Friday, April 30, 2010

Champaign-Urbana: May Day Immigration Reform Rally

by Ann Abbott
photo by by Armand Emamdjomeh from a New America Media blog post.

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 1, 2010) at 11:00 am there will be a rally at the County Courthouse in downtown Urbana to Protest SB1070. Inform yourself.  Read the press release about the rally,  become a fan of the IDream Coalition on Facebook, subscribe to the IDream-Illinois blog, and visit the website of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to view information about immigrants' rights in Illinois and volunteer opportunities.

UIUC Spanish community service-learning students (SPAN 232 & 332): you can attend the rally and count those hours towards your 28 hours of required service learning work by following these instructions.
  1. Attend the rally.  Arrive on time.  You can observe or participate; it's up to you.
  2. Take a picture of yourself at the rally.  (This is the only way for me to confirm you attended.)
  3. Send me an e-mail at with your photograph attached, the number of hours you attended the rally and a few sentences describing what you learned at the rally.
  4. Post your hours on the wiki.
  5. By getting your CSL hours in this way, you are agreeing to allow me to post your picture and description on this blog.

Student Reflection

by Andrew Piotrowski

Immigration Reform

“In the world of ‘Kid-dom’, the mind switches gears rapidly” was one of my favorite quotes from the classic Christmas movie, “A Christmas Story”. Although in different fashion than Ralphie’s troubles with bullies to impatiently expecting to arrive in the mail, I think that the quote also applies to how our political agenda works, as well. The landmark healthcare reform that was so avidly discussed in the media by politicians and pundits alike has enjoyed its time in the spotlight, but since its passage it has been quickly left behind. Next on the agenda is, of course, comprehensive immigration reform. The Obama administration should consider itself fortunate to have a catalyst for thrusting this new issue into the public discourse. The catalyst came in the form of a new immigration law in Arizona, which officially made undocumented migration a state crime, in addition to the federal offenses already in place. It also expanded upon a previously implemented strategy, called the 287 (g) program by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program, which originally called for the federal training of certain state and local law enforcement officials to carry out federal immigration law, has been expanded to encompass law enforcement agencies State-wide as enforcers of immigration law, as well.

However, the part of this legislation that has drawn the most attention has been the provision that anyone suspected of being in the country without the proper documentation can be stopped, searched, and taken into custody if found without proper documentation. Not only does this provision entail that all immigrants carry their papers with them solely for protection from those who have taken an oath to protect us, but also allows for racial profiling to play a huge part in law enforcement, and for that profiling to be given a thumbs up by the state legislation. My prediction is this: 0% of people stopped on the street will be Caucasian, because they will not be suspected. Only members of the Latino community will cause suspicion amongst police officers as to their status residing in the country. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has long been a thorn in the side of those fighting for equality and fair treatment of Latinos in Arizona, and has repeatedly stood by his fight to deport as many immigrants as possible. This new measure only adds fuel to his already out-of-control fire, and promotes a strong sense of nativism, which is the belief that “our” land should not be used by “outsiders”, or those who don’t belong here. As misguided of a belief as this is, it still profoundly affects what should be the least biased area of our justice system, but so very often becomes the most biased. We will be teaching future generations that Latino immigrants as a whole do not belong here, because there is no way to distinguish between a documented and an undocumented worker except on paper.

Thankfully, we can hope that the Latino community has a friend who currently resides in the highest office in the country right now. The Obama administration has since condemned the new law in Arizona, and has promised to put in place federal legislation which would nullify those laws of the state. If bills such as the DREAM act and other immigration reform pass later this year, it will affect the lives of so many immigrants in Champaign-Urbana, Arizona, and throughout all parts of the country. It will serve to further unite the nation by bringing together all people who call this country home, and stop the discriminatory practices that only serve to further alienate us from our fellow human beings.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Community Partner Spotlight: Central High School

by Kirsten Hope 

I went to Central High School this morning, and I had such a good time! So far, I’ve had really great experiences visiting all the places of service, but Central has been the most fun.  When I got there, our student Jennifer Richardson was working with an ESL student on American History.  The high school student wasn’t Spanish-speaking, but Jennifer did an amazing job helping her even though she didn’t know her native language.  During my visit, there were a few other students who came in for help, all of whom were ESL learners, but whose linguistic backgrounds were not Spanish.  It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to see any Spanish-speaking going on, but that is one of the caveats we tell students to keep in mind at the beginning of the semester.  In addition to observing the tutoring going on, I also got to participate in some tutoring!! I helped one of the first students to come in on a few questions, and then worked through two pages of American History worksheets with Dini, a student from Albania.  Not only did I learn that I need to refresh my knowledge of US History, but I experienced first-hand the enjoyment both students and tutors can have from developing a relationship.

Going to Central follows nicely from my visit to Leal earlier this week, because I again saw the value that a relationship between students can have.  In Leal, I observed this relationship from afar, but through actually tutoring for 30 minutes, I got to experience what it’s like to work with a student and get to know him or her.  This experience definitely made me remember how much I like working with high school students, and, again, emphasized the importance of the service our students provide.  My class and I actually discussed this important relationship today, and they had some really great insights into the tutor-tutee relationship, disclosing that they see first hand how these students need role models in their lives.  I think that having an older peer as a role model is invaluable for younger students, and Central not only reaffirmed this fact, but also showed me how younger students can also have an impact on us!  I never think about the effect that younger students can have, but I must admit that I left Central with some new ideas about ESL students and getting to know others.  So, even though our students may not be using Spanish on a consistent basis, they nevertheless help high school students who may struggle with English as a Second Language and form these mutually beneficial relationships with them!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Community Partner Spotlight: Leal Elementary School

