I have been a Lecturer in Spanish at NYU since 2006. I consider it to be a privilege to work in the classroom environment. My professional duties comprise teaching inside the classroom, preparation outside of class, and my work with other instructors as course coordinator. My involvement in all these aspects of instruction gives me a fuller understanding of the functions of the educator. I have been fortunate to work in an environment in which the lecturers and department chairs are invested in and reflective about our profession.
Teaching should be a collaborative process. Students and teacher together create a respectful, interactive, and challenging experience. A solid sense of this reciprocal responsibility is essential to making the learning process effective and enjoyable. Communicating both my confidence in students’ ability and my desire for them to acquire the language—and an appreciation of the cultures that use it as a means of expression—is the most important aspect of my role as a teacher. I especially enjoy teaching at NYU because the student body is invested in its education and because there is cooperation and professionalism amongst the faculty in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. I am motivated to reflect on and share my teaching techniques and students’ responses and to continue developing as a second language instructor. Every semester, no matter how many years of teaching experience, I am filled with nervous excitement before the first class. That nervous excitement turns to joy as I meet the students and immediately start communicating in Spanish. In the intermediate class, for example, I greet them in various ways as they settle in. I then introduce myself, say my name, say that I am from Spain and that they will be hearing the vosotros form of verbs when I speak to them as a group, and mention some other personal information. As a follow up, I ask them to introduce themselves to each other but first I elicit from them the typical greetings and possible questions people ask when first meeting. I write these on the board and ask that each student add one more original question, that has not been reviewed. I set the class up in two concentric circles, facing each other, and give them a minute to find out as much as possible about the person in front of them, before the outer circle rotates to the next person. I repeat this process until they have spoken with 4 or 5 classmates. I then ask a few students to introduce, not themselves, but one of the students they met. I also ask the class to share the original question they most liked. In this way, in a short time, the students have learned what the expected classroom dynamic will be, they have reviewed and practiced greetings and introductions, entirely in Spanish and learned that they will not only be speaking but must also be actively listening to each other and reproducing what they have heard. In this short time, they also know that they will be responsible for coming up with original content for the class. Before ever explicitly going over the syllabus and course description, they have already been engaged in meeting classroom expectations.
The courses that I teach are grammar intensive. We cover two to three grammatical structures per day. This allows for only short communicative activities. In order to have longer, sustained interactions in Spanish I periodically set up a debate. The debates work well for several reasons. They are related to a cultural reading or video we have seen or to vocabulary in a certain chapter. For instance, when we saw a video about the problem of overpopulation of iguanas in Puerto Rico, we had a debate to argue for or against serving iguana meat once a week in public schools. In this way, the debate lends a practical purpose to what they are learning in class. I announce the debate a few days earlier to present the topic, give them a chance to do some extra research, and explain how the debate is organized. There are two teams: the Proposition and the Opposition; two hopefully impartial moderators that introduce the topic, keep time, and are responsible for rephrasing the arguments put forth by each team; and three judges that must declare a winner and justify their ruling. My role in the debate is to listen, students are in full control of what transpires and I am unfailingly impressed.
Recently, the push has been to incorporate more technology in the classroom. With the help of the FAS instructional technology team, I created a Word Press site for an exchange project involving our intermediate level Spanish students and students of English in various parts of the Spanish-speaking world. The project requires an inordinate amount of planning. I have to find teachers in Spanish speaking countries who are willing and enthusiastic about taking on this exchange. I craft activities that seem to me the most productive culturally and linguistically and ask for their input. For example, I have students describe in detail a typical day in their life as a university student –I ask them to think about how long it takes them to get to the university, where they eat and with whom, how long do they take for lunch, how much they spend…– and to upload a few pictures of very familiar places or objects. Then the students are directed to comment on each other’s posts and compare their lifestyles. I have had many challenges that were quite daunting but despite technical problems and some student and instructor complaints, when I go to the Word Press site I am always exhilarated by the results. This project underscores the purpose of learning a foreign language—that is, to communicate. At the beginner level, I also have created a Word Press site in which students can upload their Children’s Book Project. The site enables them to take part in a larger community of language learners and share their accomplishments with others. I have been pleased to see increased participation, capacity for initiative, and sense of achievement on the part of the students in these Word Press sites.
As coordinator of the department’s two intensive language courses since 2011, I have acquired a global view of the required course-work for our program and have participated in curriculum development by choosing textbooks and materials that bring us closer to shaping the education we want to offer our students. My collaboration with the instructors (mostly graduate student adjuncts) that teach the classes I coordinate has provided me with valuable insights into classroom practice and course content. I observe classes and provide constructive feedback through individual meetings with each instructor. I also work individually with instructors to devise classroom tests, so as to ensure shared involvement and responsibility for student assessment. I encourage and am open to their suggestions. I have many ideas for classroom and course activities that I share with the instructors in my lesson plans. When I observe the other instructors of the course, I am often delighted and surprised by how many ways there are to approach a lesson, and grateful for the opportunity to learn from them. For example, my lesson plan for the pluperfect contained a true- false exercise in which we reviewed the order of events in the life of the main character in a short film (what he had done first, second, etc). In the plan I then talk about past events in my life and the students have to use the pluperfect to determine the order in which they occurred and then students do the same exercise in pairs with examples from their own lives. But one of the instructors came up with something quite original. She combined the two exercises in the class plan and added something of her own. She gave the students a list of 5 events that happened in the life of the main character before the events in the film. The students had to ask her questions to find out what happened first. It was creative and imaginative and gave the film extra depth. In general, I provide the instructors with ample material and approaches for their classes and respond to any individual needs outside of what I provide for the course. In addition to writing letters of recommendation, I often aid instructors, at their request, with activities for a sample lesson as part of their job search. I particularly value my coordinator’s role, not only for what it has enabled me to contribute, but also because this experience has made me more qualified to understand the challenges and to contribute to the improvement of the curriculum and the skills of our instructors.
In addition to my prescribed duties, I have been keen to take on additional responsibilities in the department, in the three fields of course coordination, instruction, and service. I have served as the Spanish Language Program Coordinator during various summer sessions. My major voluntary contribution has been my role, since 2014, as Faculty Editor of the impressive departmental undergraduate magazine Esferas magazine that is produced by a team of undergraduate students supervised by Professor Dávila. I was so impressed with Professor Dávila’s leadership in all aspects of this undertaking and by the work of the students involved in creating and editing the magazine that I felt compelled to be a part of their enterprise. I have learned the basics of the program InDesign to aid with layout, I edit some pieces and do a final proofread through roughly a third of the magazine before it is published.
My interest in finding out more about the workings of the University led me to stand for election as departmental representative on the FAS Faculty Assembly in its first year of existence. I was delighted to be elected as Co-Chair of the Faculty Assembly for this first year. This experience gave me valuable insight into the broad workings of the University, allowing me to better understand the ways in which departments face challenges and establish practices. This, in turn, has given me new perspectives on university administration that I can pass on to my students. In the Faculty Assembly I served on a committee charged with reviewing and revising the guidelines for Lecturers including Clinical and Senior Lecturers. We polled all concerned departments to have a clear picture of general practices and what worked well or caused concern. We submitted our recommendations based on our findings. I informed my department of the issues discussed at the Faculty Assembly meetings and also polled for our priority issues. I am pleased to be able to continue my involvement in the Faculty Assembly in this current academic year as the alternate representative for my department.
The opportunity for growth as a language lecturer at NYU is gratifying and I look forward to taking on more responsibilities in this Department and in the University.