Is anyone else frustrated by the distinction between school and “the real world”? Many of my students spend their days inside the town “bubble”. They go to school. They participate in their extracurricular activities. They hopefully do some homework. They go to sleep. They repeat. The curriculum I use in many of my classes allows them to continue this routine without having to physically, or intellectually, leave our town. I force students to read literature, practice grammar, and critically analyze the works we study. Although I challenge my students to look at literature and the world in a different way, I think that I am failing to answer an important question: “Senor Springer, what does this have to do with my life?”
Many students figure that after high school, or in many cases, after college, they will then enter the “real world”. I don’t think many students understand that school is the “real world” and everything they do in school can help them focus their career search or help them find a job. As their Spanish teacher, I’m particularly interested in discovering how to show them that Spanish class is “real”.
I think my students hear the message that more and more Spanish speaking people move to the United States each year. However, I don’t think that they feel this reality. I think they understand that taking 3 years of a foreign language will help them get into college. However, I don’t think they understand why colleges look for students with backgrounds in different languages. I think they understand that speaking Spanish might help them get a job. However, I don’t think they understand what jobs need Spanish speakers. I think they understand that it’s important to understand other cultures. However, I don’t think they understand that the ability to analyze a culture can create job opportunities even if you cannot speak the language.
My students haven’t made these connections yet because I have not forced them to in class. Finding authentic experiences that allow my students to understand these realities presents a huge challenge for me as I move forward with my curriculums. I want to put my students to work in the community. I want to build partnerships with businesses, community organizations, and other schools with large hispanic populations. I want my students to use their skills to help make these businesses, organizations and other schools stronger. I want them to feel what it is like to use their language/culture skills towards something they see as “real”.
Is this possible? If so, how do I start? How do I get my students to see that their school is part of “the real world”?