Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Community Colleges in Illinois' New Growth Latino Communities

Infrastructures for Spanish-speakers in new growth communities are a lot like this road.
by Ann Abbott

During the next few years, I will be working with the University of Illinois' Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) on a project that they included in their grant renewal proposal and that apparently was well received by the reviewers: helping community colleges to implement Spanish community service learning.

This semester, Dara Goldman, the Director of CLACS, and I began talking and brainstorming. 

This could be, I told her, an opportunity to build a model of capacity-building, linguistic understanding and transcultural competence in new growth Latino communities.

But it's not going to be easy...


What is a new growth community? 

The executive summary of a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation explains it in this way: This report examines coverage and access to care for Hispanics living in “new growth”
communities (those with a small but rapidly growing Hispanic population) and those living in
“major Hispanic centers” (areas that traditionally have had a large Hispanic population). 

A recent Focal Point project at the University of Illinois, Responding to Immigrants, stated this on their website: Migration scholars submit that the settlement of Latino immigrants into new regions, cities, and small towns across the United States is “the most significant trend in U.S. population redistribution over the past quarter century."  (Their website also has a list of readings.)

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois is a new growth community. I haven't necessarily been framing my work with local Latino community in that way, but from now on I will. I'll do that in the following ways:

  • I will teach my CSL students about new growth communities and ask them to reflect on how they see the characteristics played out in their experiences in the community.
  • I plan to propose a set of courses--some existing but that don't count for the major, some new or newly named--with the ultimate goal of creating Spanish majors who are equipped to be bilingual professionals with the translingual and transcultural skills to be effective in community and professional settings in new-growth communities. Maybe this proposal will be a new program of study, and maybe it will just be a different "pathway" with courses for students to choose among. We'll see. But the end goal is substantively different than that of the current Spanish major.
  • I'll start integrating this viewpoint into my research and writing.
  • What took me so long?

What is the connection between Illinois community colleges and new growth communities?

After talking to Dara about the service learning project and its parameters, I began to do some online research using these two website.
  1. Illinois Community College Board, for a list of a Illinois' community colleges. I hoped to find a community college within fairly easy driving distance with which to partner. I was also particularly interested in the areas that I am familiar with from growing up in Clay City, Illinois. So Effingham, Olney and a few other community colleges were top on my mind.
  2. Illinois QuickFacts from the US Census. I wanted to try to match new growth communities (cities and counties) with downstate Illinois community colleges.
Here are a few things I found.
  • I had a hunch that Effingham, Illinois was a new growth community. Indeed, the census data showed 1.8% Latino population in Effingham County contrasted with 3.2% in the town of Effingham. Unfortunately, though, there is no community college in Effingham or near enough to make it easy for Spanish students at the community college to do CSL work in Effingham.
  • There is a community college in Mattoon, Illinois. In Coles County, 2.3% of the population is Latino, but in Mattoon itself, only 1.8% are Latino.
  • Observation. If we compare/contrast these two cases, where there is a community college there is not a local new growth community, and vice versa.
  • I decided to look at the community colleges and census data in the areas nearest to my hometown.
  • First of all, the community colleges in that region work in concert (IL Eastern Community Colleges) to share programs across the sparsely populated area. They don't duplicate many programs, so, as a hypothetical example, if you want to study mechanics you have to go to one of the four community colleges, not necessarily the one closest to where you live.
  • Robinson, Illinois has a 3.6% Latino population--a real surprise to me! More than Effingham, which is, I believe, I larger town.
  • However, when I looked at the website for the local community college (Lincoln Trail College), I could find no information about Spanish. I called the office that coordinates the four community colleges, and indeed, they offer no Spanish classes there. At Olney, which is relatively nearby, they offer only one Spanish course.
  • Observation. In rural areas with relatively high new growth Latino populations, even if there is a local community college, they might not offer language classes.
  • Moving closer to home, I looked at Vermillion County, one county east of Champaign. There was a big surprise here: Danville, by far the largest town in the county, had a 2.2% Latino population but 4.7% in the county. This makes me suspect that there are factory and/or agricultural jobs in the even smaller towns in the county that are in part filled by Latino workers, but I don't know for sure. 
  • Danville has a community college, but I knew from speaking with Dara that their Spanish program--while it does at least exist--has an adjunct faculty that might hinder the establishment of a strong partnership, not because of any problems with the faculty members but because of the nature of adjunct positions.
  • Observation. The "adjunctification" of university and college faculty at all kinds of institutions has many negative consequences, only one of which would be the increased difficulty in partnering to create innovative and sustainable programs.
  • Finally, I turned to Champaign County, where we have both the University of Illinois and Parkland Community College. Parkland has a very strong Spanish program with several tenured faculty as well as adjunct faculty and a good variety of Spanish courses. I know their tenured faculty, and they are excellent professionals.
  • Looking at Champaign County, one thing immediately calls your attention: while Champaign has a 6.3% Latino population, Rantoul's is even higher--9.7%. And while Rantoul is just sixteen miles away, there are very few services for the Latinos who live there.
  • Observation/Question. If we partner with Parkland--located in Champaign--can we build a Spanish community service learning program that does what we at the University of Illinois have not been able to do: serve the needs of Rantoul?

Conclusions

One of the main challenges in new growth communities is the lack of infrastructures to serve the needs of these new community members and in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways. (I have a chapter in a book that addresses this issue: Creating Infrastructures for Latino Mental Health.) What is apparent to me after barely scratching the surface on this project is that community colleges are an important part of those infrastructures, especially in rural areas, but that they don't always meet those needs either. And maybe they don't/can't meet the needs of the non-immigrant community either. 

When we talk about "infrastructure" in this country, most people immediately think about our crumbling roads, aging bridges, slow trains, etc. However, we need to broaden that discussion to educational and human services infrastructures so that they can meet the needs of all our communities, immigrant or not.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Americans Initiative: A Guest Speaker in "Spanish in the Community"

by Ann Abbott

We have our first guest speaker for next semester's "Spanish in the Community" class. 

Dear Dr. Abbott,

I am reaching out to you because I am interested in presenting to your Spanish in the Community class the New Americans Initiative project, a non-profit partnership with the State of Illinois that supports immigrants who are interested in becoming US citizens, in applying for Deferred Action, and community resourcing. The overall vision of this project is to develop a proactive campaign that celebrates what immigrants contribute to our community by encouraging local institutions to adopt policies that make Champaign County an Immigrant Friendly Community.  We are currently exploring the development of an Immigrant Friendly Community task force with local governments and immigrant community leaders.

