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Monday, October 6, 2008

Teaching and CBL


I just touched base with several former CBL students: Karen Trower, Ashley Mazzola and Amy Huckstadt (pictured on the left with her cousin visiting Mayan ruins in Honduras). They all studied a year in Barcelona, took SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" and worked in school settings or at the Refugee Center, and graduated from our program in the teaching of Spanish.
Now they're all teaching Spanish in Illinois high schools. Congratulations, chicas!
I'm sure that they are all excellent teachers, and for many reasons, but I'd like to think that their CBL experiences helped them in this regard. This is how I think CBL can help students who plan to be high school Spanish teachers:
1. Language. These girls all had the benefit of a full year immersion in Spain. Students who come back from Barcelona always have good language skills as well as coping skills for when they find themselves in linguistic "hot water". (That happens all the time when you are abroad, but I think it takes the first semester to get over the fear so that you can develop those coping skills in the second semester!) These skills make these students good at CBL because they take chances with the language, speaking with strangers, and aren't as afraid of making mistakes (because they have already made MANY mistakes while abroad and learned that it isn't fatal). Plus, the fact that their Spanish is already good after a year abroad makes the native Spanish-speakers here interact with them with more confidence and in more complex interactions. This helps the students continue to challenge and improve their listening skills and spoken Spanish, and makes them even stronger Spanish speakers for when they eventually go to the high school classroom.
2. Culture. Although the Latina/o community in our town doesn't consist of many Spaniards, living in Spain for a year does give these students some insight into the cultural similarities that do exist between Spanish cultural and Latin American cultures. That cultural knowledge also aids their communication with native speakers here, and allows them to compare/contrast Spanish culture to the cultural issues they observe in our local Latino community. In the end, they can offer more and more complex cultural insights to their high school students.
3. Empathy. When you study abroad, everything that was easy for you here suddenly becomes harder there. You're a foreigner. You have an accent. You don't know the etiquette. You make the faux pas. So, after studying abroad (especially for an entire academic year), students are better able to understand the challenges that our Latina/o immigrants face--and their not just linguistic ones!--and see things from the other side. That improves the quality of their CBL work and of their reflections. These are all important things that they can pass on to their high school Spanish students.
4. Teacher Training. When these students do their CBL work in a classroom setting, they have even more opportunities to observe how experienced teachers manage their classroom and teach their subjects in Spanish. This simply broadens the spectrum of experiences that they can then bring to their own teaching. And when they do their CBL in a truly bilingual classroom, they are observing content-based teaching, and hopefully they can teach that exact same content to their own second-language learners in high school. Or at the very least, they see how it works.
5. Other Benefits? If you teach Spanish now and did CBL work in high school or college, leave a comment here to let me know if you see other connections between Spanish CBL and teaching Spanish to second-language learners.
Congratulations to all three of these women for their professional accomplishments, their past CBL success, and their continued enthusiasm for the Spanish language and Hispanic/Latino cultures. (And if you have more pictures, send them! I'll post them here.)
Ann

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