A new school year starts

So, it’s true. I started a new position in May 2012 in the Office of Catholic Schools at the Diocese of Grand Rapids. We have 31 schools and nearly 6000 students – it is a humbling experience to be in a leadership position with this organization. I have had the pleasure of visiting several schools, meeting with teachers and administrators, and having fantastic discussions about their hopes, dreams, and what they need in order to provide an outstanding Catholic education. We have good people doing good work here, and I am excited to be a part of it!  I’ve decided to resuscitate this personal blog, and perhaps even start a second blog specific to my position – we’ll see! I still tend to post more on twitter and and diigo/delicious, sharing quick nuggets in those venues. So my goal? Be back in the saddle with this blog! Have a great weekend –

Connecting elementary students – the power of the learning network

I learn so much from my PLN on Twitter – from interesting websites, to student work, to asking and answering questions. I have also seen over the past couple years numerous projects where teachers are using Twitter to make a call for participation, asking for input on projects, advice, etc.

Last week this particular tweet caught my eye:

Immediately I thought to myself, what a great way to inspire young learners to create content for a real audience. I happened to be headed to work with some teachers in New Jersey at that moment, therefore I replied:

I was very excited to see what the students might create. What form would it take?  I soon received my answer the next day:

I excitedly clicked the URL to see my video (which I am linking to directly here since the Tweet above goes to the blog main page).  I was thrilled to see my video “planned and acted by 1st graders”.

Of course, I thanked the students:

I see that elementary students in different classes, not just first graders, are creating and planning videos in order to “teach” Spanish to people around the world. For additional examples, visit @wpespanyol on Twitter to see the various requests and responses.

How are you connecting your students to the world? To what authentic audiences are your students presenting? If your students are too young to connect themselves, how are you facilitating that connection?

Moving from Edublogs to WordPress

Being tired of the storage limits and advertising push happening over at Edublogs, I decided to use my own BlueHost hosting and host my own blog on the WordPress platform. BlueHost has an automatic script to make installation of WordPress very easy, and then I located these terrific directions on moving a blog and all its posts from Edublogs to the WordPress platform (wherever that may be). So now I’m “home” and ready to customize this site even more!

Heading to New Jersey!

I’m headed to New Jersey the first week in November to work with world language educators in Lenape Regional High School District and Hillsborough Township Public Schools. The topic is integrating Web 2.0 applications – creating content in the world language classroom! Looking forward to it – practicing teachers always have so many new ideas when given the time and opportunity to explore and create!

Obama: support for world languages?

During a campaign stop in Colorado, Obama indicated that in order to compete in our global economy everyone should be bilingual or even trilingual. Read more at Obama Urges Education Reform.

What I find interesting about this comment is here we have a presidential candidate who himself has second language experience (Indonesian) and third language experience (Spanish, which I understand is at a novice level). Here we have a candidate who appreciates and understands diversity and cultural differences. I’m wondering if this is signaling a shift in America politics. For so many decades our county has had the attitude of “if you want to do business with us, learn our language.” Perhaps this call is a recognition that if the United States wants to do business with the rest of the world, and understand the rest of the world, and develop tolerance for the rest of the world, perhaps we can start by speaking the languages of the rest of the world.

We’ve seen a shift in attitude due to national security. After 9/11, when the government discovered a backlog of untranslated documents, a lack of second language speakers in our citizenry, suddenly in the name of national security there is interest again in world languages.

In business, the saying was “speak the language of your customer.” Well here in the US, we have many products we are trying to sell abroad as our dollar weakens – our products are now bargains. Who are our customers? Who is interested in buying our goods? Now, perhaps, we can have a shift in part due to economics and in the name of understanding our fellow human beings.


I’m thinking this election is going to set the stage for many years to come. What kind of world are we going to have for our children and how are we going to prepare them for it?

I know my thinking is richer because I also speak Spanish, and I have had the opportunity to live in Mexico and Peru. I hope we can create a world where other languages and cultures are treasured, honored, and respected – languages and cultures within the United States as well as throughout the world.

Photo credit: Automania

A quote I like…

The heart has eyes that the brain knows nothing of.
— Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst

Came across this quote and liked it. Think about learning about a culture. How much do we take in with our eyes, with our soul. The understanding we gain in our heart adds so much to the understanding we have in our head.

