Professional Development Portfolio
Professional and Personal Development in Spain:
Antonia Angeles Gonzales, Upper School Spanish
Last summer I had the privilege to attend a course called “The Spanish Culture and its Application in the Spanish as a Foreign Language Classroom” at the prestigious Universidad Alcalá de Henares, located in the picturesque town of Alcalá de Henares, in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Spain.
Going to Spain is one of the most enriching, rewarding, and memorable experiences of my life. I went to Spain determined to improve my practice but I gained much more than I expected. I had the chance to experience a different culture. This unique learning experience has had a great impact on me – both professionally and personally.
I exchanged ideas on how to teach language and include culture in our lessons with educators from Brazil, Spain, The United States, and Mexico. Most of us stayed at “El Rectorado.” Lope de Vega, Quevedo, and Nebrija, among other renowned Spanish writers and thinkers attended or gave lectures there.
Adapting to Spanish culture was not a difficult task. I think it had to do more with the attitude of all the participants in the group than with whether we spoke Spanish or not. Everyone was interested in experiencing the Spanish way of life and was also proud to share information about their own cultures. The people from Alcalá, “Alcalaínos,” are nice and warm and the food is simply delicious. I fell in love with every single “tapa” that I ate. In my case, even though I speak Spanish, I had to have the menu translated on countless occasions. One thing that I love about Spaniards is that they take having fun as seriously as working. Walking late at night and seeing endless groups of families and friends having animated conversations while dining was outstanding. Needless to say, being part of this crowd was exciting.
The lectures at the university were excellent. We discussed topics related to Spanish history, art, literature, traditions, and customs, and how to share them with students in a motivating and meaningful way. This course also included excursions. Out of the places our group visited, Segovia was by far the most impressive. The Roman aqueduct and “El Alcazar de Segovia,” one of the favorite residences of Isabella the Catholic, are only some of the highlights of this town.
This extremely positive professional development experience has inspired me to continue to work in order to promote respect for all cultures – including our own. I firmly believe that the only way to better understand a culture is by knowing more about it. More than ever, I am determined to break stereotypes by making students aware of what other cultures can offer. I intend to include lessons on “culture with a small c” as well as “culture with capital C” in all of my classes. Spanish I and II students will read literature and the upper levels and the honors students will benefit from learning more about everyday customs and traditions. I will also create opportunities for students to learn more about all the Spanish speaking peoples so that they can broaden their view of the world.
My goal is for my students to learn to appreciate all Spanish speaking cultures and clearly understand that despite the fact that they share the same language, they are a diverse group of nations and that every culture is unique. I also intend to start an exchange program with Peru so our students have firsthand knowledge of that culture. Judging by my experience as a language teacher, this will also motivate students to devote themselves even more to the study of the language.
In my mind, a language teacher has two goals: to help students improve their performance in the language so that they can communicate effectively, and, most importantly, to promote cultural understanding. Opportunities like this, to see the world from a different angle, make us understand how necessary it is to get rid of prejudices and labels and how beneficial it can be to be willing to learn from others, especially if they do not share our views.