I am representing the University Y on campus which is a participating organization in The New Americans Initiative (NAI) project. The Y's NAI team is reaching out to instructors on campus who may be interested in having a guest presenter next semester to share information about community efforts in and around this project. I am also available to meet anytime early next semester to discuss the project details and presentation development further.

Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Megan Flowers
Project Coordinator
The New Americans Initiative
University YMCA-UIUC
Office: 217-337-1500


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Networking for Business Spanish Students: Invite Former Students to Skype into the Class

by Ann Abbott

Next time I teach this class, I will change the networking project.

For practice, I will have students look up Spanish-speaking professionals that interest them in LinkedIn and About.me, explain why there are interested in those people, and then practice "pitching" one of them to the class as someone to invite to talk to us via Skype.

For the real thing, I will have them actually pitch then invite the winners from a list of former students that I give them. (This semester students did this for practice one day.)

Here's the list of students I provided. My current students had to Google them and find out everything they could about them. Then they had to describe what they're doing now and one thing that they personally had in common with that person. For networking, you can't just come on strong; you need to find a connection, build on that, and then (maybe!) ask for a favor.

  • Hanna Solecka
  • Kelley Sheehan
  • Jessie Fauss
  • Benjamin Brodner
  • Jill Kruideneir
  • Mark Wehling
  • Amanda Peña
  • Julio Costa
  • Dave Mackinson
What can you find out about these former students? Would you like to network with them? Know someone whom should I add to the list?
by Ann Abbott

In keeping with my previous posts this semester about how to use a traditional textbook in non-traditional ways, I'd like to describe how my students and I worked on the last chapter we covered.

Students choose which chapter to study

I cannot cover all the chapters of the textbook (Exito comercial) because I also allot time for student projects. So I allow students to choose some of the chapters that we cover.

This semester I allowed them to choose the last chapter, and they chose the very last chapter of the book: #14 "Las perspectivas para el futuro."

It's not very often that students get such a voice in what is covered in a course, and they responded very well to it. So don't just cover all the chapters that you think are important: ask them what they want to study!

Connect the chapter information to students' context

The information in that last chapter included thoughts about what and how colleges should teach to prepare students to be leaders in the changing world (pp. 500-502): 
  1. Perspicacia.
  2. Integración de las asignaturas académicas.
  3. Habilidades interpersonales y comunicativas.
Students read this section of the chapter at home. In class, I gave each of them three sticky notes. In each sticky note they had to write one example of how the education at the University of Illinois did or did not reflect what the textbook was calling for. After writing, they stuck their sticky notes on the board with a "+" for positive examples or the board with a "-" for ways that the university does not address those needs or does so badly.

I'm happy to say that the vast majority of the sticky notes contained positive examples.

Positive examples:

Study abroad: semester-long programs (e.g., Granada, Spain) and short-term courses (Business' trips to Brazil and Costa Rica)
Classes on social justice.
Requirements of the major: "Actuarial Science requires courses in finance, economics and computer science."  
The Career Center
Experiential learning: "SPAN 202 work with La Línea"
There are many international students on our campus.
Specific courses: 
  • COMM 112 
  • SPAN 202 (hurray!) 
  • BADM 382
  • GLBL 100
  • Global Marketing
  • BADM 380 (specifically the projects)
  • SPAN 305 (they worked in teams)
  • BADM 350 (technology)
  • SPAN 232 (another hurray!)
  • LAS 101 ("ayuda con conexiones con las personas mayores cuando estás en el primer año¨)

Negative examples

I'm not going to call out any specific courses or programs here, but students mentioned:
More colleges/programs should requires courses about languages and cultures.
You can satisfy Advanced Comp with a class about math that doesn't help you learn to write well.
Exams don't test students' interpersonal abilities.
They don't have courses about how to work with people from different cultures.
You can only take Business Spanish, not Business French, Business Italian or other languages.

Are you surprised by anything that the students wrote? Do you think your univerisity is doing a good job of preparing students to have the leadership skills necessary for our changing world? What do you do in your classes that addresses the complexity and interconnectedness of the world we live in? Let me know in a comment!

Taking Phone Messages in a Spanish Community Service Learning Course

by Ann Abbott

I already know that some (most?) of my colleagues think that community service learning and languages for specific purposes are not intellectual enough. Not theoretical enough. They've even used the term "Mickey Mouse" to describe the work.

If they only knew that I have my students practice taking phone messages over and over!

Why? Because it's difficult. It requires high levels of listening comprehension. They need complete accuracy. From all the information that is thrown at them, they have to understand it, re-arrange it, evaluate it, prioritize it and then re-write it for the message reader.

That's hard! 

And it's necessary for their work in the community. Absolutely necessary.

So despite what my colleagues would say if they knew (maybe they do know...), I spend time on this each semester. You can't help in the community if you get phone numbers wrong, misspell names, give incomplete information or leave unclear instructions.

I have really smart students. I have students who are very good at being students. But you'll see from the samples below how challenging this exercise is for them. 

The original message: "BUSCANDO a alguien que pinte cuadros al oleo, acuarela o lapiz dentro de la comunidad Guatemalteca. Hay un evento en un museo de campus y quisieramos su participacion. Tambien si alguien toca algun tipo de musica Maya seria bueno que se comunicaran conmigo por inbox al [telephone number] (Mauricio last name) Gracias"

Incomplete information

Despite the fact that we talk about and do activities about how important it is to have complete information on a message, this message is missing the date, time, and the checks in the boxes beside the actions.

In a busy, cramped office, what happens if this message gets dropped? If someone finds it, how will they know if the information is still timely?

And what does the last sentence mean: "Alguien que toca"? 

Incorrect information

The first sentence in the message area is incorrect; it makes it sound as if he is looking for someone who will paint Guatemalans.




Incomplete information

Again we have the incomplete top and middle portions of the message. The telephone number is at the bottom of the pad instead of the place toward the middle where it should go.

Incorrect Information

The name (Mauricio Salinas) is spelled incorrectly.

The first part of the message section is too confusing.

