Sunday, January 31, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Urbana High School (UHS) has had a large increase in the number of Spanish speaking students in the past few years - more Spanish speakers than all the other local high schools combined! Many of these students are struggling and parent contact is critical. However, most of their parents speak little or no English. UHS needs Spanish-speaking college students or other adults to make phone calls in early February to student homes (to help get parents signed up for conferences) and to help during Parent/Teacher Conferences (Thursday, Feb. 18 4-8pm and Friday, Feb. 19 8am-noon).
Interested people should contact: Christine Godoy firstname.lastname@example.org for details and to volunteer to help.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
by Ann Abbott
Look on the left column of this blog, scroll to find the poll titled "What type of posts most interest you?" and vote! If the answer you want isn't on the poll, leave a comment somewhere on the blog or send me an e-mail at email@example.com to tell me what you'd like to read here.
Currently, these are the top posts on this site:
- The vast majority of people come to the blog's home page, not a particular post, and they spend more than three minutes here. Actually, that's a lot of time, because many of those are repeat visitors.
- "What would Bill VanPatten Think about Spanish Community Service Learning?" I think people are interested in what Bill VanPatten would say about anything, but this suggests to me that people want to hear from well-known experts in Spanish.
- They search for the label "class activities." (Look to the left and scroll to find the "Search This Blog" box.) This function has a lot of repeat visitors. If I were coming to this blog, that would be good for me. Need something new and different to do with your students?: just visit, search, grab and go!
- "Student Spotlight: Frances Brady." In general, people like to read about the students and concrete examples of their experiences. Frances was featured recently, and her links to Chicago-land non-profits gives students some good leads.
- "Spanish Community Service Learning Bibliography." I'm really glad to see that this resource is being accessed often. I hope that people will refer to it often and leave a comment so that I can constantly update it with articles and books that I may miss.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
By this point in the semester, you've probably taught a few classes, your students know that they'll be working in the community, and maybe they have even had an orientation or work session in the community.
But do they know why they are working in the community? Do they know how it will help them learn Spanish? Do they know if it's actually more effective than the "easier" route of just sitting in a traditional class?
I've said it before: students need to know something about the pedagogy of community service learning (CSL) when they do it. When it's raining cats and dogs, and they have to walk to their community partner's building, they know what they really have to slosh through it. When you ask them to reflect upon what they have observed in the community, they will know that this isn't just about journaling, or getting in touch with your feelings; it's about tying together the classroom learning with their experiential learning. When you ask them to generate their personal vocabulary list based on interactions in the community, they'll understand that you're not a slacker; you simply couldn't have known what vocabulary they would need.
Comunidades has a Lección devoted to explaining the pedagogy of CSL to students and how it connects to the ways in which we learn a second language. In a previous post I offered another lesson plan for engaging students with the pedagogy. And I recently came across this new example of CSL:
- Coordinating a community run is service.
- Measuring body mass index is learning.
- Calculating the average BMI of a school, setting up a website to gather statistics, then organizing a "Walk Across Oklahoma" to help reduce obesity is service-learning.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Once again, Darcy Lear and I had a conversation today about how difficult it is for students to take accurate telephone messages in the community, yet students and other instructors seem to assume that teaching that in the classroom is "too simple."
If it were so simple, our community partners wouldn't complain when they get error-ridden telephone messages from our students.
I think it's so difficult for a variety of reasons, including these:
- In class, we expect students' listening comprehension to be at the macrolevel. They need to get the "gist" of our classes so that they can take good notes. They need to catch the over-arching themes in a movie we show them. They don't need to understand every word for that. To catch a phone number--you need to understand every single number. It's a very different task.
- On the telephone, there are no visual signals to accompany the aural input.
- In English, we tend to recite our phone numbers one number at a time. In Spanish, they usually don't. When your expectations aren't met, that's confusing.