by Kirsten Hope
I went to Leal Elementary School yesterday to visit some of our students who work with bilingual children there.  Finally, I found the experience that I was expecting when going into a school! Leal is everything I expect when I hear "bilingual education."  I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time in each classroom (I visited three), but every class had different things going on, and it was really interesting to see our volunteers working on different projects with the students.  In the first classroom I visited, our student Jill Novak was in the hall reading Charlotte's Web in Spanish with three chicas.  Actually, the girls took turns reading while Jill moderated them.  At the end of each chapter, she asked the girls to summarize what they had just read, and occasionally asked them to make predictions about what would happen next.  The girls told me that they really liked the story and enjoyed the reading.  In the second classroom, I met Dave Barron, who was working with three chicos on writing letters.  Like Jill, Dave guided the students through the steps of writing a letter and helped them to sound out words that they didn't know.  The students seemed to really like having a university student there helping them, and constantly wanted his attention! They told stories or started tangents just so that they could interact with him (or so it seemed)!  Finally, I visited Liz Sorokin in grade 5.  She was also out in the hall with some students.  In this particular class, they were working on spelling in English.  The students had a list of about ten words, and Liz helped them spell them, and then write a sentence using the word.  She was really great at helping them construct their own sentence that used the words in a meaningful way- some of the words were hard for 5th graders too!  Her students commented that Liz was a great tutor and they liked having her help with their school work.

I unfortunately didn't get to talk to our students very much, as they all had their hands full of students!  I did, however, see how important our students are to the elementary and middle-school students.  I think that having successful and intelligent role models in their lives really makes the younger students realize the importance of education.  Of course they have their teachers as successful role models as well, but I think that our students' statuses as students helps the younger ones to relate to them more.  In every group I observed I could see how the Leal students really admired the university students.  Even though they may act out or not seem to pay attention, I think that they really value having personal attention from an older peer.  While I'm sure that this is true for all the schools in our program, it became especially evident to me when I visited Leal.  I cannot overstate the importance of these relationships in the lives of students.  Having a successful role model is something that every student should have, and not only are our students successful in their academics, but they speak the native language of the Leal students with whom the work.  Personally, I think that our students communicating with them in Spanish places a high value on their native language and shows them that speaking two languages will really advance you in this society.  Whether or not the Leal students realize this now, the message is there and our students are responsible for teaching this lesson through their actions and relationships.  They did a great job working with the students, and I hope that they realize the impact they are having on the lives of their younger peers!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Student Spotlight: Toni Funk

by Ann Abbott

Toni Funk is a student in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course this semester.  She recently presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium; search the pdf file for "Funk" and you will find her abstract under PA.21.  This is what Toni wrote about her research:

"My research is about the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Corporate Social Responsibility. The OECD is an intergovernmental organization that has a set of guidelines created to promote CSR  to Multinational Enterprises from OECD countries while they are operating within and outside of their country. I did most of my reserach from the perspective of the environment and compared the guidelines with the environmental international voluntary initiatives that had come before it. It's really very interesting. If you want to check out more about the OECD Guidelines feel free to go to to find out more info!"

I asked Toni a few more questions:

Question: For what course you did the research?
Answer:  I started the research while studying abroad in Argentina (Spring 2009) through the Human Rights track of the Butler Program, then in the fall, I submitted my intent to pursue distinction with the International Studies department. I then enrolled in GLBL 494 (Fall 2009), which is a methodologies course for research while simultaneously enrolling in independent study with one of my Geography Professors. This past semester (Spring 2010) I continued with my independent study and took the complimentary course GLBL 495, an 8-week research wrap-up course. Most of what I researched was independently and with the help of my GLBL advisors and academic mentors.

Question: What your plans are for after you graduate next month?
Answer: I was lucky enough to have a few job offers given to me this semester, including an opportunity to work for Teach for America in the Milwaukee Corps.; however, I chose to work as an Executive Team Leader for Target, starting in the Fall. It is one of the more responsible and ethical corporations in the United States and I am so excited about the opportunity of beginning my career with them.

Students, I hope that Toni's experiences with study abroad, undergraduate research and choosing a career will inspire you to think carefully about how you can maximize your study-abroad experience and to research something that you are passionate about.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Job Announcement

I received this forwarded message. If you are a native English speaker and translate, consider applying.

Dear ATA Translators:

I am seeking to hire a full-time Spanish-English Quality Manager. Quality Managers proofread/edit translation projects for clients. If you're interested please feel free to reach out to me, and attach a copy of your resume, along with salary requirements.

This position would be based in New York, however, we are open to having people work from one of our other offices where we are set up to do business in the United States. Feel free to review our website at to gain a better understanding of our services and to see our locations.

Or if you happen to know someone who might be a good fit please feel free to pass along my information.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Please note: You must be a native English speaker in order to be considered for this position.
Ania Przechodzka
Senior Recruiter
3 Park Avenue, 39th Floor
New York, NY 10016
t +1 212.689.5555 | f +1 646.619.4372 |
Careers at TransPerfect
The Leading Provider of Language and Global Business Services

Student Spotlight: Jill Rollinger

by Ann Abbott

Jill Rollinger was a student in my Business Spanish class during the fall semester of 2009.  She stood out because of her high level of Spanish fluency, really good accent (she studied in Spain), and her critical thinking.  Jill kept me on my toes because I knew she expected a lot from whomever was teaching her!

Because it was a Business Spanish course, we talked often about students' career plans.  Many of my students were also seniors so they were interviewing for jobs and grad school.

Jill studied engineering and Spanish, and here is a note about her career plans:

"I took a job with the Nielsen Company and will be working in Tampa, Fl come summer. I am very excited, and though I'm not sure how yet, I know that my Spanish will come in handy. I also got an offer from Accenture, who I did my final project on, but decided that the consulting lifestyle may not be what I would like to do long term."

Another thing I remember vividly about Jill is that she once mentioned in class that her father is a pilot.  Another student in the class was studying aviation, and I suggested that he consider networking with Jill's father for his own learning and career.  I don't know if he did, but I would just like to encourage Spanish students to think seriously about the importance of networking.  Spanish classes are usually small and require students to do a lot of small group work.  This means that you can really get to know your classmates, form friendships and stay in contact even after the class ends.  That is what networking is--making real connections and fostering them.

