Spanish Teacher Develops Unit on Cuba After Primary Source Social Movements in Latin America Course

24 March 2012

Throughout the year and during the summer, educators deepen their knowledge of world regions and global issues by taking Primary Source face-to-face and online programs. But what happens after they go back to their schools and work with their students? One high school Spanish teacher, Carrie DeBlois-Mello (Acton-Boxborough, Massachusetts), talks to us about her experience participating in Primary Source's Social Movements in Latin America three-day seminar, and how her students benefited from what she learned.

Primary Source: Take us through what a day of the Social Movements course was like and what you learned.

Carrie: Over the course of the three days, I had many opportunities to interact with other teachers, whether one-on-one or in small groups, to listen to scholars present on many different topics, and to think and reflect on how I could apply the material to my own classroom. Since my own personal educational background has focused more on Iberian Spanish history, culture, and literature, this course helped me learn more about Central and South America and the social movements and cultural issues that have been impacting that region for decades.

PS: How did the course help you to bring global perspectives into the classroom?

Carrie: One of the best takeaways for me (and my students) from this workshop was a unit that I created on the role of Cuban hip-hop music as a form of social commentary during a dictatorship. I was able to make use of an activity that we did during the Primary Source workshop, along with a supplemental video that we watched during lunch one day, to complement the study and interpretation of two Cuban hip-hop songs. The themes that we discussed in the workshop easily transferred over to the topic I was covering in class, so much of what I learned in the Primary Source workshop I could apply to the classroom.

The lists of additional resources [provided in the course], from texts to videos to websites, are an incredible educational tool, and one that can enrich my classroom teaching as we focus on many different topics over the course of the year. Without a doubt, the opportunity to participate in the Social Movements course with Primary source has made me a better teacher and has encouraged me to continue learning and creating lessons, especially culturally relevant lessons, where there is a need in my curriculum.

PS: What were your students most excited to learn about in the unit you developed as a result of the Social Movements course?

Carrie: I think my students found the opportunity to learn more about Cuba the most exciting part of the project. While Cuba is our closest Caribbean neighbor, due to the relationship our government currently has with the Cuban government, current high school students are generally uninformed about life and culture on the island. Having this chance to learn more was exciting to many of my students.

PS: Why do you think it is important to incorporate global perspectives into curriculum?

Carrie: As a foreign language teacher, I think I would be doing a disservice to my students if I did not incorporate global education and perspectives into my classroom. My ultimate hope for my students is that they be able to take what they learn in Spanish class and apply it to real-life situations. In order to do this well, and in a culturally sensitive manner, it is my responsibility to guide my students through the culture and lifestyles of the different people we are studying, from Spaniards to Guatemalans, from Mexicans to Argentinians.



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