Do your children speak Spanish? As a Spanish teacher, I get asked this question frequently. I tend to respond, “They speak a little. They understand more. They embrace the culture, and they love that their mom speaks and teaches it. They are proud of their Mexican (and Trinidadian, African, German, English, Irish, Spanish, and Italian) roots. They are eager to learn and speak more Spanish! I am certain they will be speaking it sooner rather than later.
In my seven years here at Concordia, there has been a positive shift in cultural awareness. My first couple of years here I noticed an apathetic or even an antipathetic attitude toward Spanish. Kids were simply taking my class to fulfill their honors diploma or graduation requirements. However, in the recent years, students have been more open and welcoming to other cultures besides their own.
Last week, I ran into a visiting Spanish teacher from Spain who is teaching at an area school (my car literally ran into her car). And what does Mrs. Pierce do when she meets someone in those circumstances? She has a conversation! I asked her whether she speaks 90 percent Spanish in her classroom, since that is what we are working toward here at CLHS. She shared that it is impossible to speak Spanish to her students because they are a bit “close minded.” She thinks this is due to them having little to no exposure of the Spanish language outside of her classroom walls. Her comment validated that we at CLHS are on the right track in creating eager lifelong Spanish language learners.
Last week, I also randomly found some reflection letters in my desk from students. Current seniors wrote them a year ago. The odd thing is, I don’t remember having them write these letters, so I don’t know how they came about, but they were like a gift from above when I came across them. They reinforced our need to expose students to new cultures besides their own. Here are a few excerpts:
“After taking this Spanish class I now know more about the Hispanic culture than I could have ever imagined. I got more out of this class than just knowing how to conjugate verbs. I learned how hard life is for people of Hispanic descent, but I also learned how hard they work for themselves and their families. Spanish 3 made me more culturally aware.”
“(I learned) to love Spanish more than I ever thought I would. I have learned so many cultural lessons this semester, and I am so pleased because normally we skip over that. … (My teacher’s) love for Spanish culture has made me love it too.”
“After learning about the famous Chef from Mexico (Enrique Olvero) who pursued his dreams in culinary, it inspired me to follow what I really want to do. … I’ve learned that dreams pick you, and it is up to you to take your passion and run with it.”
“Learning about Las Posadas was the first time I felt like I was really exposed to the culture. Before I felt like I was just learning about the language, but there are people and traditions behind it that was really eye opening for me.”
“I am especially glad that we learned deeper/in depth of the Latino culture. It helped me learn and see what really goes on in society.”
Students may not always leave my classroom speaking fluent Spanish, but they leave equipped to interact and respond to the Spanish speaking community with open arms and open hearts. I communicate to my students to let go when they get an opportunity to interact with Spanish speakers. I tell them, “All the information you have learned is in a closed filing cabinet in your brain just waiting for you to break open. You just need to believe in yourself and go for it!”