Off Campus

Three teachers get schooled Faculty take courses to expand perspectives, curricula

This summer, three World Languages Department teachers, Latin Teacher Walter Young, French and Spanish Teacher Joelinda Johnson, and French Teacher Ben Sprayregen, found ways to enrich their curricula and teaching strategies in professional development courses sponsored by the school.

From July 9 to 14, Dr. Young attended a course at Brown University titled Empires Ancient and Modern: Reactions to Imperial Power from Athens to the Americas. Through readings in Roman literature, the course discussed the effect of media in a political climate, both in modern-day American society and in Rome’s government, Dr. Young said.

“The class read extensive sections of Roman poetry with special attention to what poets could and could not say and how they could say it in light of Rome’s increasingly aggressive imperial aspirations,” he said.

Dr. Young said the course will help him integrate discussion about current events into his classes.

“I can better connect politics and history with the texts we translate and ask better questions of my students when I invite them to consider modern parallels with ancient Greece and Rome,” Dr. Young said.

The program concluded with a workshop focused on developing teaching strategies to improve student achievement in the Latin classroom, he said.

In preparation for her first year teaching Spanish, Ms. Johnson took a course hosted by International House Barcelona and recommended by Spanish Teacher Carrie Rose, who enrolled last year. 

With classmates from Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, and beyond, Ms. Johnson practiced her Spanish and learned new teaching techniques by watching a class where these techniques were being applied. Ms. Johnson said the course helped her think of ways she uses English in her classroom and pushed her to find more target-language resources for new material.

On the first day of the course, she was given a one-hour Welsh lesson that used the techniques the course was promoting, Ms. Johnson said. 

“The goal was for us to experience what it is like to learn a language without knowing it and for us to experience the immersive approach,” she said.

Ms. Johnson said this activity inspired her to rethink how she communicates with her students during lessons.

“I came away from the course with new ideas and a whole method for how to implement and use immersive methods that have a communicative objective in mind,” she said.

Closer to home, Mr. Sprayregen attended the Multicultural Teaching Institute at the Meadowbrook School in Weston. Centering on cultural sensitivity and examining the influence of personal background on teaching methods and learning experiences, the program provoked self-reflection, he said. 

The course also focused on social justice in the classroom, including discussion of how to help students feel more comfortable expressing themselves.

“We had to introduce ourselves to the rest of the group, and we were asked to state our personal choice of gender pronouns,” Mr. Sprayregen said. “This was the first time I did this in front of a group, and it was a good reminder that not everyone views themselves in a gender-binary fashion.” 

To bring what he learned about social justice and cultural marginalization to the classroom, Mr. Sprayregen said, this year he plans to show the film, The African Doctor, to his French classes as a springboard into discussion of cultural issues at home and abroad.

“It was a powerful course that will not only affect my curricula but also my day-to-day comportment toward my students,” Mr. Sprayregen said. 

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