This week has been full of the small successes that show progress and make the huge fights worth fighting. My Spanish II students are finally realizing how much Spanish they know, and are starting to use it spontaneously. It was a LOOOONG road to get to this point, but they're there now. My challenge for this week is to encourage this process, not by assigning more of the same, but by providing opportunities for them to use what they know. Of course, that's the challenge EVERY week. But this week--let me put it this way. I've never started a fire, except by means of lighters or matches. But I've seen people who have started fires with flint and steel, and there's a moment when they strike the flint, and the superheated flake of stone hits the dry tinder. In that moment, the person lighting the fire has to move very quickly and very carefully to get the spark to ignite the tinder. It takes a lot of strikes to get it right, and usually more than one spark has to hit the tinder before combustion has occurred. But, if everything goes right--the winds are favorable, the tinder is dry enough, the person has the makings of a fire. I think my Spanish II class is at one of those moments right now.
The other super-big one is World Languages Day. One of the underpinnings of my philosophy is that I would like my students to be citizens of the world after leaving my class. I want them to recognize times when it's okay to transcend tribal loyalties, to know that improving the human condition isn't a zero-sum game--that making one person's life better doesn't mean you have to make someone else's life worse--and to have the sense that their life has (or at least can have) a global significance. To that end, I took 9 students and two parents to Michigan State University on Saturday for World Languages Day. In a day full of sessions, my students learned "survival phrases" from all over the world, and explored some of the cultural artifacts from all over the world. (Did you know that Tajikistan is famous for white-water rafting and cotton exports, and is over 93% mountain? I didn't.) They came out with a sense of the interconnectedness of the world, and had a great time doing it.