When I was studying for my master's degree at Arizona State University (ASU), I had the opportunity to teach Spanish for the Andes and Amazon Field School Program in a small village outside of Tena, Ecuador during the summer of 2004. It was my charge to teach Spanish to both ASU and other American college students. We (both students and instructors) were housed in thatched roofed rooms, which allowed for any and all creepy crawly critters to enter our rooms and fall to our beds while sleeping. Needless to say, I left my two months stay in the jungle with not only more insect bites than I could count, but also a group of experiences I will always remember.
The experience I would like to describe is within the context of teaching. I tried to the best of my ability to teach my students Spanish without any of the typical classroom materials (i.e. chalkboard, textbooks, overhead projectors, computers, classroom walls). To improvise, I would frequently hitch a ride to town (30-40 minute drive) to purchase magazines and other reading material to supplement the few books I had brought with me from Arizona. Since my students were all beginning Spanish speakers, I focused my attention on getting them to use the present tense, basic introductions, and other common features of the beginning level Spanish class. One of the assignments I had them do was interview people from the village, which was an incredible learning experience for them. They were able to learn the local customs and beliefs, which we then discussed and compared with their own beliefs they brought with them from home in the USA.
We all know that contextualized learning is more productive and meaningful than decontextualized learning. It has been my hope since 2004 at the beginning of my Spanish teaching career that actually focusing on the differences/similarities between the local culture and the students' cultures would raise my Spanish students their level of awareness and perhaps though discussions would raise their level of acceptance as well.
- M.A. in Spanish Literature. Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe
- B.S. in Business, Marketing. Coruniversitaria University, Ibagué (Colombia)