Why Sustainability and Spanish?

I’m a full-time Spanish teacher interested in “greening” the world language curriculum.  For the past several years I’ve been working on these issues and I created this blog to share ideas with like-minded Spanish and world language teachers.  The following are a few of my biases/assumptions behind the postings on this blog.

Educating for sustainability is not all about hugging trees. Not that I don’t like hugging trees.  But “Educating for sustainability” means taking the most meaningful issues facing our world today and making them a regular part of classroom discourse.  No more students asking “what does this have to do with real life.”  No more sifting through vocabulary lists and communicative activities to find ways to make the lesson relevant.  Since I’ve changed my approach I’ve noticed that students ask much more interesting and nuanced questions than I ever would have come up with on my own.

It is all about interconnectedness:  uncovering hidden or tacitly recognized relationships and webs of relationships among individuals and communities–locally and globally, human and non-human–to become more thoughtful in our actions and create a better world for all.

Learning Spanish is not about learning how “they” say what “we” say.  The ACTFL standards (Communication, Communities, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons) reflect a shift away from a focus on teaching/learning the pieces and parts of the language toward an understanding of language within contexts.  Students are motivated to develop their Spanish language skills and understand the perspectives of others while learning to recognize their own assumptions and biases and discovering previously unconsidered connections.

Reinventing the wheel is unnecessary but jumping on the bandwagon is.  The ACTFL standards as well as best practices in language learning (such as CARLA’s content-based curriculum approach or the communicative approach) all easily provide doors to access sustainability themes.  However, it doesn’t happen automatically or by making superficial changes.  As teachers I believe we must be intentional in our planning.  We need to provide students with the language skills, habits of mind and background information necessary to appropriately address the issues raised.

I’m not an expert, but rather an explorer.  (Yeah, kinda like Dora, only not as cute.) Modifications, improvements, revisions, reassessments and plain old “oops” are part of the dynamic process of makin’ stuff up.

2 Responses to Why Sustainability and Spanish?

  1. John Maier says:

    I salute your work. We all should be doing these kinds of things. It certainly is time. Fits in very well with the Project-Based Learning movement, and similar methods. I plan on using some of your materials and ideas in class come January. Be well.

    John Maier
    Phillips Academy
    Andover, MA

    • Thanks, John. I appreciate your kind words. I’ve been neglecting this blog lately but hope to have time to post a few things soon. Love to hear any feedback, suggestions or other ideas about anything you might use.
      Take care,

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