One of the many tensions that is present in a classroom that encourages experimentation and growth and reaching outside vs hiding inside is that of THE CALENDAR. It would be so wonderful if we did not have to be put in the position of altering the flow of learning and the shape of a discussion because of THE CALENDAR. But we work in academia and all good semesters must come to an end because, alas, our lives are dictated by THE CALENDAR.
At the end of my HISP 305 class each student had a 45 minute oral exit interview in the target language (Spanish) with me. I told them from the beginning that this was not an “exam” as much as it was meant to be a way of pulling together the various bits and pieces of the term, to talk about what they had accomplished as a Spanish speaker to date, what they hoped to do in the future with the language, what worked and what did not work in their final projects, their plans for the future… in Spanish… 45 minutes X 18 students. It sounds overwhelming..but it was not. It was, in fact, delightful and something I am going to try and do throughout the term (perhaps in small groups?) outside of class. A couple of the conversations went on (again, in Spanish) for an hour or so because we lost track of the time. Huh, when was the last time THAT happened in a language class.
(oh, did I mention we were talking IN SPANISH?)
I cannot imagine a more positive outcome for a language student after 16 weeks in the classroom than to have the ability to sit down, with grace and with ease, and talk with someone about a variety of topics in a second language (for one of my students this was his THIRD language). It was marvelous.
About ten days before the semester was to end, I realized I had not planned for it to end. This probably came from my secret desire for it –not — to end. Why is that? Well, about 3/4 through the semester when the sparks began to fly, the connections began to gel, the confidence began building and some amazing and truly learning started happening… it was like an adrenaline rush. And no matter what you do, you cannot predict nor control those moments of utter engagement and excitement. Having taught this course now a couple of times all i can say is if you set the stage and prepare the path…it will happen and will happen in a big way. The syllabus falls by the wayside, the calendar becomes insignificant. And yes, as a result, the teacher finds herself in a remarkable place: not wanting it to end.
But end it must. And as rational human beings we need closure. Enter the suitcase.
I just checked… comments are still coming in. Karin just received an interesting comment from an individual in Guatemala in regard to his questions about the upcoming Presidential elections…
…como guatemalteco te puedo decir que todo lo que has escuchado de la senora Menchu son mentiras. Esta senora ha sido utilizada por organizaciones extranjeras para crear una mala imagen de Guatemala lo que ha ocasionado mayores problemas internos al pais