It is great, though, that they wrote down "tocan música maya." That is correct. But the sense of the message is lost. He is looking for people in the community who can play Mayan music.

Finally, the telephone number is incorrect. This person wrote 7933 instead of 6933--a very common mistake!

Incomplete information

The top part of this message is incomplete, but the information in the message section is much better. It is more complete and more understandable.

Incorrect information

There is no incorrect information here! The student first wrote a "7" instead of a "6" in the last four digits of the telephone number but then corrected it. 

This was one of the very best messages. This student has studied abroad for a semester and has previous experience working in professional environments taking messages.







Incomplete information

All the possible parts of message form are complete! (I didn't tell them who the message was for, so they didn't have a name to put in the top space.)

Incorrect information

The phone number is totally off and doesn't have the correct number of digits.

The information in the message pad is difficult to understand. Here is the test: will the person who receives the message understand what they are supposed to do next and will they be able to do it with the information you provided? 

That might sound simple, but it is extremely difficult as we see by the difficulties that these very smart students had.



Incomplete information


This message is missing the date and the check marks in the middle section.

I think it might also be a little difficult for the reader to understand the handwriting of the name.

Incorrect information

The message is not for Mauricio Salinas. It is from him.

The phone number is incorrect.

The information in the message section doesn't really accurately represent the information from the original message.







This is a very good message, up until the very last line: "está interesado en música may debe llamarle." It needs to be re-written in more formal style, and the word "maya" needs to be written completely. What kind of interest? Who needs to call him? 



















Again, this student's message shows the process of listening, making mistakes, trying to correct them.

It's not my intention to show that students write bad telephone messages. Not at all! I want to show how difficult this task is, even for advanced and experienced learners of Spanish. 

Yet it is one of the most common things they will have to do in any professional context, no matter what professional path they pursue after college.

When we do CSL and think about the kinds of language and knowledge that they need to succeed outside of the classroom, this is one thing that obviously needs more work and practice.

I can assure you that all these students are excellent essay writers. They've been practicing that for years in their roles as students! 

They need the same time and practice for something as apparently "Mickey Mouse" as this. But if we never put language students into professional contexts and ask them to use their language skills to accomplish "real-world" tasks, we'll never know what their gaps are.

Spanish Community Service Learning Students: What They Learned, Want to Learn

Add caption
by Ann Abbott

How do you know what your students have learned? When do you know it?

We can give them tests to find out if they learned the answers to the questions we decide to put on the test. They can write essays, and we will know--among other things--if they know how to write essays. We can give quizzes and find out, sometimes, if they guessed correctly.

I'm not saying we shouldn't assess students' learning through quizzes, tests and essays, although sometimes those tools seems designed as "gotchas" or they show more about what students have learned along the way--e.g., how to structure an essay that receives an A--than what they have learned with us, in one semester, those short 15 weeks.

What I am saying is that we can also give students some control. Some voice. Let's just ask them!

One day this semester, I asked my "Spanish in the Community" students two questions:

  1. What have you learned through your work in the community so far?
  2. What more would you like to learn? 
Here are their answers.

What have you learned?

  • Spanish-speaking immigrants in our community deal with very difficult things: for example, a woman came to the office who husband had been detained and she knew nothing more than that.
  • You can be detained for something very simple, like a traffic stop.
  • The small things that lead to big things (like detention) have huge ripple effects on the entire family.
  • What dual language education is and that these programs exist in Champaign-Urbana.
  • Many of the students in school have problems in their lives outside of school. For example, they are thinking about money, like not having enough money to own a pet.
  • The Refugee Center does so much for the local community, and they learn that from their conversations with the people who work at the Center.
  • By working at Crisis Nursery, they have understood more about the problem of domestic violence in the local Latino community.

What do you want to learn?

  • What are all the services the Refugee Center offers? I want to learn that so that I can help even more when I work there.
  • What do students in the dual language programs do after grade school? Do these programs exist in middle school and high school?
  • What is it like for non-native Spanish-speaking students in the dual language program?
  • How do children (not adolescents/adults) actually learn a second language?
  • What Spanish (vocabulary, grammar) do I need to know to be able to be of even more help?
My job is to put this into a larger context. To deepen/broaden what they have already learned. 

And although some of the things they mentioned might seem obvious to professors, if they said that they learned these things, that means that they did not know them before. They aren't learning these things in other classes. I emphasize this because we often take for granted that the "little" things don't really matter, aren't really academic or intellectual. But if students don't have this base, what is theory attached to? What foundation do the high-level analyses rest upon?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My (Almost) Daily Writing Practice: What I Have Learned So Far

My morning: caffé, reflecting, blogging.
by Ann Abbott

This semester I finally found what I had been looking for: a write-on-site group.

I write quite a bit already. I've published articles and two textbooks. I count my blogging as writing, even if it might not count in the university's eyes.

I know how to write. Sure, I can always improve and benefit from constructive criticism, but I knew I didn't need a writing coach to tell me how to write and to critique what I wrote. It's taken me many years, but I think I know a lot about the writing process, my particular writing process, and even what the final written product should be like. I didn't need a writing coach.

You can hire a writing nag, too. They keep you accountable, keep you on schedule. Yes, in a way I needed help staying on a timeline, meeting deadlines. But it wasn't that I didn't meet deadlines because I didn't have someone nagging me. In fact, I don't want anyone nagging me.

I wanted camaraderie. I wanted to look forward to writing sessions because of the people. I wanted to not feel alone and lonely at the keyboard. I wanted to know that if I didn't keep my writing appointment, someone would know. Someone would care.

And this semester I found it! I have been meeting with my friends and colleagues Glen Goodman and Dara Goldman. I like seeing their smiling faces on Skype at the appointed hour. I miss them on the rare occasion when they can't make it. (And I am not as productive on my own.) It has worked so well that I have written and submitted two article/chapter manuscripts this semester. I'm working on the third.

Here are some of my reflections about this new way (for me) of approaching daily writing. I wrote these thoughts on a recent flight, in the little notebook I keep in my purse (in the photo above).

It takes longer than you imagine to write an article or chapter, even when you already know it takes longer than you imagine.

Plan better, I told myself. Plan differently. Map out carefully what you have to write, what parts need research (which takes extra time), and how much you can actually accomplish in a writing session.

Leave plenty of wiggle room for thinking days, brainstorming days, reading days.

