Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lesson #2: Teaching World Languages

This blog contains comments from Educators who find themselves on the front lines of a war that has been waged against public education across this nation since the landmark decision in 1954 of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka.  Herein are the thoughts of educators who serve young people across America today. While the daily challenges to increase student achievement have been discussed in circles across this nation, few of those voices include those who are the true soldiers in this battle to educate young people. 
The lessons taught to students, present and past and their reactions to various assignments, can serve as a mini-lesson for those adults who are responsible for raising children.  We are particularly concerned with those students who are being raised in one of the many poor and segregated urban centers across this nation.  This blog serves as an authentic assessment of where our young people are in relation to what is expected of them and it will enable the reader to visit the urban classroom to gain insight into….The Chronicles of an Urban Educator….

In my World Language classroom, students were instructed to listen to a native speaker describe an activity that he or she enjoyed. Next, students were to match the native speaker’s statements with a photo illustrating the mentioned activity. As the native speaker began to talk, students immediately began to speak as well with comments such as, “What?”, “I can’t understand what he is saying.”, “Why can’t he just speak English?”
The objectives for my students were to affirm learned vocabulary, hear a native speaker and understand while moving  beyond the students' comfort zone.  The comments from students forced me to discuss how conversations in a World Language are the same as those in English  and that in all cultures we communicate about what we like and dislike. Instead of the planned lesson, we discussed the importance of trying to understand a concept that may seem difficult. The first step, I had to explain, is to follow directions and listen. Listening entails paying attention for recognizable words or sounds. How can you understand if you do not listen to what is being said first?
My major challenge is that I have students whose immediate response is to refuse to try when confronted with a perceived difficulty. It is incredibly difficult to motivate students who are told at home that studying a world language "does not matter" and that "you will never use it anyway." 

Contemplate the ramifications of generations of young people who choose to NOT learn about other languages, other people, and other places.   What does that mean for the Urban Educator in general and to the larger community more specifically? 


  1. It sounds like we might need to have mandatory classes for parents sis.

  2. I'm not suprised by the kids' statements. They fall right in line with the typical American belief that English is the only language that matters. Hmmm...