- Think about how fast you say your own telephone number. If you're like me, you say it really fast. Because you have it memorized. It's something you don't even think about. That speed can be hard for our students to pick up on.
For extra practice, have your students do the "Numerales" listening exercises at this site. They can check their ability to understand telephone numbers using the "tests" on the site. But many of the audio clips have addresses, websites, and more. In class, you can pass out a telephone message slip, ask them to listen to selected clips, and have them take down a complete message. I think I'm pretty good, but these were challenging even for me!
Friday, January 22, 2010
The devastation and human suffering caused by the earthquake in Haiti has dominated the headlines these past ten days.
In addition to direct service and donations, how can we use our Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses to help?
First of all, I think it's important to just allow students to talk about it in class. What are their thoughts? Questions? Hopes?
Then, we can inform them about the country. Ask your students what they already know about Haiti. Are there Haitians in your community? You may consider adapting/translating all or some of the activities included in the New York Times' "Project Haiti: Holding a Teach-In."
For our Spanish CSL students in particular, I think it's worth it to contextualize this discussion in terms of community disaster preparedness. If a natural disaster (or other kind) took place in your community, how would language and culture play in the relief efforts? Paths of communication? Would they know what to do? Do they know how to tell a Spanish-speaker what to do? You might consider using parts of this lesson plan on "Desastres naturales." I especially like how the activities culminate in the creation of informational posters about "Un plan de acción en caso de desastre natural" that could actually be distributed in the community.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
by Ann Abbott
Colomer, Soria Elizabeth and Linda Harklau. "Spanish Teachers as Impromptu Translators and Liaisons in New Latino Communities." Foreign Language Annals 42 (2009): 658-72.
Once, right after I had given birth to my first daughter, I was at the breastfeeding clinic. Things weren't going well, I was in a panic, and I was in shock at the totally unrealistic schedule they had prescribed to "fix" things. Another nurse came in the room. I thought she was going to help me. Instead, she said, "I have a Spanish-speaking mom in the next room, and I can't communicate with her about her let-down. You teach Spanish. Can you come translate?"
You think that's weird? Here's the really weird part. I did it!
How many times have you been put in the position of deciding whether or not to translate for someone who really, really needs your help. You want to do the right thing. But it's not your job. You're not a translator. What if you mess up? What if the business/organization relies on the good will of people like you instead of hiring qualified translators like they should?
Soria Elizabeth Colomer and Linda Harklan (both from the Univesrity of Georgia) just published an article about that in the latest issue of Foreign Language Annals. They bring up very important issues for students who we train to be second language classroom teachers, requiring an "Advanced-Low" proficiency but who are then pulled in to being the school's translators--a job that requires specialized knowledge and a "Superior" proficiency level.
The article is highly readable and contains important information for all of us who are engaged with students who are preparing to become Spanish teachers--or really, any of our students who will be dragged into translating and interpreting because of the great need and lack of resources these communities and non-profits face.
I'll quote from the article's introduction, but I highly suggest you read the whole piece:
"In this article we document how Spanish teachers, as some of the few Spanish-speaking educators in new immigrant communities, are bearing an especially heavy burden as impromptu, unofficial translators and school representatives. Taking the experience of north Georgia educators as an example, we document a wide range of duties assigned to and assumed by foreign language educators working in schools hosting new immigrant student populations. We show how these duties include not only translation and interpretation, but also much more demanding roles as surrogate counselors, administrators, and teachers of English and other content areas. We explore the hidden extra workload that this work imposes on Spanish educators. Finally, we consider teachers' varying attitudes and responses to these new demands. We conclude by considering the implications for the field in terms of professional education and policy."
I believe Spanish community service learning (CSL) should play a role in the final point of "professional education and policty," but the entire Spanish curriculum should oscillate more easily between theory and practice in order to truly equip our students for the language situations they will encounter outside the campus bubble.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
by Ann Abbott
Frances Brady was my student before we began the Spanish community service learning (CSL) classes at the University of Illinois, but she would have been an ideal student for those courses. She always showed a strong commitment to issues of social justice coupled with a critical eye and reflective mind.