They are necessary. First, sometimes your brain needs to work in a different mode. Secondly, those days can relieve some of the pressure. I have to write! Write, write, write! Well, actually, no. Today I just have to list. Today I can work on writing up the bibliography in the correct style. Today I am going to just write a very detailed outline of this section. This subsection. This paragraph. That's easy. Those days are necessary escape valves.

Ask for help.

Glen helps me, of course. Just keeping these appointments (11:00-12:00 every work day) with me is a huge help. He sends me emails that are encouraging with a touch of prodding. Those help. I want to ask Darcy to comment on my title. Just the title. In other words: be specific about help I need. I don't really need much read-and-critique help at this moment. But I do need moral support. I need positive feedback, aka praise. (Yes, I do.) I need someone who will celebrate the big and small successes with me. I have to ask for those things when I need them. 

There comes a crunch time.

There comes a time when you have to push, push hard to finish and turn it in. You have to do that. Push all aside so you can push the writing. Writing an hour each day will get you far. But you need to push once in a while and always (maybe always?) at the end.

It's really, really good to map your article onto word count limits before you start writing.

It's a great idea because you will know how much you can or can't cover. You are forced to decide if you want to go broad or deep (fewer subsections but more detailed analysis).

You can change your map.

In my push to finish the Global Business Languages article manuscript, I looked at my original outline and eliminated one subsection and combined two others. That meant that there were things I left unsaid, unwritten, but I finished. I submitted. And my main ideas will be shared (hopefully) with the world.

What's your writing practice? What are your reflections on writing? Do you have a write-on-site group?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thank-You Notes to the Community and from the Community

Audrey, a "Spanish in the Community" student, received this card from the young girl she worked with all semester.
by Ann Abbott


During the last day of each semester, my "Spanish in the Community" students write a thank-you note to the person/people they have worked with in the community. They have to show their appreciation and mention something specific they have learned from them and their time in the organization.

It seems that the students in SOAR, the after-school tutoring program where several of my students work, also sends thank-you notes at the end of the semester.

Rejane Dias, my TA, send me the following message and the pictures in this post:

Hi Ann,

One of my students received this card from the elementary student she helped out while volunteering for the class. She shared about it with class this Wednesday. I told her to send a picture of it to me and we may put it on the blog. I thought it could be another way to show how this course really reaches out to our community and help the Latino children, and how college students taking Span 232 make a contribution to society.The little girl she helped is from Mexico. They're adorable pics. 


Thanks,Rejane






Thursday, December 11, 2014

If you think everyone should just obey the law and respect authority...

by Ann Abbott

I hate allegories. I'm going to write one, though. Dedicated to everyone who thinks it's all about obeying authority...

You own a campus bar. (Substitute almost any small business; I just happen to be sitting on campus right now.) You become successful. You provide something that students enjoy, and you reap good financial rewards for what you have created. You're proud. You create jobs. You give back to the community. You and your family have a very comfortable lifestyle.

Suddenly, the cops start spending a lot of time at your bar. They come in. They don't necessarily do anything, but they come in. Uniformed. They also sit in their cars outside your bar. Watching. Just watching. But sitting there. They stand outside the door. On the sidewalk. They talk to each other. If there's just one, he even interacts with people on the sidewalk. Just saying hi. How's it going? Uniformed. Friendly. There.

It gives you the heebie jeebies. It gives your clients the heebie jeebies. Crowds at the bar start to thin.

Then the cops start handing out tickets. Students cross the street to your bar, cops ticket them  for jaywalking. A group of girls stand outside waiting for their friend to arrive before they go in, the cop gives them a ticket for loitering. Your bar is non-smoking (it's the law), and kids drop their cigarettes on the sidewalk before entering. Littering. Tickets. It keeps happening.

Business suffers.

You notice that the cops don't do this to any of the other bars on campus.

You try to talk to the cops. They end up yelling in your face and backing you into the wall. Well, that escalated quickly.

Whoa! What did you do? All you wanted to do was talk.

You go to the city council to complain. They tell you that cops are there to enforce the laws. Jaywalking is against the law. Loitering is against the law. You don't want tickets? Don't break the law. And you should be thankful for the work they do: they risk their lives every day for your safety. To keep your nice home in your nice neighborhood safe.

Now every evening they come into your bar and check ids. You've become hyper vigilant, but sometimes there's a kid who slips in with a fake id. The kid gets ticketed. Your bar gets fined. You're losing money. And you're losing more clients.

You talk to the mayor. You tell him that you know that other campus bars have underage students in there drinking. Why are the cops picking on you?

The mayor tells you that if you didn't break the law, you wouldn't have any problems. Besides, the cops just rounded up underage drinkers in all the other campus bars last weekend and levied hefty fines to the bars. Everyone is held to the same standards in this town!

But you know the routine. You used to live by the routine. You used to profit by the routine. The bar owners take a calculated risk by letting in a few students whose ids kind of look fake. They take a calculated risk to let in a few too many people and go over capacity. If they get caught, they'll pay the fine. (You're right, officer. This is our mistake. Happy to pay the fine.) They can pay the fine. They're making plenty of money the other nights when the cops don't come.  The weeks when the cops don't come. Maybe months go by and cops don't show up.

But now you don't have any calculated risks to take. They are on you all the time. For everything. Everything is a risk. There's nothing to calculate.

But they're not on the other bars like that. Just once in a while.

The other bar owners, the ones who take their lumps from the cops and city from time to time, tell you that your business model must be wrong. They even offer to help you come up with a new strategic plan. For a percentage. When you tell them that your business plan is just fine--it's just like theirs!--they tell you you're defensive. One of them tells you that he's successful because he knows how to get the best deals out of the distributors and up his margins; you need to drive a harder bargain. Another one tells you that you're losing money because you have no training system. Another: you're out of touch with today's college students. All of them tell you (and each other) that your business is failing because of something you are doing wrong.

When you tell them, no, you obviously know how to run a successful business, it's just that the cops are treating you differently, they tell you that the law is the law. What are police officers supposed to do? Not enforce the law? You want less trouble from the cops? Stop breaking the law! Maybe you need a civics course.

Your business has flatlined. You can't afford the same lifestyle for your family. The city offers you free attendance in a small business success program they offer. Hopefully it can help you learn how to better run a business. Your old colleagues tell you about a money management seminar that might help you better understand how to handle your personal finances. You downsized your home; you must have made poor money choices.

