Thursday, December 16, 2010

Student Reflection

by Allison Kutzki

Through working with the community, I have been able to extend my use of Spanish to something outside of the classroom, and upon reflection of my experiences thus far, I have been able to solidify my reasons for being a Spanish major. This thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to return to my high school and I spent a few hours in one of my old Spanish teachers’ classroom. He asked me to speak with his honors students about my experiences at the University of Illinois with Spanish and why high school students should continue to take Spanish in college. The night before I went, I was laying in my bed and I was forced to articulate to myself what I would have like to have known if I were a high school senior deciding what classes I wanted to take my first semester in college. Although I was fortunate enough to attend a rather affluent high school, one thing that it lacks is the diversity that actually exists outside of the school. I think that many students are left with the false impression that Spanish is not needed. In each class I asked students who was planning to take Spanish in college. To my surprise, less than half responded that they wanted to take it. In that moment, I realized that I needed to somehow convey my passion for the language, and the rewarding and useful experiences that it has given me.

Consequently, I found myself talking not so much about the experiences that I have had with my college Spanish courses, but rather about the practical ones that I have had with the language outside of the classroom and in the community. I explained to them first and foremost that they are honors students and that it would be a waste of their skill if they did not pursue at least a minor in the language. Secondly, I tried to express just how much the language has come to mean to me, and what a large part of my life it has truly become. I discussed the experiences that I have had with tutoring and translating for Spanish speakers and how rewarding that was. I put a large emphasis on my experience translating at parent teacher conferences. I told them that the role that I played in the lives of those families was crucial, not only in the moment, but also in the long run to the success of the student in their education. It was after explaining these things to the students that they began to take an interest in what I was saying. Many students asked me questions about what it was like working with native speakers, fluency, and the classes that prepare you for such work. I could tell that I had actually convinced many of them that taking Spanish in college was not just an option, but it was a necessity. I think many of them feel as though taking Spanish in high school is something that they had done so they would not have to take it in college. However, when I asked them why they were taking it, many of them responded that they actually enjoyed the language, but yet were not sure about their college plans.

Like these high school students, I took Spanish merely because it came easily to me and it was fun. I always liked my classes and I thought if I take it all four years then I will not have to in college and it will leave more room in my schedule. As a freshman, I decided that maybe having a minor in Spanish would be a good idea, so I continued to take classes. After a year in college, and being around a more diverse population, I realized the potential that the ability to speak another language had. I continued to pursue my interest for the language, and it has evolved into a passion. Something I have realized through the reflection that I have done this semester is how much insight looking back and evaluating your experiences can give you. Going back to my high school and talking to students whose shoes I used to stand in, has shined a new light on where I am today; and has also helped to reinforce the life decisions I have made in the past three years. It has made me so thankful and confident in my career choice and excited to one day in the near future, have students of my own whom I can pass on my knowledge and passion.

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