If you can’t run, walk… (include full quote)
-Rev. Dr. MLK Jr.
Most of you are reading this book because you are looking for inspiration. My goal is to do much more than that. I want you to feel so challenged by what it asks of you that it wakes you up at night. This often happens to me when I have been living inharmoniously with a truth that has been too obvious for far too long. It chews on my soul until I can no longer ignore the pain. It whispers, “there are bigger questions; seek them and be bold enough to ask”.
If you’re content with only the knowledge and techniques you acquired in grad school, you’ve been something-other-than-alive for quite some time. If you are teaching the same literature, telling the same tired stories, and sourcing your inspiration from that same old movie you think is a stand-in for life, you need this book more than anyone. Question what it is you are doing, because you are not teaching. If nine days out of ten you are not totally ecstatic to get to class so that you can conspire with your students to conceive the future, let’s get started on getting you there now!
Together, we’re going to learn the art of structuring a curriculum around student need and then allowing the organic development of student-teacher and student-student relationships built on mutual trust and respect, common aims, and profuse courage. This will be much more than teaching, or rather exactly what it was always meant to be: radical commitment, deep imagination, and exhilarating exploration.
We are mapping this curriculum over long-accepted theories in pedagogy, psychology, and linguistics. By tracing theory, we will better understand the fundamentals of what needs to be figured out and how to go about doing so. But we’ll go far beyond discussing those basic scientific principles. You see, graphing the world is nice and all, but we are here to bend it! And to do so, we will need not only raw intellect, but the ongoing development of emotional intelligence and an openness to orphic, dangerous creativity.
From the outset we ought to accept that we are ill-equipped to deal with the vicissitudes of life; that’s why we recognize them as such. Otherwise, they’d be just like waking up to a rainy day and finding a hair in your omelette – big deal – get an umbrella, and for God’s sake, don’t waste all those eggs and fresh vegetables. The truth is that life has so much more in store for us than we are ever prepared for, and so we are constantly playing catch up on how to handle it.
Who can help us? Our family members, best friends, neighbors, and community members, if only we are wise and brave enough to let them. Our students are some of the closest people we know, and somehow we engage with them as if we have answers and are working off a well-known script. Stop teaching, start showing your students how to figure out some of the same things that you don’t know either. Show them process, be vulnerable – it matters.
19 (and counting) years of language acquisition instruction, in both Spanish and English, have provided me with ample experience to assert what I do here. In those short 19 years, my students and I have have helped each other negotiate contracts, engineer for Fortune 20 conglomerates, fortify NATO alliances, earn raises and promotions, leave abusive relationships, access college, get married, raise children, forge and sever religious ties, lose weight, lose children, lose country, and somehow find a way to come to terms and thrive alongside challenges to everything we thought we knew. Life is inescapably traumatic and beautiful, and we all need the skills, the wisdom, and the courage to handle it.
Come on – let’s learn how to speak life deeply!