What's the ending? I don't have an ending. I think we know how this goes. You end up angry. Bitter. Incredulous when people tell you that you are to blame for your business' demise. Angry when they tell you to fix problems that are not the real problem. Frustrated that they deny you were treated differently. Confident that if this happened to them they wouldn't stand for it. Distrustful of law enforcement. Outraged at the system. Jaded to the very idea of law and order. Ready to scream the next time someone tells you that all you need to do is obey.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Engaging students in collaborative reading: Spanish in the Community class through democratic pedagogy


by Rejane Goncalves Dias

This semester, I teach one section of "Spanish in the Community" and Rejane Goncalves Dias teaches the other. She has taught the course before, she is a PhD student in the College of Education, and she is passionate about community service learning. Below you will find the description of class activity she built around a reading we have students do. Thank you, Rejane, for your creativity, energy, research, and commitment to Spanish community service learning. --Ann Abbott

Collaborative reading helps students to use comprehension strategies while working cooperatively. Both of these aspects were highlighted when students worked together on their Lectura Académica: Latin AmericanMigrations to the U.S. Heartland. Changing Social Landscapes in Middle America”(Allegro & Wood, 2013). Collaborative reading was used for two reasons:

1.    - I wanted students to get a deep understanding of Allegro & Wood’s (2013) insightful discussions of issues related to the migrant Latino population in Mid U.S. over the years.

2.    - Although the article was in English, it was long and dense; and our 50-minute class discussion would be in Spanish.

So, how did the collaborative reading work?

- Students had skimmed through the reading prior to coming to class as it was assigned.

In class:

-I spread two sets of index cards across the room (one with the some of the article’s major subheadings ‘themes’ and another one with specific ‘topics’ covered under other ‘themes’). The themes and topics in the index cards were not related to each other.

- I told students that there were some cards referring to major themes in the article and other cards referring to specific topics under other themes discussed in the text.

-I supplied them with paper and colored markers.

-Their task was to work with partners or in groups identifying the cards that referred to the themes and which ones referred to specific topics. They walked around the room negotiating their understanding in Spanish and deciding how they wanted to organize these cards and present their findings. During the activity, they were also checking their printed or online versions of the article for confirmation. (There was a dynamic Spanish(oral)-English(written) interaction going on!)

-After they had finished organizing all the cards, I then reviewed the article with the whole class based on this display.

Students were so engaged with the text and the task, that only at the end of the activity, they realized that all the cards written in green were major themes and the ones in red ink were topics!

Students shared that this activity has helped them to gain a better understanding of migrant Latinos contributions to the country and the injustices this population has faced due to complicated political reforms.  


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Student Reflection: Nicole Tauster

by Nicole Tauster

So you've decided to major in Spanish… Now what?

Maybe you already know, but for those of you (like me) that are still unsure about what to do with your degree in the future, I am here to share my humble insight.

As a senior—and someone that changed their major to Spanish in April of junior year (yes, it can be done!)—I have been getting that dreaded question more and more frequently: “Spanish, huh? So what are you going to do with that?” It’s one that used to make me panic because I did not know, I did not have an answer. But recently I have come to terms with that and realized that maybe I don’t know exactly what I want to with my degree in Spanish, but I am OKAY with not knowing!

Sure, I have ideas, but nothing concrete. The whole concept of career fairs, submitting resumes, and applying for “real-world” jobs is foreign to me; I used to be an elementary education major and we didn't have to worry about any of that stuff! So my senior year has been somewhat of a learning experience, but it has showed me something incredibly important: I love the Spanish language. Taking only Spanish classes and speaking it and listening to it reminded me how much I enjoyed it. I studied abroad in Granada, Spain over a year and a half ago and didn't take any Spanish classes last year. This year I realized how much I missed them! But it’s funny, it’s like riding a bike, or at least it was for me. I thought my Spanish skills would be super rusty, but they surprisingly came right back on the first day of classes as I listened to my Literature teacher explain the syllabus—and I realized I understood everything she said! I think it’s moments like this that you should pay attention to…

My advice? Think about speaking Spanish, or hearing it, and all of your experiences with the language. Then think about what you were doing. Were you talking casually to someone? Were you using Spanish at work? Were you helping people? Now think about how those moments made you feel. Happy? Confident? Fulfilled? If you can connect a positive emotion to a specific experience perhaps you will find a clue as to what you should be doing.

I personally have felt happy when I can help someone, even if it’s just by speaking Spanish to them. Back at home my summer job was at a hardware store and my manager was a total jerk about my major choice and constantly questioned what I could do with it. But I was able to talk to our (very few) Spanish-speaking customers and help them find what they were looking for, something my manager could not do. And my success with those customers made his abuse worth it! So if you have even an inkling of what you might want to do, I urge you to go for it. Do what you want to do and don’t worry about how anyone else might feel about it. I was recently discussing the waiting abyss that is the future and my lack of concrete plans for it with a very good friend of mine. He is in the same boat in a way; he is a saxophone performance major and jokes he will be a starving artist, maybe playing gigs here and there. People judge his choice of major just like they judge mine, but he told me something really important, his latest epiphany: "Forget everyone else. Do what YOU want to do." Seems simple enough, right? But it's often easier said than done. In life we get so caught up in what other people think of us or what they may want for us or expect of us.

So you've decided to major in Spanish… Now what? Forget your manager that gives you a hard time, forget those probing adults that make you feel bad for not knowing the answer yet, forget your family members that judge you and pressure you to have a plan for the future. Even if they are helping you through school financially (and emotionally), forget your parents for just a minute because when May rolls around and they hand you that diploma, it will have YOUR name on it, not theirs, because YOU put in the work and YOU earned it. So shouldn't you be the one to decide what you do with your life? Even if you don’t know exactly what that may be yet…!

Monday, December 1, 2014

First Day Back: We Must Discuss Ferguson

by Ann Abbott

There's no way I could have stepped into a classroom today and not discussed the decision by the grand jury not to indict the policeman who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

1. Message: #BlackAndBrownLivesMatter

I asked students to look at the image below and take a couple of minutes to compose their thoughts, their reactions.