And don't be afraid to use this blog for networking.  Search this blog for "Student Spotlight" and you will find former students of mine who have gone on to having interesting careers.  Look them up.  Contact them.  Say, "I saw you on Prof. Abbott's blog, and I am interested in your..."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to Write a Good Personal Statement about Your Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

I have blogged about Megan Knight here before, and she posted a series of reflections last semester when she was a student in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" class. Now Megan is graduating and deciding what she wants to do when she is no longer a student.

Among her many options, Megan is applying to Chile's English Opens Doors program.  (A few years ago I blogged about a former student who was working in that program.) Megan asked me to read her cover letter, which I happily did. She had answered all the questions she was supposed to.  She had all the qualifications.  She had participated in several very unique programs on campus that gave her teaching and leadership experience.  Yet there was no spark to the letter.  Megan and all her truly wonderful talents and achievements didn't jump off the page.

If I remember correctly, I told Megan to start with a bang--a vivid anecdote, an important piece of information about herself, anything that would make the reader sit up and take notice.  I think I also told her to try to convey not just what she has done during her college years, but also to explain what that all means to the person reading her application--how those experiences have given her the skills needed for this specific program.  Finally, I think I told her not to just name the places she has worked, but describe them, because the reader won't know what Child Care Resource Center is (for example).

I felt bad.  Megan is such a good student and good writer, and I was afraid she might have left disheartened, even though she said she wasn't.

I shouldn't have worried.  Megan sent me another draft, and this time her words really paint a picture of an experienced, enthusiastic, smart, self-starter--exactly the kind of person anyone would want to work for them. She agreed to let me post her letter here, not to copy, but to show how even the best students need to work to make themselves shine on paper.  She has to shave off some words, but that's all.  Thanks, Megan.

"The statement of purpose should be between 500 and 750 words and include the following points:
  1. Personal information. Describe your academic, professional and personal background and explain how they make you a good candidate for the volunteer program in the location you would like to be placed.
  2. Cross-cultural experience. Describe your history of cross-cultural experiences and your general ability to adapt and adjust to new situations.
  3. Teaching experience. Describe any relevant teaching experience you have to make you a successful volunteer for the program. If you do not have teaching experience, describe how your professional, volunteer or personal experiences can contribute to being an effective English language teaching assistant.
  4. Additional information. Include any supplemental information or details about yourself that are relevant in considering your application to the volunteer program in the location you would like to be placed.
  5. You may choose to write in either English or Spanish.
"As I was putting on my nametag in the school office, a woman walked in, approached the secretary hesitantly and inquired, “Espanich?” to which the secretary replied, “Spanish? Oh no, I don’t speak that but I think the other secretary knows a little and she should be back soon.”  The woman stood there with a look of confusion on her face, and I thought to myself, “I know Spanish; I should translate for her.”  But then I thought, “What if my Spanish isn’t good enough?” Quickly I came to my senses and said to her, “Hablo español.” She looked at me first with disbelief, but then I could see a wave of relief wash over her. She told me she was there to pick up her son because he had a dentist appointment. I translated between her and the secretary, and soon the secretary went to get him. The woman turned to me with the most appreciative look I have ever seen and exclaimed, “¡Muchas gracias!” to which I relied, “De nada,” and I left the office thinking that was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

"As a graduating senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, double majoring in Spanish and Psychology, I have gained many valuable experiences that have prepared me for teaching English in Chile. One such experience was a community-based learning class that allowed me to volunteer as a Spanish tutor at Leal Elementary School, acquiring valuable teaching experience while spending my time helping first and fifth graders with their reading comprehension skills.  The first graders read me stories in Spanish, and I helped them with words they were unfamiliar with and asked them questions about the main themes of each story.  I would also time how quickly they could read each story and monitor their progress over the weeks. In the fifth grade classroom, I worked with bigger groups of students and helped keep them focused and on task. I was able to have conversations with them and get to know them on a more personal level. By volunteering I became more comfortable interacting with children in school settings.

"In the spring of 2008, my first cross-cultural experience took place as I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile for five months. I lived with an amazing host family with whom I still keep in touch, and I quickly adapted to my new surroundings. I experienced life as a college student in Santiago while attending classes at the Universidad de Chile, and I loved every minute of it. I mastered the metro lines and bus routes and felt comfortable and confident that I was capable of traveling throughout the city. While Santiago was fun and exciting with such an enormous population, I also enjoyed the time I spent in smaller cities, such as La Serena, Coquimbo, and Valparaíso. I loved the culture and climate of each place, and I would be comfortable living and working in any of them. Ever since I left Chile, I have eagerly been awaiting an opportunity to return!

"As part of my professional experience, last summer I had a two-month internship at Child Care Resource Service, a social agency that helps low-income families pay for childcare. Because many of their clients are Latinos, and some speak very limited English, I worked as an interpreter and a translator helping these clients fill out forms, find Spanish-speaking childcare providers, and communicate with their English-speaking caseworkers. None of this would have been possible without having someone to translate from Spanish to English for them. I learned the importance of being bilingual and knowing English in the world today, and that is why the Languages Opens Doors program interests me so much. It is so valuable to be able to communicate in English, and I would work passionately to ensure that my students would have that opportunity.

"An academic experience I have had that involves working with children is a yearlong internship course I am currently enrolled in as part of my Psychology curricula. The Child Abuse Prevention Education internship focuses on preventing child abuse in schools, and it has given me direct contact with elementary students in Champaign County. We visit different classrooms and perform skits for the children about strangers and bullying and then we talk with them one on one afterwards about any problems or experiences they have had in the past that have bothered them. Through this experience I have learned teaching is not just about academics, but socialization as well, and I have also learned how to handle serious situations involving children.

