Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Albert Whitehead: Implications for Second Language Learning

“Whitehead's famous pedagogical trilogy - Romance, Precision, Generalization - provides a nice symmetry to the discipline/freedom paradox.  It neither denies the role that choice plays in embracing an educational arena nor does it let us "off the hook" when it comes to our responsibility to come under a discipline's "discipline." (Gramenz, 2015)
In this blog I take one area of scholarly endeavor and "walk it through" the three stages. I discuss how I "fell in love with this area (Romance), the steps I took to learn the details (Precision), and how I have practically applied this area (Generalization). 
Learning English as a Second Language is the perfect example of how I became passionate about a subject.

Romance: When I was an adolescent, I was a hopeless romantic (I still am!). I always listened to romantic music and I was in love with the concept of love. All romantic music would speak to my heart and I wanted to meet prince charming. I went to see the movie Footloose with Kevin Bacon. I was young and the movie spoke to my heart. The rebelliousness, the love, the music, it was the perfect movie. I bought the sound track. I felt in love with the music. I wanted to sing the songs. The sound track came with the lyrics, I learned the basics of the English Language because of I fell in love with music. I wanted to learn more.

Precision: There comes the hard work. I asked my dad to help me pay to take English classes. I was in college. The more I learned English, the more I was able to sing popular songs. I studied English as a Second Language for 3 years. Hard work, lots of grammar rules but I loved it. I had to apply myself to learn the language well. The more I knew, the more I wanted to know.

Generalization: As a professional at one of the largest universities in Mexico City, I needed to have an academic experience abroad. I was able to get a scholarship and I became a Junior Research Scholar at the University of California in Irvine. I met my husband to be there, who doesn’t speak Spanish. I got married and I moved to Fresno more than 16 years ago.
Not a long time ago, I watched again the original Footloose movie. That was such a completion of a cycle. I am a Seventh Day Adventist (liberal), I speak English, and I love music. The movie was such a piece of art in my own perspective! I never realized that the language that I learned for the love of music, served as the language of love for my particular circumstances. I am married to an American citizen who only speaks English. I love the English language. Yes, I do have an accent and it gets me into sticky situations at time but in general, people love that I sound different. I was very dedicated trying to learn a second language because it spoke to my heart. Interestingly enough, life came to a perfect circle when I fell in love and married someone that spoke the language that I had learned with so much dedication and patience. You never know how second language learning might change your life.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Power in You: Teachers Influence in Students’ Lives

It’s that time of the year: Back to School after a lengthy summer vacation. Teachers truly appreciate well-deserved time off to pursue personal interests, hobbies, and other personal goals. Vacation spots are a treasure and having free time is a precious commodity. I love summer time. It is a time to slow down and recharge. There is a certain sadness when summer time is over. I love being a teacher but it is a very demanding and sacrificial profession with very little personal time.This summer I had a chance to reflect upon my career as an educator and what impact it has on my life and the lives of others. I received a call from a student that reaffirms what teachers do and why they do it: because it matters!

I taught English as a Second Language to this Spanish speaking student more than 10 years ago. At that time, she was well into her 70’s. It was a pleasure to see her come to class, sit there while paying close attention to instruction, and being happy by being able to say: “Hi, my name is Maria”. It was a great accomplishment for her to say her name and age in English. I treated her kindly. She was sweet. I knew she was in class to be with her daughter and to get some companionship.

Fast-forward 10 years. I got a call from a woman asking for me in Spanish. After wrestling with my memories I identified who was on the phone: “Mrs. Mari, how are you, so pleased to hear your voice” I said.  We started talking and bringing back the memories. And then there it was, a few words that made me tear up and choke up on the phone: “Mrs. Castillo, I truly liked being in your class. You saw me for who I truly was. You looked at me with eyes of love”. Wow, what a great testimony to the power of kind words: I will remember her kind words. It was pay-it forward time. “You look at me with eyes of love”

My words of encouragement to veteran and new teachers is that what you do is important and it matters. As school resumes this fall, please remember:

The Power of Kind Words
You never know the impact that your words will have on a student. Make a commitment to lift students up and see them for who they truly are. Many of our students lack affection, positive encouragement, a role model, or an adult that cares.

The Power of Listening
It is ok to take time to slow down to listen to students’ concerns and for teachers to take time to stop teaching content to teach life lessons. What you say at the right time in the right place can affect a student’s future.

The Power of Caring
Students may hardly remember what you taught but they will never forget how much you cared. Assume best intentions, teach with a giving, caring, and forgiving heart. Even in the worst days, when students turn your life upside down, give them the benefit of the doubt. Offer them a clean slate the next day. In this day and age of internet access, no one needs to sit in a classroom and interact with people. Knowledge is readily available. Use the power in you and the great opportunity you have of influencing a real person’s live.

The Power of Love
Look at students with eyes of love. They needed it. I attended a Better Together California Teachers Summit and the keynote speakers highlighted how teachers influenced their lives. I listened to a famous actress and singer as well as an astronaut. They are who they are today because along the way, a teacher said a kind word, listened, cared, and loved. This is the power in you. Teach… and transform a life.