2. You: What Are Your Thoughts?

While they thought about things, I wrote #BlackAndBrownLivesMatter on the chalkboard. I handed each student a piece of chalk and asked them to go to the board and write down something they were thinking/feeling.



3. React: Dialogue, even in a small way, with your classmates

Each student picked up their chalk again and put a "heart" by the phrase that they liked, agreed with, were struck by, etc.

4. Share: Expand the dialogue, move to face-to-face interactions

It's not easy to talk to people about Ferguson, Mike Brown and the policeman. You don't know where they are. But I asked students to do the following for five minutes: 1) share their thoughts and 2) talk about what this has to do with our class, Spanish for Business.



5. I shared, too

I told them that I was bothered by people who were more upset about damage to private property than to systemic, institutional racism that leads to death. I shared that I understand the anger, and that if it has no channel toward change then it's obvious that it will erupt in other ways.


6. Contextualize this globally

There's a whole world out there that is fed up and making their voice heard. We watched the video for "Somos Sur" by Ana Tijoux. Afterward I asked them what the tone of the video and song are: anger, they said. What else caught your attention? Spanish and Arabic, many countries mentioned, indigenous cultures, united against injustice.


7. Listen. Really, really listen.

Students then looked up the lyrics of "Somos Sur" and we heard it again. We need to listen. Understand. Work in solidarity with the people whose language we are learning.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cover Letter as Final Exam: Some Patterns I Have Seen in Students' Letter

How to write a cover letter for a nonprofit job in latin america
by Ann Abbott

The final exam for my SSPAN 332 "Spanish and Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities" course consists of finding a nonprofit job or volunteer opportunity that interests you in Latin America or in a US-based organization that serves Spanish-speakers. I don't mind putting this on my blog because it's a take-home exam, and students really can't cheat anyway. Their letter has to be specific to them, their community service learning work and their community-based team project.

Each year, there are patterns in the problems I find with the cover letters, and so here is a list of suggestions based on those patterns. They're important to do well on the test. But they're equally important for any job you apply for.

Map the job ad to your cover letter. 

Use the same words that are in the job ad. Consider even organizing your cover letter by providing the information in the same order as it is listed in the job ad.

Use specific examples and explicitly link them to the job. 

Talk about you, but also about the company. You have to explicitly state why your story is pertinent to the company's needs. Make strong, explicit connections between your work experience and the job.

Example: For my community service learning work, I made informational videos for a Facebook group. I see that you also have videos on your website, and I can contribute to making those. Or, I see you don't have videos, but I could make videos with your information.


The organization isn't looking to fulfill you; they need you to fill their needs. 

Don't talk about what the job can do for you. Talk about what you can do in the job, for the organization.

Example: Don't say that you want this job because your passion is to make the world a better place. Tell them that you have demonstrated your passion for social justice through [X experience] and [Y experience], and you can bring your energy to their mission of equal access to high-quality education to children.

Don't assume the reader will make connections
Make sure you emphasize what you might be taking for granted but that is essential for the job.

Example: When you describe your CSL work, be sure to say you did it in Spanish. How else will they know that you can be competent in a job in Mexico, for example. State the obvious, however briefly.

Anticipate employers' concerns. 

Why would we bring a gringo to Mexico? Will he/she actually come? Will they stay or get homesice and run home? Would they be able to adjust to life in a rural setting, for example?

Example: Last year I did an Alternative Spring Break trip in rural Mississippi. Although the precise circumstances in X, Mexico will be different, I want to assure you that I adjusted quickly to [X condidtion] by doing [Y], and I will use similar strategies to adjust to the circumstances of this job.
Add these specific phrases, too:
My Spanish is ___ .
I am willing to move ___ .
I am available by phone or Skype to discuss any concerns you might have and show you my commitment to making this move to Mexico.

Polish your Spanish until it's perfect. 

Go the extra mile in your editing. Use all the resources you possibly can: Word editing Spanish; Google translate for specific words or phrases; someone who can edit (not write!) your letter, etc.
Here are some common problems:

Vocabulary. Use "puesto" (not posicion) unless the job ad uses a different word. Same for solicitar versus aplicar, solicitud versus forma.
Grammar. Be particularly mindful of these common mistakes: use of the a personal; use of the subjunctive to talk about the job: Quiero un trabajo que me permita.... en que pueda...

Talk about the results of your work. 

Instead of just describing the work that you did in your CSL work (or other work), tell what you actually accomplished.

Example: I started a jump rope program and X number of students participated. The teacher/parent feedback included statements like, "Quote them."

Make it easy for them to see your work online.

Include links to work that you have done on-line. For a real job application, consider creating an on-line portfolio of some type.

Don't start out too brash.

Each semester I notice that students' first paragraph tends to be too American in style. Too strong. Too pushy. I think that this is probably a model that is taught as the right way to do things, and it might even be the right way to do things in the US. Or in certain sectors (finance!) in the US. Otherwise, I'd say to tone it down. You don't have to say that you are the "perfect" candidate for the position.

Use the book.

Even though the instructions say to use information from the book, no one ever does. Can you tell them that you have studied risk assessment models? Can you tell them that you studied how to evaluate potential cause marketing opportunities? If it is pertinent to the job, include information from the readings, classroom activities and projects.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Am Thankful for a Pedagogy that Focuses on Social Justice: Spanish Community Service Learning

Gracias
I am grateful to do my teaching within the pedagogy of community service learning because it allows me to teach Spanish as something that is alive, that is part of our community, that is a tool for achieving social justice for all.
by Ann Abbott

On this Thanksgiving Day I would like to say thank you to:

  • My students. They are dedicated, intelligent caring students who work 28 hours each semester with the community partner, learning and helping as much as they can.
  • Our local Latino community. They add diversity and cultural richness to Champaign and Urbana, and despite the many challenges they face (racism, xenophobia, language barriers, and more) they have created a strong community with many riches.
  • My CSL colleagues across the US. We are researching and publishing more than ever. There are more of us than ever. We are changing the nature of what "Spanish" means within a "foreign language" curriculum!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Message from a Community Partner to a Student

Encouragement and thoughtfulness from a community partner to a student.
by Ann Abbott

My student received this card from her community partner. She was excited and moved.

Our words have such a powerful effect.

Friday, November 21, 2014

New Book about Language Teaching and Social Justice

Click on the picture to order.
by Ann Abbott

I just ordered this book and look forward to reading it.