"My background in Psychology and Spanish makes me an ideal candidate for the Languages Opens Doors program. I have a genuine desire to empower people and help them be all they can be, and I have a bona fide interest in Chilean culture.  With my experience working with children, my advanced Spanish skills, and my native English fluency, I feel that I am fully capable of helping Chilean students enhance their English capabilities."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Are You a Highly Effective Teacher?

by Ann Abbott

The latest issue of "Kappan" lists some of Steven Farr's findings about successful Teach for America teachers (from his book, Teaching as Leadership).  Although we're not all facing the same challenges at Teach for America teachers, it seems to me that many of the characteristics he lists are true for any teacher.

However, I also feel like some of the characteristics (the last one in particular) can contribute to the already troubling "Mommy-fication" of language instructors.  (Elena Lanza from Northwestern talked to me about "Mommy-fication" at a recent symposium we both attended, and I was immediately struck by how she put a name to something that so many of us have felt.)

What do you think of these characteristics?  What characteristics do you resist? Do you think the characteristics of effective community service learning teachers would be different? Leave a comment!

  • Set big goals informed by an ambitious and inspiring vision of where their students will be academically at the end of the year.
  • Invest students in owning those big goals and recruit families and other influencers to convince students that they can achieve those goals.
  • Plan purposefully be working backward from the desired learning outcome.
  • Ensure that the details of their everydady work are focused on helping students achieve their learning goal. For exmaple, successful TFA teachers check constantly for understanding by using methods that allow them to see if all students get it (dry-erase boards, popsicle sticks, clickers, exit tickets, etc.)--and follow up if some don't.
  • Reevaluate constantly what they do, looking for ways to improve their teaching and reorganizing their classrooms and approaches.
  • Assume personal responsibility for improving student learning, even if it means going far beyond traditional expectations.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Student Reflection

by Andrew Piotrowski
One notion frequently thrown around to describe our country is that of “freedom”.  Ask any citizen with even the slightest sense of nationalism what makes this the greatest country on the face of the Earth, and he/she will inevitably reply “because you have the freedom to do what you want”.  Private industry is considered the hallmark of freedom, and attempts to reform the private industry are met with fierce rhetoric about the slippery slope towards socialism and an infringement on our constitutional rights.  The equate state-run enterprises with long lines, lack of understanding/caring, and decreased quality in the finished good or service.  However, my experiences this past Tuesday in ECIRMAC have taught me a little different idea of what freedom means to some.

As I arrived to take my hour-long volunteer shift at the center, I was met by two Guatamalan men, who needed to speak with me about a dispute they were having with Ameren, one of the largest corporate-owned utilities companies in the nation. The occurring situation was that one gentleman’s roommate was moving out, and he was going to take his name off of the utilities payments, as it was he who had been previously paying for them.  This gentleman had the simple request of changing the name on the billing statement to his own name, so that he could continue making the payments himself.  After talking to a representative from Ameren, he claims that they told him to send in a copy of official documentation which he had in the form of an ID card from the Guatamalan consulate, as well as a Guatamalan passport.  He was assured by the representative that these forms of ID would be sufficient.  After repeated attempts to fax over copies of the documents, as requested, he was finally able to get a response from the company.  Unfortunately for him, the representative who handled his fax information told him that these were not valid forms of ID.  To me, not allowing someone with a job and a home to purchase electricity from a non-governmental company seems absurd.  However, the message sent from corporate Ameren is this: In the Land of the Free, we choose who can turn their lights and water on and who cannot.   Because there is no other competition for utilities companies here in Champaign-Urbana, this Guatamalan man, who has resided here for the past five years, is now facing the possibility of losing electric power and water in his household because the company would rather discriminate against its potential clients than take its money.

I attempted to contact Ameren personally on behalf of this gentleman, but to no avail.  Another problem with being the ONLY utilities company is that everyone must call you for their utilities problems.  For the entire hour I was at the center, the phone lines were experiencing too high of a call volume for us to even talk to someone.  As I left the center that day, I could not help but feel depressed at the fact that this gentlemen may get his power shut off if nobody is paying, and that if he eventually gives up in his attempt to battle a major utilities conglomerate over the ability to provide himself with electricity and water, he may eventually lose this battle forever.

Moving from Volunteerism to Social Justice

by Ann Abbott

Spanish instructors always face a classroom with students of varying levels of Spanish proficiency. It's a difficult challenge, but one we are used to.  In a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course, I have recently realized that we face a classroom of students with varying levels of politicization and social engagement.  That's not necessarily a more difficult challenge, but it is one that I think fewer of us have thought about and how it our teaching should meet that challenge.

I have posted before about class activities that can help students distinguish between volunteerism and engaged citizenship--speaking at a School Board budget meeting and writing to our elected officials--, and Actividad 18-2 in Comunidades asks students to categorize various responses to social problems as charity, volunteerism or activism.

Now that we're towards the end of the semester, you might consider trying this simple yet challenging activity with your CSL students:

  1. Social injustice. Each student writes down a specific example of a social injustice that he/she has observed or learned about through his/her CSL work this semester.  Example: The grade school that I attended was in an affluent community. We had nice facilities, plenty of materials, fewer kids in each class and more after-school activities. When I go to work at this school, I see that there are leaks in the ceilings and peeling walls, there are few computers in the library and if I weren't in the classroom, one adult would be responsible for a class of 30 students.
  2. Socio-political issues. Pass your example to a classmate.  Your classmate reads the specific example and names a larger socio-political issue that it is connected to. Example: Inequities in education. Education tied to property taxes. 
  3. Social justice. Pass the paper to another classmate.  Your classmate reads items #1 and #2 and then writes at least one way that our society could work to achieve social justice on this issue.  Example: Implement a different or diversified funding source for all schools. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Would Your Spanish Students Like to Ask Their Community Partners?

by Ann Abbott

Now that we are in the final weeks of the semester, we are looking back on our experiences with Spanish community service learning (CSL) and drawing some conclusions. Lección 19 in Comunidades is about reflection: what role does it play in our everyday lives, why is it important in a Spanish CSL class and what do your reflective essays reveal about your learning over the semester?

