Building Community – 7

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18 thoughts on “Building Community – 7”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this too. In my experience, it was becoming proficient in Spanish that opened genuine interest and exposure to Latin America, because then I felt a small sense of belonging. It opened itself up to me little by little in an organic way. The cultural tidbits and activities before I became a speaker were interesting, but cognitively light for me.

    1. Love that term Julia – ” cognitively light”. So much of the culture IS the language. It’s all wrapped up in one big present, and when we open it – only via the language – our lives are forever enriched. Yet so many teachers claim to teach the country’s culture w/o bringing along the language. It’s like serving cereal in water.

  2. My wife asked me yesterday if I ever get tired reading latin american literature. It’s true, I do get tired of reading about immigration stories, just like she recently has tired of reading novels about the conventional african american struggle. But, I’ll get pulled through yet another immigration story in Spanish when it teases me through some colloquialisms that I can process. I feel like a teenager again going to a cool-kids party where some very subcultural activities are going on among some very subversive characters. It’s that exciting. Perhaps I’ll be cool like them some day. Maybe in another decade or so.

  3. Rarely a comment brings a ridiculous smile to my face. This one does Sean and thank you for it. Esp. this sentence –

    …I feel like a teenager again going to a cool-kids party where some very subcultural activities are going on among some very subversive characters….

    I feel that way with the francophone world. I was watching a French movie the other nite and it made me think I’d need another lifetime or two in France just to get into the cool kids club. But being on the outside looking in brings with it a certain relationship with, a certain appreciation of, the culture that native speakers cannot have. We always want more of that new culture. Everybody, perhaps, except the 19c French poet Charles Baudelaire who wrote a poem called Anywhere Out of this World (the title was in English) – I will include it below.


    1. Anywhere Out of this World:
      This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window. It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one which I discuss incessantly with my soul. “Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they say that it is built of marble and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all the trees. There you have a landscape that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and liquid to reflect them!’ My soul does not reply.’Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would you like to settle in Holland, that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land whose image you have so often admired in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships moored at the foot of houses?’My soul remains silent.’Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other things, the spirit of Europe married to tropical beauty.’ Not a word. Could my soul be dead?Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so, let us flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio. Let us go farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the Pole. There the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness, while for our amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-colored rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s own fireworks!’At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as it’s out of the world!’
      Charles Baudelaire

  4. Another thing about building community is that it brings us so much more than just the language gains and the undeniable intellectual achievements, which are so much more visible and greater and measurable than any textbook system could ever offer our students in any classroom in the world.

    The community building also brings us expansion of the heart quality and the mutual sharing of love in our classrooms. What’s better than love? It makes our jobs so much better! We don’t have to schlep to jobs that we resent going to every day!

    One day I found myself running across a parking lot to get to my classroom because I wanted to see what was going to happen in a story that we hadn’t finished in first period the day before, and I realized that the running wasn’t going to make the kids arrive to my classroom any sooner and I started walking again. I never did stuff like that when I was teaching French out of a textbook so long ago when I hated my job!

    1. So true. When I look at the text book I feel like I’m examining a corpse on an autopsy table. Where is the life? Where is the emotion? What emotional connection can a student hope to make to a “fotonovela” of kids from the 90s?!
      Next year I’m teaching “Spanish III Honors” whatever that means. My Dept. head actually looked through the book with me and explained that I should just follow the book because the standards are all just right there it’ll be easier. I just don’t get it.

      1. Craig the standards are not in the textbook. They’re a million miles away. Your department chair has no idea what they are saying. I do admire your decision to not “go there” with that person.

      2. I do wish you the absolute best, Craig, in slipping past this department chair with your instruction. Slip, or float right past him just like a raft floating around a boulder stuck in the middle of a steady flowing river.

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    “Global skills” at the level I teach, I think, also include what I explain as ‘closing the circle of communication;’ – answering when asked a question, however simple: How are you today?’ “Fine, and you?”
    Orienting your stance/glance to the speaker and or looking her in the eye; waiting for the asker to finish the question before responding; not interrupting or blurting; not showing boredom or impatience while someone is speaking (not looking a the clock, either;) laughing with and not at; listening, engaging and taking part in the group convo; these are global skills that seem to be especially at risk in our ever-increasing screen-time society…in which many grown ups aren’t prioritizing or modeling common courtesy…
    How to meet, greet, eat courteously -these continue to be, to my mind, as important as ever – it’s not just the messages contained in the sum of the words, but also all the tone, attitude, nuance, good will…

  6. You just opened my eyes to what that term means thank you Alisa! I thought it meant acting/travelling globally and hence was only a thing for the rich. Now I have to change that part in something I’m writing right now.

