. The event allowed us to provide a service to the people of Champaign-Urbana. Our work in the community throughout this semester with Spanish 332 has shown us the number of Spanish speaking individuals in our community.Before the event, we worked to promote our booth by creating a one page flyer that presented our booth in a fun, yet informative way. We then reached out to our community partners, giving out flyers to those we worked with in the schools we volunteer at, as well as other SPAN 332 students and our professor to try and get our flyer out in the community.Regretfully, this part could have been executed earlier, however, to reach a larger amount of people instead of all happening the week of the event. In addition to the promotion, we went out in the community to secure spanish and english books that related to our booth theme by borrowing books from the Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois and the Champaign Public Library

Read Across America allowed us to set up a bilingual (Spanish and English) booth so that children and their parents in our community could spend time reading books and doing activities in English and Spanish. We provided books and supplies so that children and their families were able to read and do activities in the language of their choice. The activities were chosen to account for differences in age. Thus, we created spanish word searches, coloring pages with Spanish captions underneath, and a wide array of multicolored storytelling material. The story telling material incorporated farm animals as well as different habitats and things they could interact with such as a feeding station and car, all with Spanish and English captions underneath. We encouraged older kids to invent stories about the animals and to tell them to us in Spanish. When not working on activities with children, we were reading to thein Spanish which was a good means of practice for all of us.

We were able to see families spending time together and learning together. There were families who spoke no Spanish at all who were interested in having our group read them books in Spanish. In other cases, Spanish-speaking families were able to enjoy their favorite children’s books together. Our booth was very popular at the event and we accredit it to the great service that we provided the community.

So what? 

We were aware of the large number of Spanish speakers in the community and that an event where they could share their language with their children would be very popular and needed. Many immigrants come to the country with young children who end up being bilingual or end up losing very much language ability from the country of their birth or their parents’ birth. Often, reading and speaking in another language can be embarrassing or not preferred by that child and so an event like this can really help enforce the idea that speaking Spanish is a great asset to have and encourages them to participate. Additionally, we felt that showing non-Spanish speakers in the community the importance of bilingualism would help them to be more understanding of the Spanish speaking community.

At the Read Across America event, we offered Spanish-speaking, monolingual children a way to actively participate in the event, as well as gave children in bilingual educational programs an opportunity to practice their Spanish. The Champaign-Urbana area has a large Spanish-speaking population and, while the children in monolingual homes may be learning English at school, some children only knew Spanish. Our booth made those children feel more comfortable and willing to participate in the activities. Many of the parents we spoke to also told us that their children were in a special bilingual program where half of their children’s classes were in English and the other half were in Spanish. They were very appreciative that our booth had books and activities in both Spanish and English so that their children could get more practice with Spanish.

Now what?


At the event, we also made the Champaign-Urbana community more aware of our Spanish 332 Business and Entrepreneurship class at the University of Illinois. Many parents asked what organization we were with and this gave us the chance to explain the importance and value of our class. Throughout the event we really utilized our interpersonal communication and leadership skills to interact with both the parents and children. The ability to effectively communicate and demonstrate leadership are skills that the three of us will need in our futures. Our experience with planning and organizing a booth is also one that the three of us can benefit from as wellHopefully this event encourages many more like it to take place. The growing Spanish-speaking community in the Champaign-Urbana area as well as the rest of the United States is an indication of the immense need for literacy among Spanish speakers to encourage participation among young students as well as promote advanced written and spoken language fluency as they grow older. In the future, we hope that more events like this can take place to promote awareness and bring up the discussion of Spanish speaker culture and identity to the rest of the United States.

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Ariel, Linnea and Pamela
Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott

What?

Our group’s goal was to write a case study about Brittany Koteles, a 2011 Illinois graduate who has now focused her life on social entrepreneurship. To begin, we researched Brittany’s work on Ann’s blog and combed through some documents we found online about her experiences and accomplishments. At University of Illinois, Brittany designed her own major: public and community service and well as Spanish. After graduating college, Brittany did a Fulbright in Barcelona and studied the best practices in social entrepreneurship as it relates to Spain. Brittany has helped to author a book called “Changemaking 101” which is aimed at students interested in social entrepreneurship. This book is sponsored by Ashoka University, an organization in which Brittany is very involved helping catalyze social change through higher education. Brittany and a partner created a short film about a man who painted his neighborhood’s stairs in color only to have them painted over by the government. Based on a true story, the goal is to make the story known and bring color into the world. They funded the film through crowd-sourcing on indiegogo.com.

So what?

Brittany Koteles is a prime example of how we can take our SPAN 332 class to the real world. There are endless amounts of opportunities for entrepreneurship that can be our future. It is important to understand social change and its ability to change our word. From our community based learning, we now have the potential to make a difference. We have experience and common interests that Koteles shared as well. As an UIUC alumni, Koteles is an excellent example of how to get involved in our communities and our world. Building this case study on Koteles illustrated that it is possible to take what we have learned thus far in SPAN 332 to the next level. It is important to see Koteles successes and understand the importance entrepreneurship has for a possible career. Seeing real life examples of success of a fellow Illini student can give inspiration to others that are interested in the same career field. Overall, this project was an interesting approach to learning about new opportunities that exist with entrepreneurship and social change.

Now what?