One activity in particular (Actividad 19-2, Paso 2 on page 127) asks students what they would like to ask their community partners about their interactions with our Spanish CSL students this semester.

This is what my students would like to ask:
  • ¿Te gusta la ayuda de los estudiantes?- Do you like the students´ help?
  • ¿Prefieres una persona con más experiencia? - Would you prefer someone with more experience?
  • Desde tu perspectiva, ¿cómo he afectado yo a los miembros de la comunidad directamente? - How do you think I have helped the community members directly?
  • ¿Qué puedo hacer para mejorar mi trabajo en la comunidad? - What can I do to improve my work in the community?
  • ¿Piensas que es una experiencia buena trabajar con los estudiantes de nuestra clase? - Do you think it is good experience to work with students from our class?
  • ¿Reconocen los estudiantes las diferencias culturales que tienes? - Do students recognize your cultural differences? [I believe this is referring to the notion of providing culturally appropriate services.]
  • A fin de cuentas, ¿estás satisfecho con el trabajo de los estudiantes? - In the end, are you satisfied with the students´ work?
  • ¿Te incomoda revelar información privada a personas que no conoces? - Is it uncomfortable to give private information to people you don´t know [the Spanish CSL students]?
  • [For a school] ¿Cómo se sienten los padres cuando ven a los estudiantes de la universidad trabajando con sus hijos? - What do the parents think when they see their kids working with university students?
  • ¿Crees que nuestro trabajo ha ayudado a los estudiantes? - Do you think our work has helped the students?
We often wonder what our students are thinking.  All we have to do is ask!  I will follow up with our community partners and ask them if they can answer any of these questions for our students.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Classroom Activity to Practice Large Numbers in Spanish

What number is written here?
by Ann Abbott

I have blogged here before about how important it is that our Spanish community service learning students know how to say and understand numbers in Spanish.  The problem is, we and they think that they already know how to do that.  But when they have to use large numbers or strings of numbers for a specific purpose--getting down a telephone number, address, ITIN number, etc.--and it is very important that they get it right, students really need additional practice in our classes.

Several years ago, José Miguel Lemus was a TA for "Spanish in the Community" and helped me immensely with the administration of the course and the communication with students and community partners.  Now he is at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Here is an activity about numbers that he suggested, and that I will definitely use in my class when I teach it again:

"En cuanto a los números, he utilizado una dinámica que también me funciona. Hago dos juegos de tarjetas
con números del cero al nueve. Cada estudiante de cada equipo recibe una o más tarjetas, dependiendo del número de estudiantes de la clase. Los estudiantes se ponen de pie y se agrupan para facilitar la velocidad de su respuesta. El profesor dice un número de una lista previamente elaborada (en la que me he asegurado que todos los dígitos serán utilizados por lo menos una vez) y los estudiantes tienen que formar frente al profesor el número indicado. Si por ejemplo el profesor dice “-número ciento cincuenta y nueve”, los estudiantes que tengan las tarjetas con los números 1, 5 y 9, deben formar en orden dicho número y presentarlo ante el profesor. El primer equipo en mostrar correctamente el número indicado, gana un punto. Se repite el ejercicio en número de veces necesario para que todos participen."
Just to check: What is the number written on the sticky note above? 78.00 or 18.00?  (How we write and interpret numbers is also culturally determined.)  Leave your answer in a comment below!

Common Errors in Students' Spanish

by Ann Abbott

In my previous post I shared what motivates my Spanish community service learning (CSL) students when they choose the prompt they will reflect upon in their essays.

Here I'd like to mention some of the common errors in the Spanish they used to tell me their answers.  Learning a second language takes a long time and is very unpredictable.  When will a person learn to use the subjunctive?  What kind of subjunctive?  Does direct correction help or should we recast our students errors? I certainly remember the exact moment when someone in Spain told me, "It's 'gracias por,' not 'gracias para.'" And I don't think I ever made that mistake again. Yet how many student compositions have I corrected and students continue making the exact same errors--not because they're lazy, but because it just hasn't clicked.

I asked students "¿Cómo escoges el tema de tus ensayos de reflexión?" Here are some mistakes students made.
  • Escojo. Many students forgot (if they ever knew?) to change the "g" to a "j."
  • El tema. Many students used "la" instead of "el." This is so hard. Same as "el problema."
  • Después de leer.  In English we would use the gerund (After reading all the prompts...), but in Spanish you need the infinitive. Many students used the gerund in Spanish instead.
  • Never end a sentence with a preposition. We´re not supposed to in English, but we do. In Spanish, you just cannot do that. So a sentence that in English would be ¨I choose the topic that I have the most to say something about¨ would be ¨Escojo el tema sobre el que tengo más que decir.¨
I have smart, engaged and responsible students. Even when they work in the community with native speakers,  expressing themselves correctly in a second language takes a lot of effort and attention.  And our expectations have to be reasonable.

Monday, April 19, 2010

UIUC: Grad Course on Local Policy and Immigration

by Ann Abbott 

If I were a graduate student, I would take this course by Prof. Stacy Harwood.  If you're not a graduate student, look at the reading list--it can give you lots of ideas and resources for your own approaches to teaching and research about Spanish community service learning.

"UP535 / Local Policy and Immigration

Fall Semester, Wed 5 to 7:50pm, CRN: 55971 / 4 hours

Instructor: Associate Professor Stacy Harwood
Department of Urban & Regional Planning

Explores major issues confronting urban planners working in highly diverse communities that are undergoing rapid demographic, economic, social, and cultural change. Focuses specifically on planning and policy making in communities with large numbers of immigrants, particularly in cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Europe. Weather permitting we will take a field trip to either Chicago or St Louis and explore the local CU community as well. Topics: National versus local impacts of immigration, “Browning of the Midwest”: who, where and what are immigrants doing?, Impacts on urban form and function: variations in the use of work, home and neighborhood space, Ethnic enclaves: neighborhood revitalization and economic development, Local politics around living and work conditions of immigrants, Anti-immigrant legislation at the local and state level, Immigrant-friendly cities – local policies and social movements, Community participation in multicultural and transnational communities

If you are interested in this course, please tell me what you would like to learn about. While I have a set of course topics above, I am more than happy to incorporate topics/reading that fit with your interests!

