By Christina Berry, MAT-Spanish student
One of the biggest struggles we face as foreign language teachers is finding a way to motivate the kids to learn a language. The question they always ask is why they have to learn Spanish? My students do not ask me that anymore because I have shown them not only how Spanish is important in my life but also how it could be important in theirs. I think that as teachers we have to be living examples of what we preach in order to effectively demonstrate the importance of learning new languages.
On the Friday before February vacation, which I was going to spend in Ecuador, I had my students watch a TV program about Ecuador. I wanted to build a knowledge base in their minds so that when I got back from my trip they could better understand the material. When I asked them what they wanted me to bring back, one student said he wanted to see me in a real poncho. I kept the promise I made to him that day. On the Monday after vacation, I taught the whole day in my poncho and alpaca hat. I know I got many looks that day from faculty and students alike. In a school that has a formal dress code, I really stood out, but I am happy to have made an impression on my students.
After lunch that day, one of my students told me that someone was talking about me in the cafeteria. She told me that she stood up to that person to explain why I was wearing the poncho. In another class, I had a few boys giggling when they saw me walk in the room. I told them that I am not ashamed to wear the poncho because my trip to Ecuador meant a lot to me. I got support from another student who said that she appreciated what I was doing. If she had a poncho, she told me, she would wear it, too.
What was I doing in Ecuador? I was there to translate for my cousin who has not spoken Spanish since she was adopted from Ecuador over twenty years ago. I was able to bridge the language gap between my cousin and her long-lost Ecuadorian family. During our trip, we also got to visit the Equator, the Incan ruins, and the Andes Mountains (which I was excited to see in person after studying Spanish all these years).
A favorite part of my trip was volunteering at a local orphanage. When my students saw pictures of the babies, they instantly recognized the importance of Spanish in the outside world. Speaking Spanish to babies is much less intimidating than speaking to adults. Perhaps I will have inspired a student to make their own trip to Ecuador one day to volunteer their time or to learn about a new culture. Sometimes, in order to be more effective, a teacher needs to step outside of the box not just to discuss the example but rather, become one.