One of the lessons that we have learned from this project is that we must take advantage of every opportunity that is given to us and utilize them to make a change in the world. Our research with regards to Brittany Koteles has inspired us to not only traverse outside of our daily norms, but also adapt unfamiliar ideologies and states of mind that will be rewarding in the long run. In addition, Ms. Koteles’s attitude towards entrepreneurship and life in general has given us the impression that it is more important to be selfless than selfish and we hope that future SPAN 332 students will be able to take as much out of the case study as we did. Our time with this project has developed us on a professional and personal level and, as we venture on our individual journeys, we know that we will be able to use everything that we have learned from this case study and SPAN 332 as a whole to help ourselves to grow as human beings and to assist others with leaving their respective marks on the world

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Student Attitudes and Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

While reading through my students' community participation self-evaluations last week, I was struck once again by how students can work with the same community partner and have totally different perceptions of what they did there.
One student wrote about all the different kinds of tasks she did, how she asked for more to do. She even earned the nickname of "The Special One" because the supervisors recognized how much she contributed to the organization during her CSL work. Furthermore, this student worked way more than the required 28 hours during the semester.
A different student who worked in *the exact same place* wrote that there wasn't much to do.
These two students worked in the same place, with the same supervisors, and with the same classroom support.

So what's the difference?

I don't know for sure, of course, but this is my intuition based on many years of experience:

Comfort with ambiguity.

In the classroom, students are used to being told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and what will happen if they don't do it.

Some work contexts are like that.

Factories. Maybe.

Most work environments are dynamic. Rather than do what you are told, you need to observe, listen, notice patterns, anticipate needs, experiment.

Some students are uncomfortable with ambiguity. They ask their professors, "Will my grade be severely impacted if I don't complete this assignment?" "Will this be on the exam?" "How many words do I have to write?" They see individual course components instead of the learning opportunities. They see a swirl of activity around them in a community organization and say, "There wasn't much to do."

Assigning worth to non-traditional tasks. 

For some people, "work" has a specific look in their mind's eye. Work looks like someone typing on a computer. Getting things done with a client looks like work. Sitting around a conference table and being involved in decision-making. Giving a presentation with PowerPoint. Sitting at your own desk. Wearing a suit. Putting your own, individual creative talents into a project. 

What the first student probably did that the second student didn't do was this: perceive other activities as "work."
  • Building client relationships: answering phone calls, opening doors, exchanging pleasantries, chatting while they wait for their appointment. 
  • Building relationships among colleagues: learning from colleagues' story-telling, listening in on their appointments with clients, jumping in to pull the file that you overheard a colleague mention, asking them about their weekend activities. 
  • Doing jobs that are essential but don't engage your college-educated mind: filling up the paper in the photocopier because you noticed it was low, putting away the files that are stacked on the front desk because everyone is too busy to put them back in the cabinet, deciding to write down instructions for the next new employee for some process that you just had to learn on your own. Those things are work, too. 
The employers I know want people who understand that relationship building is essential to a business' success, who are self-starters, who are interested in the "whole company" and who aren't afraid to do some grunt work. 

That's the kind of CSL student our community partners want, too.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Student Reflection

by Nicole Mathes

A School of Fish

Recently, Ms. Perez’s class got a big fish tank with two clownfish and two snails. I have never seen a class so excited about a fish tank or so interested in learning about the different types of fish, coral, algae, and snails. The students were so eager to learn that Ms. Perez set up a time to Skype the man, Ben, who gave the class the tank and fish (as a background note: from my understanding, there is a company that donates the fish and tanks to schools who apply and ask for the donation and give a specific reason for wanting one. This man was an employee of the company).

Ben was very patient and answered all the students’ questions. Over the course of the Skype session, I learned the following:
  • you cannot put more than two clownfish together in a tank because they do not get along with other clown fish (two is company, three is a crowd). However, they get along with other types of fish.
  • there are SEVERAL types of snails that act as filters. Some snails can live together and others cannot.
  • the snails that Ms. Perez’s class had are vicious snails (if put together with other snails and/or fish, they would eat them), so they live in their own tank—a filter tank that’s connected to the main tank.
  • as pretty as fish tanks look with the colored rocks, coral, algae, and other plants, you should not fill the tank to its full capacity.
  • every single part of the fish tank plus everything inside the aquarium serves a purpose.
But the most important thing that I learned was that the small things make a big difference. I never imagined that having a fish tank in the classroom would have such an impact on the students. This fish tank has encouraged the students to be critical thinkers and scientists, more observant and responsible, and it has gotten them excited to learn. The Skype session lasted for 30minutes, which is a long time for third graders to pay attention. The students had an abundance of questions and I was pleasantly surprised at the types of questions they asked. They wanted to know why clown fish don’t get along, what other types of snails they could have, why coral was good to have in a tank, and why some of the algae looked bent and darker instead of straight up and light. On the wall next to the fish tank I noticed that the students wrote hypotheses about the fish tank such as if you put the fish tank near light, ___ will happen or if you put snails in the tank, ___ will happen. The class has had the tank for a month now and the fascination and excitement is still present among them.

So what does a fish tank have to do with volunteering in the community? Well, a lot actually. In order to have a fully-functioning tank, you need a tank, saltwater, coral, fish food, filters, snails (for some tanks), cleaning supplies, sea plants, and different types of fish, not just one. A community also requires a lot of individual components. For example, the community at Garden Hills needs principals, teachers, secretaries, students, a school, classrooms, school supplies, volunteers, and so much more. You also need a variety of “people” or “fish.” Just as Ben said that clown fish don’t get along if you have several of them together in one tank, a school community will not be successful if you have only teachers or only students, or if you have only girls and no boys. Everyone’s unique talents help make the community function just as different parts of the fish aquarium make it functioning. And, just as the presence of a fish tank had a major influence on the students, one volunteer can make a huge difference in the classroom. I may not have noticed how much of a difference I made in Ms. Perez’s class every single time that I volunteered, but I know that I did impact the classroom overall. So the next time I think that I’m not making a difference or that my presence doesn’t really matter, I’ll think back to Ms. Perez’s class and the fish tank and remember that small things do really make a difference.