Confidently communicating with someone who doesn't speak her language!

Gol or Goal?

August 03, 2018


So annoying when you have to write them for your administrator.  They have to be “specific” and “measurable”, and blah blah…But do those really reflect your team’s goals?  Wait...has your team developed goals?

Maybe not.  We hadn’t.

Professionally, one of the most monumental moments that MesaMima has had was sitting in a presentation at the ACTFL conference in San Diego a while back.  The speakers, Leanne Spino and Daniel Trego, were the ones to make us question our own goals. What could have just as simply been an intro in their session, Spino stated that they also had that same moment when they realized that they “had no goal”.  This wasn’t to say that they didn’t have class goals (“At the end of Spanish 1, students will…) or unit objectives (in this unit, students will know…), but that their department had not come up with one central goal, mission or vision. And neither had we.  Ours were “get through stem changing verbs” and “cover chore vocabulary” ← never one cares about chores.

When we went back to the team with this new revelation, we were all over the place with what we thought were our goals.  We all came at our department goal with our own agenda, with what we thought students should be able to do, but with little scope of what the kids really needed to be speakers of another language.  When we honed in on what every student leaving our program, whether it was after Spanish 1, or after the required two years for college entrance, or after Advanced Placement, there were two central pieces that we wanted all of our students to take away.  We boiled those down to them being:

Confident communicators with

Global awareness

A confident communicator is one that understands the value of the try.  Checking out the world cup in Russia? Learn to say hello and thank you.  Headed to Thailand on a vacation? Please and excuse me are the perfect gate-way words to not being culturally insensitive.  We want to create travelers who aren’t afraid to try to dance around demonstrating non-verbals in a respectful way, and who are willing to learn and ask for help, and not just like a crazy tourist who thinks that if that Parisian waiter doesn’t understand, speaking really loudly and over-enunciating will help.  I know you’ve witnessed that.

A person with global awareness is aware that there are distinct cultural nuances that are embedded in the fabric of a foreign society, and that they should be respected. They might not know that the central market in Cusco sells the heads of the pig, but they don’t make a face and shout rude things like “OH GROSS!” when they see them.

When we present that to parents, we talk about the varying abilities and outcomes of our students in an identical program, based on so many factors related to language acquisition, but that it’s our goal to create a lifelong desire to communicate with people from other cultures, and to understand the value of all pieces of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and to foster awareness in a new generation that describe products, practices and perspectives as different, and not weird.  

It’s with these goals that we are able to assess each and every task in the units that we teach: Does this task help them reach their goal of being a confident communicator or does it establish more global awareness?  If it doesn’t do either, we go back to reassess the task.  

Creating actual goals prompted much more support in our shift to compelling themes.  It also sparked an idea to conduct an experiment: The first assignment in class was to respond to an email (confident communication, and BONUS(!) practice for the interpersonal writing in AP), explaining what they really wanted out of class, and out of learning Spanish in general.

The results? 100% of our students over 4 years have stated that their goal was to be bilingual and to learn about other cultures. Seriously.  ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. In other words, their reason for coming to class is to be a Spanish speaker. About 4 students in 4 years have mentioned something about credit or passing the AP exam. Being that the students are our most important clients, I’d say our goals are spot on to serve their needs.

Has your team established goals? What are they?

Share them below!

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