For the spring 2008 semester, we are offering 4 sections of SPAN 232, "Spanish in the Community." Enrollment was capped at 20 students per section. At the time, I wondered if we would have empty seats; that's 80 spots, double what we offered this fall.
I was wrong.
Student demand for the course has been pretty overwhelming. I spoke several times with our Spanish advisor, Beth Chasco, this week about enrollments. In order to accommodate more students, one section was raised to 30 spots. That still wasn't enough. Students continue to write to Beth and to me asking to take the course. It's difficult to turn the students away, but I tell them that we will offer it in the summer and again in the fall. However, many of these students are seniors who won't have another chance to take it.
One student who wants an override to get in the course this semester wrote to me last night and said that it was her "dream class."
Maybe students say that about any class that they want to get into (and at the time they want, too!), but I'm inclined to believe that students truly are excited about Spanish community-based learning. It taps into a desire that students have to use their Spanish in a real-world context and with a purpose. Many of them have studied abroad and want to understand how they can continue to make Spanish a part of their lives back home. And many students say that they are looking for more opportunities within the Spanish curriculum to develop their spoken Spanish. (I'm sure that all Spanish professors feel that they ARE giving them opportunities to talk, but somehow they don't all recognize that.)
On the other hand, that excitement for Spanish community-based learning can be overwhelming. Those of us who do this know the work involved in administering these programs. Admitting more students means more administrative work. It's hard to disappoint students, but you can't stretch the program so thin that then it isn't mutually beneficial anymore.
It's a slick, snowy morning in Champaign-Urbana. I wonder how many students will call in to their community partner saying that they can't make it this morning?