Frances is now considering going to graduate school, but I wanted to share her work and volunteer experiences with our Spanish students for several reasons:
- Students often ask me where they can volunteer when they move back to the Chicago-area. Frances offers suggestions below.
- Some students reall find their "fit" in the non-profit world during their CSL work and want to know how they can find a job. Again, study Frances' examples for ideas.
- Finally, the positive, feel-good CSL stories are wonderful, but we don't want to gloss over its challenges as well. Below, you'll see that Frances' expectations didn't always fit with the realities she encountered. You need to know yourself well, be honest about what you can and can't do, and yet still take risks! If you don't stretch yourself, you'll never know what you can do. And someone else might face the exact same circumstances as the ones Frances details below and have opposite reactions. Put yourself out there. Try things! Give them a chance. Then decide how far you're willing to go.
Here are Frances' own words:
"I'm currently working at Ounce of Prevention, which believes the best way to help at-risk children is to start before they reach kindergarten, in order to bring them up to the same level of other children entering school. They are a large umbrella organization which had direct services, research, and advocacy, which all impact each other. The direct services work with doulas, home visiting, preschoolers, and their families.
I volunteered for Streetwise, which helps homeless men and women to become self-sufficient through selling a weekly magazine.
I also volunteered for The Night Ministry, which is best known for its bus which visits the homeless on the street at night, with a nurse and medical supplies (as well as hygiene kits and cookies). But it has many other services for those in need, such as a living space for pregnant runaways.
I coordinated ESL volunteers through Centro Autonomo, which is one of many smaller collectives within the umbrella of Mexico Solidarity Network. My understanding is that it's a national organization which gains its revenue by coordinating study-abroad opportunities in Chiapas. It then is able to use this money to help educate people about the lives of Mexicans both in Mexico and those who emigrated to the US, as well as to help those who are now immigrants. They help sell fair trade goods from Mexico, give lectures at universities, etc. However, I was not directly involved with any of the national work or the work done in Mexico. Rather, I was volunteering for Centro Autonomo, which is working to create a community center in Albany Park for Mexican immigrants. There is no sense of hierarchy and the community decides everything together. They are able to provide free classes in a variety of areas from ESL to yoga to jewelry making to basic computer skills. When I arrived on the scene, the ESL volunteers ... were not working out of a textbook, but were ... creat[ing] a 4 level book. Centro Autonomo did not feel that any ESL books on the market could truly help their students (they wanted to them to learn words that would help them in their current employments: construction, busing tables, maid services, not to learn words about pilots and teachers). My job was to determine what both the students and the volunteers needed, and then coordinate that, as well as recruit more volunteers, all on a very tight timeline of a few weeks. ... If someone is interested, though, I think this is a fantastic place to volunteer. It was almost as much of a culture shock as having lived abroad. The people are genuinely amazing, hard-working, and passionate. And I needed to use a lot of my Spanish there, which I do not have the opportunity to use anywhere else. I can't speak to the study abroad experience, but most of the current employees and volunteers had initially done the study abroad program and were so enamored that after graduation, they came to Mexico Solidarity Network. If any of your students are looking to study abroad and want a social-justice-minded [liberal] experience, this could be a very good opportunity.
Unfortunately, I did not stay very long because I felt that I was not very useful. Even with everything I did, I was only volunteering 5 hours a day, and the rest of the time I had nothing to do, so I was quite bored and lonely. I think this is typical of international volunteer experiences. Others stay and find they adjust to the pace of life or find other things to do with their time. But I missed my family and my boyfriend terribly so I left early. I would still recommend FEVI to your students, but with the understanding that the work might be slow, particularly because the program seems better designed for students who are studying abroad and only have an extra 10 - 20 hours in the week, rather than for someone who is a full time volunteer.