Words and Actions: Teaching Languages Through the Lens of Social Justice

by Cassandra Glynn, Pamela Wesely, and Beth Wassell


According to the authors, a social justice curriculum positively influences all students. Social justice, critical pedagogy, and culturally relevant teaching are becoming essential as more and more language educators teach in increasingly diverse world language classrooms. This new publication supports in-service and pre-service teachers in recognizing their students' diverse backgrounds while also supporting students' ability to think critically about the world around them. Questioning mainstream approaches to language and culture learning is vital. An emphasis on social justice is, in part, a way to expand the definition and scope of language education, leading to further innovation in the profession.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Methods Proseminar: Introduction to Community Service Learning and Languages for Specific Purposes

by Ann Abbott

1. Main take-aways






2. What is community service learning (CSL)?

  • Service that meets a community-identified need.
  • Service enhances the academic content of the course.
  • Structured student reflections. (5 Cs)
Identify and highlight those elements within the SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" Syllabus.

How would you alter the example in the first slide of "What is Service Learning?" to make it pertinent to a Spanish course?

3. What do you do in class?


4. What is languages for specific purposes (LSP)?


5. What is your main take-away?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Proposal to Teach a Short, Short Class on Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship in a High School

by Ann Abbott 

My daughter is a sophomore at University High School in Urbana, and every year they have Agora Days:
"Another example of creative freedom is Agora Days, a four-day school week in late February when students, parents, faculty, alumni and friends of the school can teach hour-long classes about a wide range of topics. Students are required to take a number of academic-oriented classes, but classes based on playing sports and watching films or TV series also exist. Students have the same eight-hour schedule on each of the four days. Agora Days has been a Uni tradition since 1977." (From the Wikipedia page about Uni High.)

This year I decided to put together a proposal. Let's see what high school students think about social entrepreneurship and languages. Do you think the proposal will be accepted? Do you think students will be interested in the topic? Do you think I should have gone with something like "Socially-Conscious Latin American Musicians"?

Here's my proposal:

Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship

Are you interested in doing work that solves some of society's most pressing problems? Do you love languages and cultures? This class is an introduction to social entrepreneurship (nonprofits using business practices to create social value) with a particular focus on programs that are linguistically and culturally appropriate. We will study the business concepts of income generation, opportunity recognition, branding and social media marketing. Then we will do engaging activities using examples from the Spanish-speaking world but that can be applied to any language and culture. This is based on a UI course I teach called SPAN 332 "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities."

Day 1. Define social entrepreneurship; explain income-generation; analyze examples from the Spanish-speaking world.
Day 2. Present about locally-defined problems and autochthonous solutions. Do related activities using examples from Ashoka Fellows.
Day 3. Discuss branding. Analyze the branding strategies of Homeboy Industries.
Day 4. Outline the basics of social media marketing. Do a case study based on Radio Ambulante.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Spanish Community Service Learning, Civic Engagement, Transcultural Competence and Technology

by Ann Abbott

In two weeks I will visit the University of South Florida in Tampa for their campus' Service Learning Day. I had a wonderful conversation with Lance Arney and Dr. Soria Colomer about what they and their colleagues would like to hear about and discuss. It became clear very quickly that people want to know more about how to help students engage with people of different cultural backgrounds in effective ways. And we are not just talking about national cultures; students need to be supported as the encounter many kinds of difference in their community service learning work so that they can understand, learn and grow.

Lance put together the following to send to faculty, and I wanted to share it because I think it is very well articulated and shows us what faculty really want to learn, what barriers they feel they need to overcome in order to do service learning and do it well.

Keynote speech: “Don’t Just Teach! Engage Students in Communities”: Engaging Students in Civic Action through Service-Learning in Culturally Diverse Communities


Student success is more than academic achievement. It is helping our students become community engaged global citizens. How do we accomplish this? One way is through the “high-impact practice” of service-learning, which, through experiential learning in real world contexts, increases the likelihood that students will experience diversity; through critical reflection, compels students to analyze their own relationships to other people and the world; and, through civic action, cultivates in students a more committed sense of social responsibility and ethical sense of personal agency.

To discuss concrete ways to produce these “high impacts” in practice, we invited as our Service-Learning Day keynote speaker Dr. Ann Abbott, an award-winning Spanish language educator who regularly publishes about service-learning and the connections among language, cultures, professional contexts, and course content. Dr. Abbott will share innovative approaches to service-learning that she uses to help her students gain intercultural competence, acquire strategies for working with cultural differences, and understand the subtleties of cultural conflicts. Additionally, Dr. Abbott will explain the importance and benefits of moving students beyond volunteerism to civic activism through course-based service-learning.


Afternoon “workshop”: “Students, Turn On Your Cell Phones and Open Facebook”: Using New Media and Technology to Enhance Service-Learning: An Engaged Conversation with Ann Abbott, Ph.D.


Students love using technology and social media. Ever wonder how to take advantage of that to enhance your students’ community engaged learning? Then join us for a discussion with Dr. Ann Abbott, who will facilitate an engaged conversation about incorporating new media into service-learning, as well as using technology to get students into the community and the community into the classroom.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Student Spotlight: Marlee Stein

by Ann Abbott

Like many students, Marlee Stein took advantage of many opportunities available to Spanish students, perhaps not sure how they would all add up or where they would lead. Marlee did the following:

  • Studied abroad in Granada, Spain.
  • Took the community service learning courses ("Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Entrepreneurship").
  • She did James Scholar Honors projects in her Spanish courses. In my classes, one semester she blogged (on this blog) and another semester she worked on a virtual intercambio site-- got it up and running.
  • She applied to teach English in Spain through the Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain program. She was accepted, and she extended her stay into a second year.
Along the way, she figured out for herself how all of those experiences added up, where she wanted them to lead her. Here's a message Marlee recently sent me.

