Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Value of Cultural Immersion and Competency
for Teachers from the USA

Mission: Excellence in Education
& World Understanding
By Harriet Guerrero

Teacher training is always constant. We are always learning something new, seeing new trends and adapting them to specific needs in the classroom.

One way that my team has been contributing to this is a workshop offered in Cuernavaca during the summer for teachers on how to integrate Mexican culture and history into the classroom. This is geared to teachers from the USA who either teach Spanish or who teach other subjects and have students from Spanish speaking backgrounds in their classrooms.
The teacher needs to understand the students and the students need to understand the teacher!

The program includes intensive Spanish language at different levels, presentations on topics such as the Mexican Family,  “Día de Muertos”, the Virgin of Guadalupe,  Mexico’s Gifts to the World, Celebrations in Mexico, such as the Christmas Posadas, Baptisms, Quince años, Semana Santa.  In other words, understanding Mexico through its traditions, celebrations, and history.

We get out of the classroom and visit places such as downtown Cuernavaca and its museums and historic sites. We also visit Xochicalco, Taxco, Tepoztlan, places in Mexico City such as the Museum of Anthropology, Bazaar Sabado, Templo Mayor, Teotihuacan, the murals in the National Palace and much more. All of this to give people more than just an introduction to Mexico.

The Cuernavaca Children’s Mission offers tutoring for Mexican children twice a week in downtown Cuernavaca and many of the teachers have participated in helping children to succeed and graduate from ‘secundaria’ and ‘prepa’.  

We also ask people that come to Cuernavaca to bring a bottle of vitamins to donate to the VAMOS program. The children that come to their programs are given a meal and a vitamin.  Sometimes this is the only meal they have during the day.  The results have been amazing. Our school has been collecting vitamins for them for over 15 years now.

These comments from some of the participants say it better than I can:

I was delighted when I won the a scholarship through the Ohio Foreign Language Association to study at the Cemanahuac Educational Community of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Was further delighted to find out that there was a two-week program exclusively for educators. Although my expectations were high, my experience was even better than I imagined. I attended classes, stayed with a host family, and participated in organized trips both in Cuernavaca and to other towns. Perhaps best of all, I was able to meet passionate Spanish teachers from all over the United States.
The teachers and staff were kind and helpful and the class sizes were small and adapted to my level and interests. They also were tireless in planning activities that were enriching to us as teachers, such as a field trip to an educational center in a rural Xochicalco underground cavern town, a trip to a teacher supply store, opportunities for intercambios, and much more.
I think for many safety is a concern when considering a trip to Mexico. I took basic precautions such as guarding my purse in public and not walking alone late at night. That being said, I never felt unsafe. Everyone I interacted with was kind and helpful and no one made me feel uneasy for any reason. The staff was there to help us feel comfortable in our surroundings and to answer any questions that we had about this issue. Please do not avoid this wonderful country because of safety concerns!

When I first received information I received a scholarship to study in Mexico, I was very nervous about what it would be like. Contrary to popular belief and what the media presents, my experience in Mexico was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I had opportunities to connect with teachers from 16 states as well as native Spanish speakers from Mexico. It was a fast-paced trip, filled with information about the past and present culture and history of Mexico. We had short afternoon and full day trips to visit beautiful places around Cuernavaca. I had opportunities to practice my vocabulary and grammar in the morning, and then culture sessions about different topics within Mexican culture. I connected with my housemates and my lovely host mother, Lorena. I learned that while we may have many differences, it's our job as teachers to bring back the culture of Mexico to our peers, family, friends, and students in order to build bridges, not walls. I can't wait to go back to Cuernavaca. :)

My time at Cemanahuac was incredible! I learned more in two weeks than I have in years of continuing education classes. I am not a Spanish teacher--I teach Special Education, but there is a large Spanish-speaking community within my district that I felt I could better serve by learning more about Mexican culture and improving my Spanish.
This program greatly improved my ability to interact with my students and their families, and I couldn't be more grateful for my experience. We learned about the language and the culture, both inside of the classroom, and out. Among my favorite memories are hiking Teotihuacan, baking ‘pan dulce’ at Ocuituco, exploring Taxco, climbing the Piramide del Sol, and going to the temazcal. The experiences I had in Mexico and the fellow teachers I was privileged to share my time with are once-in-a-lifetime memories. I can say with 100% certainty that being at Cemanahuac made me not only a better teacher, but also a better person.  

Harriet Guerrero
ADK Eta chapter Mexico
Cuernavaca, September 2017

Casa Tatic 2017.JPG
climbed Tepozteco.JPG
Hike up to the Tepozteco pyramid

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Cooking class at the Fundación Rayuela in Ocuituco
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The classroom

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Trying on Frida's necklaces in Taxco
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Welcome luncheon at Casa Hidalgo on the zocalo.

tchrs Casa Hidalgo 3 jul 17.jpg

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