Kahane, Adam. 2004. Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Waters, Mary C. 2002. Chapter 1: The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity: Some Examples from Demography. In American Diversity: A Demographic Challenge for the Twenty-first Century, edited by Nancy A. Denton and Stewart E. Tolnay, New York: State University of New York Press.
Laguerre, Michel. 1999.  Minoritized Space: An Inquiry into the Spatial Order of Things. Introduction, Chapters 1, 6, Conclusion. Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies Press.

Changing Landscapes
Hossain, Farhana. 2007. Snapshot: Global Migration. New York Times, June 22.
Johnston, Keneth. Demographic Trends in Rural and Small Town America. Durham, New Hampshire: Carsey Institute: University of New Hampshire.
Lollock, Lisa. 2001. The Foreign-Born Population in the United States. Current Population Reports, P20-534. Washington DC: US Census Bureau.
Singer, Audrey, Susan Hardwick and Caroline Brettell. 2008. Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant in Suburban America. Feature Story on the Migration Policy Institute Website, April 30

Immigration, Diversity and Planning
Fainstein, Susan. 2005. Cities and Diversity: Should We Want It? Can We Plan for It? Urban Affairs Review, 41 (1): 3-19.
Lowen, James. 2006. Chapter 4: Sundown Towns. In Poverty and Race in America: The Emerging Agendas, edited by Chester Hartman. Lanham: Lexington Books).
Thompson, Susan. 2000. Chapter 13: Diversity, Difference and the Multilayered City. In Urban Planning in a Changing World, edited by Robert Freestone, London: E & FN Spon.
Sanderock, Leonie. 2003. Planning in the Ethno-culturally Diverse City: A Comment. Planning Theory & Practice, 4 (3): 319-323.

Regulating Immigrants at the Local and State Levels
Bollens, Scott. 2006. Urban planning and peace building. Progress in Planning, 66: 67-139.
Laglagaron, Laureen, Cristia Rodriguez, Alea Silver, Sirithon Thanasombat. 2008. Regulating Immigrants at the State Level: Highlights from the Database of 2007 State Immigration Legislation and the Methodology. Washington DC: Migration Policy Institute. 
MALDEF. 2008. Tool Kit for Anti-Immigrant Ordinances. Washington DC: Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. 
Singer, Audrey. 2007. “The Impact of Immigration on States and Localities” Congressional Testimony of Presented Before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. House Judiciary Committee U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, May 17.
FILM: The Pinky Show. How to Solve Illegal Immigration -

Regulating Difference via Land Use Legislation
Ameyaw, Stephen. 2000. Appreciative Planning: An Approach to Planning with Diverse Ethnic and Cultural Groups. In Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society, edited by Michael A. Burayidi. Westport: Praeger.
Burayidi, Michael A. 2003. The Multicultural City as Planners’ Enigma. Planning Theory & Practice, 4 (3): 259–273.
Harwood, Stacy Anne. 2005. Struggling to embrace difference in land-use decision making in multi-cultural communities. Planning, Practice and Research, 20 (4): 355-371.
Qadeer, M. A. 1997. Pluralistic planning for multicultural cities. Journal of the American Planning Association, 63(4), pp. 481-494 (Canada).
Roth, Benjamin J. 2008. Bajo el Mismo Techo, The Latino Community in Suburban Chicago: An Analysis of Overcrowded Housing. Chicago: Latinos United.
Valenzuela, Abel. 2003. Day labor Work. Annual Review Sociology, 29: 307-333.

Transnational Networks and Ethnic/Cultural Enclaves            
Betanur, John. 2002. The politics of gentrification. Urban Affairs, 37: 780-814.
Grey, Mark A. and Anne C. Woodrick. 2002. Unofficial Sister Cities: Meatpacking Labor Migration between Villachuato, Mexico, and Marshalltown, Iowa. Human Organization, 61 (4): 364-376.
Hall, Michal C. and Jan Rath.  2007. Chapter 1: Tourism, migration and Place Advantage in the global Cultural Economy In Tourism, Ethnic Diversity and the City edited by Jan Rath. New York: Routledge.
Mazumdar, Sajoy, Shampa Mazumdar, Faye Docuyanan and Colette Marie McLaughlin. 2000. Creating a Sense of Place: The Vietnamese-Americans and Little Saigon. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 20: 319-333.
Võ, Linda Trinh. 2004. Chapter 7: In Search of “Our” History and “Our” Community. In Mobilizing an Asian American Community by Linda Trinh Võ. Philadelphia: Temple University Press (San Diego).
FILM: The Sixth Section: A Documentary about Immigrants Organizing Across the Border

Considering Cultural Differences in Space and Places
Ellis, Geraint and Catharine McWhirter. 2008. Land-use Planning and Traveller-Gypsies: Towards Non-prejudicial Practice. Planning Practice and Research, 23 (1): 77-99.
Loukaitou-Sideris, Anastasia. 1995. Urban Form and Social Context: Cultural Differentiation in the Uses of Urban Parks. Journal of Planning Education and Research. 14: 89-102.
Mendez, Michael. 2005. Latino New Urbanism: Building on Cultural Preferences. Opolis, 1 (1): 33-48.
Yiftachel, O. 2006. Re-engaging Planning Theory: Towards ‘South-Eastern’ Perspectives. Planning Theory 5(3), pp. 211-222

Overcoming Barriers to Promote Dialogue and Collaboration
Chang, Hedy Nai-Lin, Nguyen Louis, Benjamin Murdock, Elena Pell and Ted Scott Femenella. 2000. Walking the Walk: Principles for Building Community Capacity for Equity and Diversity. Oakland: California Tomorrow.
Dovidio, John, Samuel L. Gaertner, Kerry Kawakami, Gordon Hodson. 2002. Why Can’t We Just Get Along? Interpersonal Biases and Interracial Distrust. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8 (2): 88-102.
Lawrence, Keith, Stacey Sutton, Anne Kubisch, Gretchen Susi and Karen Fulbright-Anderson. 2004. Structural Racism and Community Building. Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change. Washington, D.C.: The Aspen Institute.
Thompson, Chalmer E. and Helen A. Neville. 1999. Racism, Mental Health, and Mental Health Practice. The Counseling Psychologist, 27: 155-223.