I wanted to tell you that I was accepted into the graduate program at northwestern "higher education & policy."  This is actually my dream program and am so excited to start and pursue a career as a study abroad advisor as well as get involved with the university and local community (something I learned from your classes!).  I wanted to thank you again for writing me a recommendation because your kind words I'm sure played a large role in my acceptance. It means a lot to me that you took the time to write a recommendation on my behalf as well as opening my mind to the many applications of language and culture. Thanks for inspiring me to take initiative and offering a wide range of opportunities in your classes because when interviewing for the program I mentioned my Intercambio website and they were impressed. After a lot of thinking I did decide to defer acceptance until June of 2015 and teach an additional school year in Spain. The NW advisor and I both thought that an additional year living, working, networking, and improving my Spanish will be extremely beneficial to a career in higher education and as a study abroad advisor. This summer I completed the entire camino de santiago-Frances in 33 days (over 800kilometers). After all my years of Spanish class and studying about the culture and history of the camino de santiago I was able to experience it first hand. 

In Marlee's case, her path was both metaphorical and literal (el Camino de Santiago). And it's led her to an understanding of the path she wants to follow in the future. But she had to walk it to arrive at that point, at that understanding. So be patient. Take lots of opportunities. Reflect often.

What steps are you taking while you're in college? Are you doing all that you can with your Spanish program? Are you patient enough to follow a path without always knowing exactly where it will lead you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Engaged Teaching Leads to Career Opportunities for Students

by Ann Abbott

I believe that...

  • ...universities are places of learning. That comes first. They are not vocational schools. And they are not businesses in and of themselves.
  • ...learning should be broad. Yes, there should be a foreign language learning requirement for everyone. Yes, all students should have to take a course on non-Western cultures. Yes, math and science are for everyone--even though I thought I was going to flunk Chem 101 my freshman year.
  • ...learning should take place inside and outside the classroom. Going to a foreign film festival is part of your university learning experience. Visiting a campus art museum, attending a student-produced play going to a concert are all learning experiences. When you're a student in a place where learning is the central mission, you don't stop learning when you leave your class.
  • ...encountering "difference" is one of the most important things students should do. It's so important, that students should seek it out. Invite it. Embrace it. Learn from it. In some ways, I learned more from my friendship with a fellow student from Kenya than from many of my courses. I am definitely a different person because of that friendship. And while I didn't understand everything she tried to teach me back then, because we had many, many conversations, her ideas stuck with me. They came back to me much later, when I needed them. She planted seeds that only blossomed later.
I say all of this because it sometimes seems that universities are now all about job preparation. Return on investment. Career fairs. Internships. Fast tracks. 

Those are wonderful things! But the learning is first. First and last. Always the learning.

That's why I do engaged teaching. Because I want students to learn from it in ways that traditional classrooms just don't provide. I want them to encounter linguistic and cultural difference by design, not by chance. And I want them to reflect upon those encounters as part of their academic learning. Where I can support them and challenge them.

But when learning and career opportunities align, that's a wonderful thing. 

Here are two emails I received yesterday from former students. Notice how engaged teaching resonates long after the final exam has been turned in. (Kind of like my conversations with my Kenyan friend.)

Medical School


I hope everything is going well for you this year.  I wanted to thank you again for writing several letters of recommendation for me over the past couple of years.  I recently received notice that I am accepted into Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.  I am still waiting to hear from some other schools, but I will be attending medical school in the fall.

Thanks again for all your support and helping open my eyes to the opportunities at Frances Nelson.  It's practically all I talked about in the interview!

Internship

Seeing you on the quad today reminded me about something. I wanted to email you earlier this semester but I forgot. This year I have a virtual internship with the US Embassy in Mexico through the Virtual StudentForeign Service. I'm working with their social media team and their Facebookand Twitter pages to analyze their posts. I used my experience in your SPAN 202 class when I was applying and that is definitely the reason I got the internship. Just wanted to say thanks and I'm glad I took that class!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Florencia Henshaw: Building Accountability into the Task-Based Classroom

by Ann Abbott

Ever had a colleague whose work you admire, whose skills complement yours, and yet your work overlaps and--let's be honest--she so pushes you, too?

I think that's a rare combination. 

That colleague, for me, is Florencia Henshaw.

So when I began to think about my social entrepreneurship for next semester and how I wanted to do a few things differently, it finally dawned on me to ask her for help.

Here is our email conversation:


My question

Dear Florencia,
Una pregunta: since you are teaching [the methods course] in an active way, not just sitting around discussing the readings, how do you know if students are doing the readings or not? I'm trying to think of better ways to build in accountability to my entrepreneurship course for next semester and thought you might have some insights.
Ann

Florencia's answer

Hi Ann,

I usually do so in the form of:

a) creating questions/activities based on sections of the readings for their classmates to answer (e.g., "each person gets 1 question about one part of the reading; they need to come up with one more question related to that aspect and then lead the discussion in groups for 5 minutes") 

b) activities I create that make them apply what they have read (e.g., "critically evaluate this activity/textbook in light of the suggestions indicated in this week's reading", "watch this video and indicate how the views expressed in it reflect or not the ideas outlined in today's reading"; "identify what type of corrective feedback this is")

c) questions that go beyond basic comprehension (e.g., "create a dialog between two of the linguist mentioned in the reading, taking into account what each of them believes about language learning"; or responding to misconceptions based on what they now know after doing the reading.)

d) React to what the reading proposes (e.g., pros/cons, things they are not convinced about yet)

e) Quick writes ("Could the suggestions Brandl proposes for teaching vocabulary also apply to the teaching of grammar?" - they wrote for 10 minutes at the beginning of class, I collected them all, we continued with class; then at the end of class, they re-read what they wrote to see if their thoughts had changed after our class discussion)

In all of these cases, I don't review the content of the reading unless I notice some misunderstandings or areas that were not too clear as they work on the activities above. So far, it's working great!  It is never meant to be a "pop quiz" or anything like that. They know they can re-read sections or access their notes. What I do see that I had never seen before in a grad course is that many of them are coming with their own notes and summaries about the readings. I think it's because they know they will need to access the information quickly to do the activities. It might also be that since we have a quiz every 3 weeks, they feel they need to be more organized and keep up with the material more than in other courses. In the vast majority of grad classes, there is only a midterm (if that), and in a few cases there is a final exam, but there is very little in terms of being accountable for the readings throughout the course. Maybe that's just to encourage more learner autonomy: after all, in the real world, you will read whatever and whenever you want... I don't know!

I hope this helps! If you want to talk more about it or see some more specific examples, let me know.

Florencia.

Could you incorporate Florencia's suggestions in your courses? What do you do to build accountability into your courses? How do your colleagues inspire and, yes, even push you?