In this guest post, Laura Anaya de Zuchovicki, founder of the Spanish curriculum Conversa Books, writes about her inspiration to teach Spanish and also prepare students as world citizens. Born and educated in Mexico, she draws on twelve years of experience teaching elementary and middle schools students in the United States.
Some people say that in order to have a complete life you must have a child, write a book and leave your personal mark. I have done the first two, but leaving your mark on the world is a huge task and I have just started. I am writing the Conversa Books collection. Let me explain.
In my view, there are two fundamental problems in the American educational system. The first is that we are not giving our students the global vision they need when they start working in the professional world. In an effort to give uniformity to our educational system, we have created a monolingual environment that does not take advantage of different student backgrounds. In fact, we have created an uncomfortable environment where different ethnic groups avoid sharing their customs and culture. Unfortunately, the result is students who are apathetic about world events. In addition, students learning English (ELL) are labeled according to their ethnic group, creating a system that immediately assumes their level of academic development without taking into account their personal academic performance.
This is where a great opportunity is born! If we can bring these two groups closer instead of separating them, we can improve the empathy of the English speakers by exposing them to the personal stories of the ELL students. This way ELL students will feel welcomed and more comfortable having the opportunity to share their customs and ways of living in their countries. These experiences will awaken the curiosity of the American students who will be more open to learning about other cultures. They will realize the importance of learning a foreign language to communicate with the rest of the world.
Seizing this opportunity, I decided to start a project to “leave my personal mark.” The first step was logical; found an organization that would help me spread my first language, Spanish, and the customs associated with it. So Conversa was born – a school in southern California that not only dedicated to teaching Spanish, but also proud to share Latino roots and traditions. After years of dedication and hard work, we came up with the idea of sharing our program with teachers outside of Conversa. And so the second phase of this ambitious project began, to create a Spanish curriculum that would reflect our program, giving students the opportunity to enlarge their vision of the world as they learned the language. This task has taken us many years and the result is Conversa Books.
We are far from finished; we just started to publish our books last summer. Fortunately, we have been able to incorporate not only the feedback from Conversa teachers who have been using our materials for 8 years, but that of teachers from different backgrounds who have given us suggestions and corrections. This is a labor of love, always keeping present the goal of creating global citizens. I invite you to help us with this endeavor and also benefit your students. Let’s prepare our students for the work force and also create citizens of the world.
Laura “la maestra” Zuchovicki
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