Making Space for Difference: Roles for Planners and Planning
Forester, John. 2000. Chapter 10: Multicultural Planning in Deed: Lessons from the Mediation Practice of Shirley Solomon and Larry Sherman. In Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society, edited by Michael A. Burayidi. Westport: Praeger.
Miraftab, Faranak and McConnell, Eileen Diaz. 2008. Multiculturalizing Rural Towns — Insights for Inclusive Planning. International Planning Studies, 13 (4): 343-360.
Rahder, Barbara and Richard Milgrom. 2004. The Uncertain City: Making Space(s) for Difference. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 13 (1): 27-45.
Thompson, Susan. 2003. Planning and Multiculturalism: A Reflection on Australian Local Practice. Planning Theory & Practice, 4 (3): 275–293.
Umemoto, Karen. 2001. Walking in Another’s Shoes: Epistemological Challenges in Participatory Planning. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 21: 17-31.

 Community Organizing and Social Movements
 McCann, E. J. 2002. Space, Citizenship, and the Right to the City: A Brief Overview. GeoJournal, 58(2-3), 77.
Holston, James. 1995. Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship. Planning Theory, 13 (summer): 35-51.
Isin, Engin F. and Myer Siemiatycki. 1999. Fate and Faith: Claiming Urban Citizenship in Immigrant Toronto. Working Paper Series, No. 8. Toronto: Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement.
New Sanctuary Movement. 2008. Sanctuary, National Newsletter of the Sanctuary Movement, Issue #1 (Jan).
Tactaquin, Catherine. 2006. Chapter 50: Voting Rights for Immigrants. In From Poverty to Social Exclusion: Lessons from Europe. Poverty and Race in American: The Emerging Agendas, edited by Chester Hartman. Lanham: Lexington Books."

Building a Tagline for Your Social Enterprise

by Ann Abbott

In last week's "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" class, we began to talk about branding.  After looking at the website for Homeboys Industries, we talked about the use of logos, taglines, colors and fonts.  This week we'll continue talking about branding, specifically about clients' experience around your brand. (The book I use for the course, Enterprising Nonprofits, talks about branding on pages 239-244)

Students had to create a tagline for the organization where they do their community service learning.  The first versions were somewhat generic. The tagline for an after-school program for high-risk students, many of whom are Spanish-speakers who recently immigrated to the United States should not be a tag-line about education in general. That tagline could work for any school or any after-school program.  Build your tagline around what is unique about your organization, I told students.  There were some real gems among their second versions.

Educándolos en su idioma para un futuro brillante.

S.O.A.R. hacia tus sueños.
Empieza tu futuro con la tarea. (SOAR)
Después de la escuela, siempre estamos aprendiendo.
Desarrollando conocimientos a través de amistad.

Mejorando la red de comunicación.

Tu portal a los Estados Unidos.
Somos tu segunda familia.

Entender a otros es Central para el éxito.
La buena actitud hace la diferencia.

Donde los niños de la comunidad se juntan y aprenden.

How Do Service Learning Students Choose Their Reflection Topics?

by Ann Abbott

Each Lección in Comunidades has a corresponding reflection prompt at the Companion Website (you don't need a copy of the book to see its on-line resources).  My "Spanish in the Community" students write six reflections, one of them is a peer-review, and so they have to pick five reflection prompts from among the 23 that are included with the book.  I was expecting to read about lots of different topics.

Instead, I found that many of my students chose to write about the same topics.  During Unit 2, most students chose to reflect on ways in which they had experienced culture shocks similar to the one described in the prompt for Lección 6. And during our work in the last half of the semester, most students chose to respond to the prompt for Lección 11.

I was surprised by this, so I asked my students in class one day, ¨How do you choose the reflection prompts for your reflective essays?"  These were the answers:
  • Nearly all students said that they choose the prompts that they feel they will have the most to say something about.
  • They feel they will have the most to say about prompts that describe situations that they have personally experienced.
  • A few students (only a few) choose the prompts that coincide with their personal interests and passions (e.g., politics).
  • One very honest student revealed that he/she avoids the prompts for which you have to look up information (e.g., the prompts for Lección 14 about globalization and Lección 16 about StoryCorps.)
That is good information to know, especially because I find that I need to push my students more towards reflecting on specific things they are observing and learning in the community service learning work and less about topics in their own lives that aren´t closely linked to what they are doing in the community.  I will now go back and revise the prompts that don´t specifically and tightly link the topic to their work in the community.

What prompts have you used that provoked good student reflections?  Did you prepare any prompts that bombed?  Leave a comment with your experiences and suggestions!

Student Reflection

by Bridget Kern

With the end of the semester drawing near, now is a good time to reflect on my experiences working in the community. When the semester first began, I was nervous about my placement because I knew that I would be communicating with native Spanish speakers and I was worried that they would notice and judge my grammatical errors. The first time that I volunteered at Spanish Story Time, I felt a little awkward because there was no defined role for me and most of the people that attended the event didn’t know what to make of me. Even during this week’s Spanish Story Time, a parent was speaking Spanish with the course coordinator but when asking me for craft supplies spoke English. This was a very awkward situation because I didn’t know whether to answer in English or Spanish. Another difficulty I faced during the semester was trying to find ways to complete the 28 hour service requirement. Since I earned so few hours from Spanish Story Time, I ended up volunteering at parent teacher conferences at Central High School, as well as providing childcare at the School of Social Work. One benefit of working in a variety of locations is that I experienced different settings and utilized different vocabulary and grammar depending on the situation. For example, translating for parent teacher conferences was more formal, so I practiced using the Ud form of verbs, however, when babysitting at the School of Social Work I used more informal language such as commands and the tu form of verbs.

