Today marks the tenth year since I started teaching Spanish community service learning. That's a big accomplishment. That's ten years of:
- working with wonderful community partners, especially The Refugee Center, my first community partner.
- forming relationships with committed, engaged students, many of whom are now friends of mine.
- watching the local Latino community change, usually in relationship to the hopes then disappointments of comprehensive immigration reform.
- forming friendships and alliances with other language educators who are committed to creating a contemporary curriculum that includes CSL.
- balancing the extra demands that CSL places upon us.
Despite all this time, I still get nervous on the first day of the semester. In fact, until about 30 minutes before teaching my "Spanish in the Community" class at 10:00 this semester, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do with my students today.
So I went to Pinterest.
No, not to procrastinate. I went to my Spanish Service Learning board to choose something that inspired me. I chose this video:
1. I put the word "inmigrante" on the board.
2. In pairs, students talked about what they associate with that word.
3. We watched the video.
4. In pairs, students talked about how the image presented in the video video was similar and/or different to what we tend to think about when we think about immigrants. Students mentioned many interesting things. Inocente speaks English. She's an artist. She paints her face! It shows female immigrants. The family is split, unlike the stereotypes of Latino families. Being an immigrant isn't even really the focus of this; it's just one part of who she is. It's not easy to be an immigrant.
5. I asked students if there was anyone helping Inocente and her family. They mentioned the man--a teacher? a social worker? I told them that they were going to be "un apoyo" to the Latino community this semester. And that the Latino community was going to "apoyarlos" in their learning experience, too.
Then in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities" course, I had students watch the movie again and look at it through a social entrepreneurship lens: what resources can they identify? what solutions can they envision?
I've been teaching Spanish community service a long time. I still get nervous. I still get overwhelmed. I still think it's really important work.