Rue Case-Nègre: Appropriate Film for French Class?

There is an interesting discussion on FLTEACH regarding the film Rue
and the use of the “n” word. The issue at hand is whether or not this film is appropriate for the high school classroom. There are some very thoughtful posts surrounding the issues of culture, sensitivity, and situating the film within its historical and cultural frame while deciding if it is appropriate for your school and your students. Here are some of my favorite responses:

From Kareen Obydol-Alexandre:

I am black French (from Guadeloupe) and I have shown Rue Case-Nègre. I have students of diverse racial backgrounds. What I do though, before the movie,I mention that the “n” word appears a lot but it does not have the connotation they expect. I also explain that the word nègre is used in
France to talk about a ghost writer (I think that’s the English term). I am
not saying it is right, but it is part of the culture. My culture. (5/9/08)

Crystal Cannon replied:

I think that would be a great loss to your students, both black and white. As a black person, and a French teacher, I don’t equivalate the word French word nègre to the American n-word. In my mind, they are two different words. One means Negro or black, not pejorative, the other very pejorative. I show this movie to my students the minute we begin talking about Martinique, but also I want them to know some history and this film is one of the few that shows it. What a loss if my students couldn’t see this movie. I’ve even heard some French teachers say they don’t show it because it’s in Creole, which is not true. This movie is a treasure and should not be passed over for any reason!!! If your students have questions about the language, explain it to them, but please, don’t stop showing this film and telling this story, I beg you. (5/12/08)

Additional discussion revolves around the comfort of the teacher situating the film for the students; discussion that if shown, would the film or teacher be considered racist; discussion on the comfort of the teacher in showing the film. Some discomfort noted lies in the teacher having the deep understanding to be able to confidently situate the film culturally and historically:

I think the kids still handle it as such, though — as a portrayal of a situation that contributes to the plot and understanding the characters. It gives the opportunity to talk about attitudes then – and now, if you’re up to it. (Mary Young, 5/08)

And, of course, everyone must evaluate what will be acceptable in your school, by your students, parents and administration, and as a teacher, your willingness to enter in to culturally sensitive discussions.

We must continue to prepare teachers and provide opportunities for practicing teachers to gain greater understandings of historical and contemporary culture in order for them to be able to bring these perspectives in to the classroom.

Target Language Book Clubs

Book Clubs are providing opportunities for collegiality and discussion around books. But how about Book Clubs that use books in the target language!?

Over in Milwaukee, WI, such book clubs are popping up – what a great idea! Teachers could find community members to help facilitate such clubs, and clubs could be age specific as well as language specific.

Read more at Book clubs boost language skills in friendly atmosphere. 

Coke will release world language collectible cans and bottles in the US

Over the next few weeks Coca-cola is going to be raising awareness of other languages – the company will be releasing collectible cans and bottles that will have the company’s logo/name in languages other than English. According to the Atlantic Business Chronicle:

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) on May 19 will release Olympic-themed collectible cans and FridgePacks bearing the iconic Coca-Cola logo in different languages, including Ethiopian, Russian, Thai, Mandarin, and of course, English. Twenty-ounce Coca-Cola bottles will have labels with multiple languages including those of the Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Korea, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The packaging marks the first appearance of the Coca-Cola script in different languages in the United States, with new designs appearing every two to three weeks.

Benefits of being bilingual

In How being bilingual can boost your career you can read about the myriad of benefits to being bilingual. This is an excellent article to share in your parent newsletters, with your students, with your school boards.

In today’s global economy, the ability to communicate is key, and as more companies expand internationally, the ability to communicate in another language has become a significant advantage in the workforce. Research from Rosetta Stone found that people who speak at least one foreign language have an average annual household income that’s $10,000 higher than the household income of those who only speak English. And about 17 percent of those who speak at least one foreign language earn more than $100,000 a year.


A recent survey from Los Angeles-based recruiter Korn/Ferry International found that nearly nine out of 10 headhunters in Europe, Latin America and Asia say that being at least bilingual is critical for success in today’s business environment. And 66 percent of North American recruiters agreed that being bilingual will be increasingly important in the next ten years.