Towards the middle of the semester I began to feel more comfortable speaking Spanish at my placements. I gradually made a place for myself setting up the arts and crafts at Spanish Story Time. At the School of Social Work the more time I spent with the children the more accustomed they were to staying, playing and talking with me. I also began to feel more comfortable initiating conversations in Spanish. I learned that most people tend to appreciate the efforts I put into speaking Spanish and didn’t judge my errors. Even though at times communication was difficult or confusing, native speakers and I still found a way to get the main points of our conversations across. I also had the opportunity to practice speaking Spanish over the phone which was surprisingly more difficult than having a conversation face to face. Overall Spanish 232 taught me more than just how to speak Spanish. I learned: how to be persistent in trying to find community placements, how to interact with adults and children of different cultures, how to address people in Spanish over the phone, and a wide range of everyday vocabulary such as bus terms and arts and crafts terms. My feelings about Spanish Service Learning have changed from trepidation to enjoyment of the time that I spend at my placements because I have played an active role in providing services that better people’s lives.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Community Partner Spotlight: Clases de Catequismo

by Kirsten Hope and Ann Abbott

In this picture you see David Martinsek, a student in "Spanish in the Community" who works at St. John's Catholic Chapel with the students enrolled in the Catechism classes.  In this lesson, David taught the students the word for Peace in seven different languages.

Having a faith-based community partner brings a unique perspective to our Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses. Many religious organizations have held a primary role in fighting for the rights of immigrants, and for social justice in general.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Community Partner Profile: Nuestra Voz

by Kirsten Hope

Photo 1. Prof. Shumate and Allison revising the newsletter.
Photo 2. Claire and Laura editing an email.
Photo 3. Claire and Prof Shumate during the initial discussion.
I attended a part of a meeting of Nuestra Voz today, which is very different from the other service places we offer. Nuestra Voz is an organization which runs a website that connects a web of companies in Costa Rica, encouraging them to work with and for one another in an effort to support sustainable development in Costa Rica. This organization is unlike anything I have ever heard of before. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not very involved with economics or international relations, but this type of organization was completely new to me. The Nuestra Voz crew is very small, comprising four women: Professor Michelle Shumate (the coordinator), Allison Fournier, Claire Fry (both our students), and Laura (Spanish major and student volunteer). Together, these four women develop newsletters for the organization and follow-up with Costa Rican companies, whom Professor Shumate has already contacted about working with the website. Today, I saw Allison and Professor Shumate finalizing a newsletter, while Claire and Laura edited a follow-up email to send out to Costa Rican companies.

While I don't know much about sustainable development or business, visiting Nuestra Voz made me realize that these women are working to create a stronger web of communication between Costa Rican enterprises. In this way, sustainable development companies, which often struggle in obtaining the necessary resources, are more connected to other companies in their own country that could potentially provide them with the necessary resources. I think the efforts Nuestra Voz is making are truly remarkable in that they open lines of communication, which are imperative in this ever-globalizing world. Communication plays such a crucial role in our world, and actually is an important theme in this class, and this website represents an incredible first step in strengthening lines of communication between companies. I am really glad I had the opportunity to visit this group of women, and I was extremely impressed with the work they are doing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Community Partner Profile: SOAR

by Kirsten Hope

I visited the after-school SOAR program at Booker T. Washington today. I must admit that every time I think I know what to expect, these community partners surprise me. I majored in Spanish Education here at U of I, so I thought I knew what was coming with an after-school program. However, when I met Lila Moore and she began showing me around, I was shocked by the amount of students and tutors participating in this program. SOAR caters to every grade that BTW offers, and there are about 50 students participating in the program currently. In the lower grades, there is a high number of Spanish-speaking students (so most of our students work there), and, Lila said, beginning in third grade students begin the transition into English. I visited each grade level with Lila, and I saw not only our students working with students, but also students from other programs, such as Teacher Education.

The SOAR program gives students an opportunity to work on their homework in a personalized environment, where a university student helps them. According to Lila, each day begins with reading, where students must read at least 20 minutes. Then, they do some writing, usually for around 10 minutes. Due to the larger number of university students available to tutor, there is almost exactly a one-to-one ratio with the students, so every student gets quality, individual attention. Finally, the days end with some fun activity, which encourages the students to be social with one another and gives them the opportunity to have some fun after a hard day of work!

I was really lucky today in that I got to see two Spanish-speaking women from the U of I, who work in the Extension Program in ACES, read a story to some of younger children. The story was in both Spanish and English, and students were incredibly engaged in the story, responding in both languages, to questions that the women posed. This program gives students an invaluable opportunity for extra attention and help on their homework that they may not get at home. For example, Lila told me the story of one student who moved here with his family from a Latin American country last year. He and his family spoke no English, and his parents also don't read or write in English or Spanish, so he had a hard time getting help with his homework. SOAR gives him the extra academic support he needs to complete his homework and feel successful in school. Additionally, there is another child who used to have a very poor attendance record. However, after joining the SOAR program, that child consistently attended and stayed in school because the child loved working with the university students so much.

Obviously, this program serves more than just Spanish-speaking students; it reaches out to any student struggling in school and provides them a fun and engaging place to receive individual attention. The Spanish in the Community students provide an additional layer of support for these students in that they communicate with them in their native language. I think that being able to connect with these students and support them academically through Spanish provides them with an opportunity that many schools cannot extend to their Latino populations. SOAR really amazed me in its organization, outreach and commitment to BTW students.