  7. This is from the Asia Society and really nails the definition and reveals exactly why CI is the way to get there vs. the textbook:

    Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Collectively, global competence represents the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors necessary to thrive in today’s interconnected world.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Thanks Ben! I love the Asia Society quote! This could be a great blurb for whenever a district or WL dept has to write mission/vision stuff – that always feels like such a giant and fuzzy task… I’m gonna offer it up to our dept (with credit)!!

  9. It is a good quote Alisa and yes we should use it in the “giant and fuzzy task” of writing mission statements. Wow. That word fuzzy makes me want to go on a Monday morning rant.

    It hurts to think that I just spent almost forty years feeling confused about what we were doing when it wasn’t me at all – it was the fuzziness of the job, of the expectations around me, of what was best for the kids and me too.

    Why was it so fuzzy and non-descript and why did those meetings seem like such wastes of time? Probably bc our vision professionally was so clouded by the textbook. Or because the people who should have been in charge of deciding what a curriculum should look like were the wrong people with the wrong vision and a woefully inadequate vision of the research and the standards – the admins at the building and district level.

    That’s why it was fuzzy – they were using a curricular model design that only worked for science and math and not for languages and so we wrote fuzzy docs. Nothing ever got set out in clear terms and kids dropped out in record numbers because of our negligence and we didn’t care because back then it was all about the few dominating the upper levels bc the textbook favored the few.

    So now that we are rid of the textbook with the new curriculum (the Invisibles is the best one out there for CI instruction in my view) – and also rid of the admins’ hold on our minds since so many of them have just Bozo the Clown level awareness of the research – we can now rewrite our fuzzy vision docs to be in favor of all the kids and not just the few. I feel like going to L.A. today and marching on behalf of all WL teachers and yelling our method out!

    When Bozo the Clown was in charge few more than only 10% students matriculated up to the fourth year of our high school programs but now that will change. Millions of kids won’t feel so stupid and with you leading us along at the elementary level it is going to be an exciting ten years in our profession.

    No more fuzzy. We will state what we will do for these kids to get them to the fourth year – all of them – and we will blow up the textbook. Finally. Praise God. Rant over. Change in process. Dumb admins losing their grip on us. Dumb people around us pulling their claws out of our necks. It’s positively AO-C like.

  10. Oh and by the way as a postscript to my rant above, know that it is one thing to advocate for change and another to bring it. It is easy to talk about it in non-fuzzy terms and get all excited, but the real change is not exciting when it is happening. The real change happens when you get up and go to work anyway even if you don’t feel like it on a Monday morning in the middle of January and try your best to do the best job you can in your classroom with CI. Know and be faithful to the reality that it is in the very feeling as if you are failing that the success happens. Success feels like failure so often. But it’s not. I bow down to everyone’s courage in going to work today. I get it. I respect your strength. You are changing the world – it just doesn’t feel like it.

  11. It sure doesn’t feel like it. Damn. I have brush fires burning everywhere I look.

    I guess I probably feel this way every year as the semester winds up. I don’t like the semester system. It’s too short and when I have failed (yet again) to cultivate the type of community I envision, it is now in the final weeks together that I, like my students, truly am just marking time and thinking of ways to get to the end. This usually takes the form of “packets.”

    It feels like now, in January there is a critical period. I don’t know exactly why I say this, I just feel it. And if I got to keep the same groups of kids until June I think we would all work through a lot of this craziness together. But in 2 weeks we are done, so why bother?

    Isn’t that a terrible attitude for me to have? I’m doing some deep looking in the mirror these days at all the things I do/ allow that make my classroom an unsafe place. It feels like I am somehow going backward, that I used to be able to create this place of joy and fun, and now I can’t.

    On the bright side, I get a brand new “first day of school” on Feb. 4. Spring semester is typically very joyful. I look forward to that. But how can I get that Spring semester community feeling in the fall? I cannot seem to recover from the October collapse.

  12. Whereas ten years ago, and you’ve been reading here for ten years jen, you know that back then I would have initiated a “What are you doing?” discussion here in an effort to right the ship. But now, older and more philosophical about these kinds of things you call failures, I almost see the lesson for us as just accepting that the culture is shot. It’s done. We do our best and leave the rest. And your best is pretty damn good. You may have brush fires, but you didn’t start them.

    1. Haha…totally! I am also in a super reflective “witness stance” that I’ve not quite experienced before. It’s great, pop some popcorn and watch a movie of myself going round and round in the Maytag …hee hee. Such drama and “avoidable suffering” as they say in the sutra 😉

      Inevitably, when I’m armored up…well, that will generally provide me with a battle. Then the next day I remember to go easy on myself and I flow through the day without a care. Ok slight exaggeration. But you get the picture.

      This really is all about listening, cultivating awareness and loosening our grip.

      I’ve been listening to good ole David Sedaris lately, and his story about his brother “The Rooster” has had a profound impact on me clawing my way out of the hole! I can summon the voice in my head and start laughing out loud! Check it out! (warning: offensive language)

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